Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is expected to be declared lost on the southern Indian Ocean floor, as early as next month officials say, after history’s largest and costliest oceanic airliner search for eight months on Sunday, November 9.

Halting weather, including stormy oceanic winds up to 90 kilometers per hour in parts of the search area, are likely to affect operations in the coming weeks, but conditions are expected to improve, as the summer season emerges off the western coast of Australia, the Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC) said on Monday, November 3.

I predicted October 5 inside my LinkedIn Pulse article, “MH370 Found This Week: Officials Say “Not Where, But When”,” the following opening excerpt:

“Beginning today, the next 12 days of continuous deep sea scouring, unabated by harsh hurricane-like underwater oceanic weather conditions, is critical to uncovering the whereabouts of the massive Boeing 777-200ER airliner.”

“Wreckage or debris must be found during these critical 12 days before the underwater sea vessel equipment employed in this next search phase has to return back to shore for refueling and restocking. During this time as the deep sea vessel equipment is away, the conditions of the “priority search area” could change drastically. This could severely hamper and impede the ongoing MH370 search that could delay recovery of the missing Boeing 777-200ER for years.”

The Australian and Malaysian governments are working together to set a date to officially declare MH370 lost, most likely by the end of the year, as budget cuts begin to impede the search for the missing airliner.

“We don’t have a final date, but once we have an official loss recorded we can work with the next-of-kin on the full compensation payments for those families,” Malaysia Airlines commercial director Hugh Dunleavy was quoted as saying in the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday November 4.

The Malaysian flag carrier’s Boeing 777-200ER, Registration Number 9M-MRO, performing as Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, disappeared early morning March 8 with 227 passengers and 12 Malaysia Airlines crew members on board en route from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing International Airport.

It is generally alleged the massive airliner was in its remaining catastrophic moments, when it was radar tracked as the plane flew far off-course from its intended flight path. Then, turning suddenly back towards the Straits of Malacca, after which the airliner is believed to have mysteriously last flown into the southern Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia.

Many international aviation safety experts and news accounts over the last eight months agree, “This is now the greatest aviation security mystery in aviation history,” which I first stated on March 12 to Government Security News, and the following day on March 13 to Fox News Hannity, talking about the “Missing Malaysia Flight 370 Mystery,” further adding:

Boeing airplanes do not vanish or fall out of the sky. Boeing planes go up in the air and they come back down without incident.”

Shortly thereafter, on March 16, eight months ago next week on November 16, the remarkable missing MH370 mysterious story broke internationally.

“(MH370) is the most serious aviation occurrence ever to involve the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and its precursors, and is arguably the most mystifying, expansive and difficult search operation ever undertaken in the history of commercial aircraft,” ATSB Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan said Monday, November 3 to The Daily Mirror (U.K.).

Costliest Search and Recovery Mission in International Aviation History

According to CNN International, as of last month, “the investigation into the ill-fated flight is already the most expensive in aviation history.”

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss announced a $50 million (Australian dollars) contract back in August to fund several searches for the missing airliner and 227 passengers and 12 Malaysia Airlines crew members, according to David Soucie, former FAA safety inspector, and CNN aviation analyst.

Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston reportedly estimated as much as $25 million has been paid to the defense force for the visual search it conducted.

“Another $60 million has been spent on the deep sea underwater search in the southern Indian Ocean,” wrote Soucie.

Soucie added: “If and when the aircraft is found, the retrieval and causal investigation would conceivably add $50 million or more to the enormous cost of the MH370 search.”

Malaysia has now spent well over $27.6 million ringgit ($8.6 million), according to initial officially announced Malaysian government figures released June 9, marking three months of the search for MH370.

Other countries involved in the search have reportedly put aside sizable sums. The U.S has spent $11.4 million, officials at the Pentagon told NBC in April. Chinese officials have not disclosed the amount the country has spent, though Chinese warships are estimated to cost at least $100,000 per day to operate. Another 22 countries have contributed manpower, machines, and monies to the search efforts, says TIME Business Aviation.

“All of this adds up to so much more than the estimated $160 million in recovery costs for Air France Flight 447 off the coast of Brazil in 2009 (see also “Five-Year Anniversary of AF447: MH370 Déjà vu?” on LinkedIn Pulse Airlines and Aviation Channel). The search area for that Airbus A330 airliner was much smaller in scope to just five square miles within weeks. Remarkably, it took nearly two years to find and recover the fuselage wreckage of the Airbus A330 aircraft,” CNN aviation analyst Soucie chronicles.

He contrasts further: “the search and recovery area for MH370 is substantially greater, at some 23,000 square miles, and may therefore be exponentially more expensive.”

Even the families of the missing 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board MH370 launched an initiative to raise $5 million to encourage anyone with information about the plane’s whereabouts to come forward.

