Australia today said the search for the crashed Malaysian jet was now entering a new phase and would transition over the coming days to an intensified undersea exploration, after weeks of a fruitless aerial hunt.
Autonomous underwater vehicle Bluefin 21, a US Navy probe equipped with side-scan sonar which is scouring the ocean floor for traces of the lost plane, has completed mission 16, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said.
Issuing a statement, the Perth-based JACC said Bluefin-21, which has completed its search of the 314 sq km zone around the area where signals were detected by the Towed Pinger Locator, will continue to search adjacent areas. "Mission 17 will commence when weather conditions improve allowing Bluefin-21 to be safely launched from Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield," it said adding that the Ocean Shield ship would remain on station supporting Bluefin-21's search activity.
Over the coming days the vessels that remain on standby for the search would transition to and from the search area. A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion would also remain on standby in Perth, JACC said.
Meanwhile, a Fairfax report today also quoted JACC as saying that the location identified by the Australian marine exploration company GeoResonance for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was not in the Australian search zone. "The Australian led search is relying on information from satellite and other data to determine the missing aircraft's location," JACC said adding, "The location specified by the GeoResonance report is not within the search arc derived from this data. The joint international team is satisfied that the final resting place of the missing aircraft is in the southerly portion of the search arc," it said.
Adelaide-based GeoResonance yesterday claimed that it may have found the wreckage of the crashed Malaysian jet in the Bay of Bengal, even as countries searching for the plane said they were assessing the "credibility of this information". Also yesterday, Malaysia named a former aviation expert to lead the international probe team to find the "actual cause" of the mysterious disappearance of its jet even as the aerial hunt to find any trace of the plane was called off after seven weeks. The Boeing 777-200 with 239 people, including five Indians on board, mysteriously vanished on March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur and is now believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, where the Australia-led effort is under way to recover its black boxes and wreckage.