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Friday, April 21, 2017

New drift modelling research raises new search hope for MH370

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has said new “drift modelling” research by the CSIRO has confirmed its view that the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 lies in a proposed new search area of the Indian Ocean.

The announcement raises hopes that Malaysia, which under international law has responsibility for the investigation into the loss, might be persuaded to the resume the hunt for the Boeing 777 which was suspended in January.

“We are now even more confident that the aircraft is within the new search area identified and recommended in the MH370 First Principles Review,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a statement today, referring to the 25,000 sq km proposed new target zone identified by an international panel of experts in December.

The new research by the CSIRO involved releasing into the ocean off Tasmania replicas of the part of the wing called a flaperon which washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion in July 2015, which was subsequently confirmed to be from MH370.

Released at the same time were an actual flaperon from a Boeing 777 cut down to reflect the damage to that on the MH370 flaperon, and buoys like those the US had used to measure current and wind drift in the oceans over 30 years.

The objects were tracked by transmitters, and the study determined the actual flaperon was caught by the wind in a fashion different from the other objects, and moved at a different angle and speed.

The leader of the study, CSIRO scientist David Griffin, told The Australian this explained how the flaperon from MH370 could have reached Reunion and at the time it did, and confirmed a high certainty that the aircraft lies in the new proposed target zone to the north of the area covered in the original failed search.

MH370 disappeared with 239 passengers and crew on board on March 8, 2014, on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and automatic satellite tracking determined it ended up somewhere along a band in the southern Indian Ocean.

The original $200 million search of 120,000 square km of ocean led by the ATSB failed to find a trace of the aircraft.

Two independent drift modelling studies soon after the discovery of the flaperon, one by European researchers and one by scientists at the University of Western Australia, determined that the ATSB’s search zone was too far south and the aircraft more likely lay to the north.

While the ATSB is understood to be keen to search the proposed new 25,000 sq km zone, the three governments funding the hunt, Australia, Malaysia and China, agreed last year that it would not be resumed unless “credible” new evidence emerged pointing to a precise location of the aircraft.

Transport Minister Darren Chester today played down expectations the hunt might restart soon.

“I welcome the CSIRO report but it is important to note that it does not provide new evidence leading to a specific location of MH370,” Mr Chester said.

“This body of ‘drift modelling’ work, along with review of satellite imagery, forms part of the ongoing activities being undertaken by the ATSB in the search for MH370.”

“The CSIRO report has been provided to Malaysia for consideration in its ongoing investigation into the disappearance of MH370.”

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