MH370 crash site could be north of search area
Review of satellite data results in a different conclusion.
SYDNEY — For two years, a handful of ships have diligently combed a remote patch of the Indian Ocean west of Australia in a $160 million bid to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. On Tuesday, investigators made what was surely a painful admission: They have probably been looking in the wrong place.
The latest analysis by a team of international investigators concluded that the vanished Boeing 777 is highly unlikely to be in the current search zone and may instead be in a region farther to the north. But though crews are expected to finish their deep sea sonar hunt of the current search area next month, the possibility of extending the search to the north appeared doubtful, with Australia’s transport minister suggesting the analysis wasn’t specific enough to justify continuing the hunt.
The latest twist in the search for Flight 370 highlights the extraordinary difficulty officials have faced in their attempts to find the aircraft based on the faintest scraps of data. All along, officials have said they are not simply looking for a needle in a haystack — they are looking for the haystack.
On Tuesday, the haystack was poised to shift again, with the release of a report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the search for the plane. The report is the result of a November meeting of international and Australian experts who re-examined all the data used to define the search area for the aircraft, which vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.
In the years since the plane disappeared, experts have analyzed a series of exchanges between the aircraft and a satellite to estimate a probable crash site along a vast arc of ocean that runs through the southern hemisphere. A deep sea search of a 46,000-square mile stretch of water along the arc has so far come up empty.
In November, the experts went back over the satellite data, along with the results of a new ocean drift analysis of the more than 20 items of debris likely to have come from the plane that have washed ashore on beaches throughout the Indian Ocean.