MH370: 'Most likely area' still unsearched

Last updated 17:21 17/06/2014

Family members of Chinese passengers on board missing flight MH370 prayed together on the 100th day since the plane's disappearance.

HOLDING OUT HOPE: Iman, the 4-year-old daughter of Mohd Hazrin Mohamed Hasnan, one of the crew members on board Malaysia Airlines MH370, writes an event on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur marking 100 days since the jet went missing.

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The Australian-led search for missing Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 is yet to examine an area of the Indian Ocean where scientists believe the passenger jet is most likely to have crashed, a British satellite company has told the BBC.

Sunday marked 100 days since the Boeing 777 vanished from radar screens shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a flight to Beijing with 239 people on board. The international search for the doomed plane has focussed on a large swathe of the southern Indian Ocean, but no trace of aircraft has been found.

But the British satellite company Inmarsat, whose data has been relied upon during the search, told the BBC that investigators were yet to search a "hotspot" it had identified in the Indian Ocean as the most likely crash site.

An Australian naval ship, the Ocean Shield, was heading towards that hotspot off the coast of Perth when it picked up a series of pings some distance away that initially were thought to have come from the missing plane's flight recorders, Inmarsat spokesman Chris Ashton told the BBC.

The Ocean Shield diverted to investigate those pings, and authorities subsequently spent two months searching that area of the ocean, the BBC said.

However those pings turned out to be a false trail, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau revealed last month. The US Navy's deputy director of ocean engineering, Michael Dean, told CNN that the pings were likely to have been produced by the ship or search equipment itself.

Ashton told the BBC that the area where the pings were detected was "by no means an unrealistic location, but it was further to the north-east than our area of highest probability".

He said Inmarsat experts used their data to plot a series of arcs across the Indian Ocean where its systems made contact with the jet.

By modelling a flight with a constant speed and a constant heading consistent with the plane being flown by autopilot, the team found one flight path that lined up with all its data.

"We can identify a path that matches exactly with all those frequency measurements and with the timing measurements and lands on the final arc at a particular location, which then gives us a sort of a hotspot area on the final arc where we believe the most likely area is," Ashton said.

When the search resumes, the Inmarsat "hotspot" will be a key focus, the BBC reported.

Authorities are now conducting sea floor mapping in the Southern Indian Ocean, and a new underwater search could begin in August and take up to one year to complete.

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- FFX Aus


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