Malaysia Airlines commercial director Hugh Dunleavy is confident that the crew had nothing to do with the lost airliner.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s annual report says ten transport investigators have departed after the transport safety agency cut its staff from 116 to 104 since July 2013. This represents about 12 percent of the agency’s technical workforce due to $2 million in budget cuts, reports The Daily Mirror (U.K.).

“We have more than 12 per cent fewer staff and we have been required to task some of our investigation and administration staff to the major and ongoing investigations into the two Malaysia Airlines disasters,” ATSB Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan said.

Dolan added: “For the foreseeable future, we will be able to undertake fewer investigations and we will need to carefully consider and constrain the scope of investigations initiated.”

Consequently, in the last eight months of the disappearance of MH370 and the shooting down of MH17, Dolan was cautiously resolved in saying, “It was indeed sobering to see more than 200 years of combined corporate and investigation experience leaving the ATSB.”

Declaration of Loss Opens Restitution Compensation to MH370 Families

“All of the crew on MH370 have been investigated by the various security agencies, and as far as I’m aware, nothing has turned up that is (unexpected and inappropriate or unusual), Malaysia Airlines commercial director Hugh Dunleavy alluded.

“We do not believe it is anything to do with how we process or recruit staff, in fact those on board the aircraft had been with us for many years,” he said.

Responding further, he added, “We believe there was nothing related to the crew but we will not know 100 percent until we have access to the black box.”

Dunleavy in New Zealand for the past four days is the highest ranking official of the flag carrier to comment on the MH370 aviation tragedy at this critical stage of the ongoing crisis.

Dunleavy urged relatives of the MH370 passengers and crew lost to be patient, as Malaysia Airlines arranges to pay compensation and battles to rebuild the brand reputation of the flag carrier (see “Huge Cuts Signal ‘Hail Mary’ for Malaysia Airlines” and “Malaysia Airlines Burns $2.16 Million in Cash a Day” on LinkedIn Pulse Airlines and Aviation Channel).

He said the Montreal Convention had set the ceiling on compensation at around US$175,000 (RM$582,000), although the families of the MH370 passengers and crew could take legal action to pursue higher payments.

“We will ensure we do compensate them for the loss of their loved ones through our insurers,” he added.

Dunleavy also said the flag carrier has learned lessons from its crisis management of the MH370 aviation tragedy.

“We’re always learning from situations, but the motivation and drive has been to look after the next-of-kin,” he said. “We are trying to hurry compensation (to the families) as much as we can, but some of these things are outside the scope of the airline itself.”

“If they’re not happy with the compensation, then they (the families are free to) seek legal advice and move ahead then … once they come in, our people will assess them and respond,” Dunleavy offered.

He added that restitution compensation to relatives of those killed in the MH17 aviation disaster in eastern Ukraine is more straightforward, as the flag carrier has a more sound preliminary footing and belief as to what supposedly happened to that Boeing 777-200 crash on July 17 (see also “Dutch Safety Board Releases MH17 Crash Report” on LinkedIn Pulse).

“We know exactly what happened with that aircraft and we can move ahead with the full compensation of family members aboard that aircraft,” Dunleavy said.

He said in the case of MH370, the flag carrier does not know what exactly happened in the aviation tragedy on March 8 until the Boeing 777-200ER wreckage is found.

State of the Search

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has been missing for nearly eight months next Sunday without a trace. Many aviation experts and safety investigators now believe that the whole plane is submerged in the southern Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia, perhaps inside a deep trench of the mountainous ocean floor, already mapped out as the so-called “the priority search area” (as indicated in the chart below).

Photo Credit: ATSB/JACC/AFP

Prohibitive weather has significantly slowed the search for the massive airliner, but conditions are expected to improve over summer emerging in the region, as vessels continue to scour the southern Indian Ocean floor off the western coast of Australia.

More than 3000 square kilometers has been scoured so far, and more than 160,000 square kilometers has been mapped, reports 9News Live Feed (Sydney, Australia).

The local Australian news outlet added: Additional bathymetric survey operations could perhaps begin again soon, the Joint Agency Coordination Center said in its latest update.

Contracted deep sea vessel GO Phoenix resupplied in Fremantle and began its underwater search on Monday, November 3.

Fugro Discovery deep sea vessel was searching in the priority area last week, but had to suspend operations on Friday, October 31 due to severe gale force winds and storms, now regularly slamming the southern Indian Ocean, according 9News Live Feed (Sydney, Australia).

The deep tow vehicle was recovered to a safe depth and its operations resumed on Monday, November 3, when the stormy weather conditions subsided.

The companion deep sea vessel, Fugro Equator, returned to Fremantle on Friday, October 31. The vessel is expected to depart next week “after being reconfigured to accommodate a deep tow vehicle identical to the one on Fugro Discovery,” reports 9News Live Feed (Sydney, Australia).

Photo Credits: Malaysia Airlines, Boeing 777-200ER, Registration Number 9M-MRO

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