The Norman Transcript

March 26, 2014

Hunt for lost plane resumes

By Scott McDonald and Eileen Ng
The Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — As frustration was setting in, calmer seas returned today and the search for the remains of Flight 370 began anew in remote waters of the Indian Ocean off western Australia.

Gale-force winds that forced an all-day delay Tuesday died down, allowing a total of 12 planes and two ships from the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand to resume the hunt for any pieces of the Malaysia Airlines jet — tangible evidence for the families seeking closure after more than two weeks of anguished uncertainty.

A day earlier, angry relatives shouted “Liars!” in the streets of Beijing about Malaysia’s declaration that the plane went down with all aboard.

Although officials sharply narrowed the search zone based on the last satellite signals received from the Boeing 777, it was still estimated at 622,000 square miles, an area bigger than Texas and Oklahoma combined.

“We’re not searching for a needle in a haystack — we’re still trying to define where the haystack is,” Australia’s deputy defense chief, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, told reporters Tuesday at a military base in the Australian west coast city of Perth as idle planes stood behind him.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which coordinates the search on Malaysia’s behalf, said today’s search will focus on 30,900 square miles of ocean. The search area is about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth.

Malaysia announced Monday that an analysis of satellite data received after Flight 370 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8 indicated the plane had gone down in the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people aboard.

The finding did not answer troubling questions about why the plane was so far off-course, and China, home to 153 of the passengers, demanded that Malaysia turn over the satellite data used to determine the plane’s fate.

The airline’s chairman, Mohammed Nor Mohammed Yusof, said it may take time for further answers to become clear.

The search for the wreckage and the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders could take years because the ocean can extend to up to 23,000 feet deep.

It took two years to find the black box from an Air France jet that went down in the Atlantic Ocean on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009, and searchers knew within days where the crash site was.

There is a race against the clock to find Flight 370’s black boxes, whose battery-powered “pinger” could stop sending signals within two weeks. The batteries are designed to last at least a month.

David Ferreira, an oceanographer at the University of Reading in Britain, said little is known about the topography of the seabed where Malaysia Flight 370 is believed to have crashed.

“We know much more about the surface of the moon than we do about the ocean floor in that part of the Indian Ocean,” Ferreira said.

Searching for a needle in a haystack would be simple by comparison, he said.

The satellite information does not provide an exact location — only a rough estimate of where the jet went down.

Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the data is still being analyzed “to attempt to determine the final position of the aircraft” and that an international working group of satellite and aircraft performance experts had been set up.

Monday’s announcement that there were no survivors unleashed sorrow and anger among the victims’ families, who have complained about a lack of reliable information from Malaysian officials.

Nearly 100 relatives and their supporters marched Tuesday to the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing, where they threw plastic water bottles, tried to rush the gate and chanted, “Liars!”

Many wore white T-shirts that read “Let’s pray for MH370.” They held banners and shouted, “Tell the truth! Return our relatives!”

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