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Dec 20, 2016

New final MH370 search zone defined in latest ATSB study

MH370 partners have decided it makes sense to look into the depths of a final 25,000 square km sea floor search zone in south Indian Ocean

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The current and new search areas for MH370
The current and new search areas for MH370

Updated: There is no clarification as yet to reports that the Australian Minister responsible for aviation, Darren Chester, has rejected outright the new search recommendation of the tripartite First Principles review.

Australia manages the search on behalf of Malaysia and China, who also have a say in formulating agreed decisions. Mr Chester’s ability to communicate on aviation matters with clarity and certainty and to understand his portfolio has been a topic of discussion within the industry since he took it over from former deputy PM Warren Truss.

There may well be one last look for the sunk wreckage of MH370, the missing Malaysia Airlines 777, in the depths of the southern Indian Ocean in the early part of 2017.

The new 25,000 square kilometre search zone if it is acted upon is immediately to the northeast of the currently all but exhausted 120,000 square kilometre priority zone where the ATSB led search effort has nearly completed close up studies using an autonomous underwater vehicle or AUV of deep and complex features that it couldn’t previously resolve with clarity with sonar scanning towfish.

In a First Principles Review released today the ATSB says “the experts agreed that the previously defined indicative underwater area is unlikely to contain the missing aircraft between latitudes 36°S and 39.3°S along the 7th arc.

“The experts also agreed that CSIRO’s debris drift modelling results present strong evidence that the aircraft is most likely to be located to the north of the current indicative underwater search area. When considered together with updated flight path modelling, the experts concluded that an unsearched area between latitudes 33°S and 36°S along the 7th arc of approximately 25,000 km², has the highest probability of containing the wreckage of the aircraft.”

This new, and final area is shown in the diagram at the top of the page, within the narrower orange border.

The statement says “The participants of the First Principles Review were in agreement on the need to search [this] additional area…Based on the analysis to date, completion of this area would exhaust all prospective areas for the presence of MH370.”

The MH370 search partners have not formally declared that this new search will take place, and there has been no announcement of arrangements for the equipment and vessels that will be used, nor the provisional timetable for its conduct, which would like the current and previous searches, be subject to often wild and difficult to predict sea states.

MH370 was a Boeing 777-200ER with 239 people on board when it disappeared over the Gulf of Thailand on March 8, 2014, on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing as a Malaysia Airlines flight code shared with China Southern Airlines.

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