Experts hunting for the missing Malaysian airliner are attempting to define a new search area by studying where in the Indian Ocean the first piece of wreckage recovered from the lost Boeing 777 — a wing flap — most likely drifted from after the disaster that claimed 239 lives, the new leader of the search said. Officials are planning the next phase of the deep-sea sonar search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in case the current two-year search of 120,000 square kilometers (46,000 square miles) turns up nothing, said Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Greg Hood, who took over leadership of the bureau last month. However, a new search would require a new funding commitment, with Malaysia, Australia and China agreeing in July that the $160 million search will be suspended once the current stretch of ocean southwest of Australia is exhausted unless new evidence emerges that would pinpoint a specific location of the aircraft.
If it is not in the area which we defined, it’s going to be somewhere else in the near vicinity.
Greg Hood, Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner
Further analysis of the wing fragment known as a flaperon found on Reunion Island off the African coast in July last year — 16 months after the plane went missing — will hopefully help narrow a possible next search area outside the current boundary. Six replicas of the flaperon will be sent to Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s oceanography department in the island state of Tasmania where scientists will determine whether it is the wind or the currents that affect how they drift, Hood said. This will enable more accurate drift modeling than is currently available. If more money becomes available, the Australian bureau, which is conducting the search on Malaysia’s behalf, plans to fit the flaperons with satellite beacons and set them adrift at different points in the southern Indian Ocean around March 8 next year — the third anniversary of the disaster — and track their movements.