SYDNEY - September 8 marks six months since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Most of the 239 people onboard were Chinese, but the tragedy has affected families in many other countries including Malaysia and Australia.
An air, sea and underwater search involving more than 20 countries has so far failed to find any trace of the missing Malaysian airliner after it vanished on March 8.
Searchers scoured areas across the Gulf of Thailand and the Bay of Bengal before analysis of satellite data indicated the Boeing 777 came down in the Indian Ocean west of the Australian city of Perth.
Following several false leads, reconnaissance teams abandoned the initial search area in the Indian Ocean in May. A new target zone has been identified partly based on a failed satellite telephone call made by ground staff to flight MH370.
A Dutch-led mission will begin a new search to the west of Australia later this month. Authorities in Canberra have said they face unprecedented challenges as they attempt to find the plane in such inhospitable waters in depths of up to five kilometers.
Despite the massive logistical obstacles that lie ahead, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss is hopeful flight MH370 will be found during the new search being carried out by Fugro, a private multinational company contracted to carry out the mission.
“I remain cautiously optimistic that we will locate the missing aircraft within the priority search area. This search will obviously be a challenging one. Fugro will use two vessels equipped with towed deep-water vehicles and carrying expert personnel to undertake the search operations. The vessels will search the sea floor using side scan sonars, multi-beam echo sounders and video cameras to locate and identify the debris,” said Truss.
The new search mission is expected to last a year, depending on what it finds.
Last month, Australia signed an agreement with China and Malaysia to strengthen collaboration and allocate responsibility for financing and provision of other resources for the search.
The disappearance of flight MH370 is the biggest mystery in modern aviation history.
The flight’s disappearance, combined with the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, shot down over war-torn Ukraine in July, has damaged the airline’s international reputation and its bottom line.
Last month authorities announced as many as 6,000 job cuts at the airline as part of a nearly $1.9-billion restructuring plan to return it to profitability.