May 302014
 

Eleven weeks since a massive Boeing 777-200 airliner disappeared, and still no survivors, justifies starting over on the search of MH370. Starting over on determining why Boeing 777 airliners do not vanish out of the sky is fully reasonable, because the MH370 search is now undergoing a reboot, re-analysis, and repair following a crash.

“The search in the vicinity of the acoustic detection can now be considered complete … No signs of aircraft debris have been found,” says officials of the Australian Joint Agency Coordination and Australian Transport Safety Bureau, May 29, 2014.

In a body blow to the most extensive international search and recovery in aviation history, investigators leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 have concluded it is not in the part of the southern Indian Ocean they have been scouring for almost two months, Financial Times reports.

An international focus on where acoustic pings, similar to those emitted by aircraft ‘black-boxes’ were detected in early April “can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370,” Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Center said in a statement on May 29, 2014. This statement was made after a deep-sea survey of a remote stretch of the southern Indian Ocean this weekend. The search found no trace of the Boeing 777-200 passenger airliner wreckage. Bloomberg says, “the undersea survey using robot submarines will resume over a wider 60,000 square kilometer area in August.”

“It’s a pretty straightforward case of trying to find a needle in a very big haystack,” Peter Marosszeky, a lecturer in aviation at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said by phone earlier today. “To locate anything on the sea floor is always very difficult.”

Malaysia Missing Plane

“The audible signal sounds to me just like an emergency locator beacon,” the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Center chief Angus Houston told a media conference April 7 announcing the detection of the first two pings. “We’re very close to where we need to be.”

reboot_angus_houston

Since April 14, Australian investigators have deployed the Ocean Shield and a Bluefin-21 deep sea drone across an exclusively focused upon 850-square-kilometer stretch of the southern Indian Ocean floor.

The massive search endeavor has engaged side-scan sonar after an underwater microphone picked up four signals near the frequencies of those emitted by aircraft ‘black-boxes’ on April 5 and April 8, according to Bloomberg. “The sonar technology was used to locate the lost Air France 447 aircraft off the coast of Brazil, and can pick out objects less than a meter in size.”

Nonetheless, for now and over the next six months, the Ocean Shield and a Bluefin-21 are retired after an unsuccessful mission in locating MH370 in the specified 850-square-kilometer region of the southern Indian Ocean floor.

FILE - Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) Announce Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Not In Indian Ocean Search Zone

The extraordinary search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has reached such a feverish peak that there are calls for rebooting the $60 million dollar international search for the massive Boeing 777-200 airliner. The calls for starting over the search have begun to drown out the sobbing of the distressed families and friends of the 239 people gone missing aboard MH370, which disappeared on March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en-route to Beijing.

Why?

Because folks just cannot understand how a massive jet packed with people can just simply disappear from the sky. It does not seem comprehensible in our hearts and minds that in this digital age of advanced technological leaps in cloud streaming, big data, wireless mobile devices, and social media, that a 504,900 pounds (229,500 kilograms) Boeing 777-200 aircraft can simply vanish from the sky.

reboot_planeGlobal airline industry groups apparently concur with the public sentiment and MH370 distressed families and friends, applying intense pressure to do something now, including simply starting over in searching for the missing airliner.

International Air Transport Association (IATA), this week “agreed to come up with proposals for better tracking by the end of September. IATA said its members would implement measures voluntarily, before any rules were in place,” reports Reuters.

“In principle the community has agreed. There’s no question this is something we need to do,” Nancy Graham, director of ICAO’s Air Navigation Bureau, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

“We are developing the voluntary path and a rule for the future. We intend to have regulation to support that globally.”

Asked by reporters whether the cost of implementing new standards was a stumbling block for airlines, Graham said: “Not at all, they’re absolutely in solidarity. There’s no price you can put on safety or certainty on where the aircraft are.”

mystery_mh370_trackingHistory says we have lost more airliners than we have found.

From the amount of information retained in keeping track of a Boeing 777-200 in the sky, one has to conclude that planes just do not vanish or fall out of the sky unnoticed by anyone. It is equally remarkable that the ‘lost and found’ nature of the MH370 story is actually not so unusual in international aviation history, since 1948, as the chart below shows. Imagine how many times each of these airliner search and recovery efforts had to follow the ole’ titled adage of this article, “If at first, you don’t succeed, reboot!”

Air France 447 vanished in the Atlantic Ocean back in 2009. Within days floating debris was founded and recovered. However, it took investigators more than two years to locate the wreckage and ‘black-box’ of the missing Air France 447 airliner off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean. Each day a lost airliner rests at the bottom of the deep seas, such harsh oceanic conditions makes the airliner search process more difficult.

Houston told CNN the hunt for the plane is even more difficult than that for Air France Flight 447, which disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.

“The big difference between Air France 447 and MH370 is that the last known position, in terms of MH370, is at the top of the Malacca Straits, and then the aircraft continued to fly for an extended period after that,” Houston told CNN’s Anna Coren on May 12, 2014.

“Whereas Air France, they had a very good last known position, which then turned out to be very close to where the aircraft was eventually found.”

So, starting over, and rebooting many times over, in this MH370 search and recovery is to be expected as normal. It just comes with the territory of solving a mystery of a lost airliner.

Notice in the chart below just how many airliners have been lost and never found since 1948. A majority of those airliners lost and never found recorded their last known position at sea. The Air France flight 447 oceanic recovery was an absolute miracle. The Eastern Airlines flight 980, lost January 1, 1985, and found years later in 2006, and the Uruguayan Air Force flight 571, lost October 13, 1972, and found over three and half months later in 1973, were both equally remarkable recoveries from within extremely remote regions of the South American continent.

Disappearances of Large Airliners Since 1948

Photo Credit: Bloomberg Visual Data

Photo Credit: Bloomberg Visual Data

Who is in-charge of the MH370 search reboot?

Still, we are distressed, even confused, by the facts of the MH370 case that we have ten Inmarsat satellites among numerous others cruising our stratosphere at every moment, yet we are left only with just eight ping-like ‘partial handshakes’ to hang our international hopes on the lost Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The moral and fiduciary responsibility for the current ‘search-for-a-cause’ and recovery investigation into the disappearance of MH370 rests with Malaysia. However, the public-sector and private-sector obligation for the search and recovery operation now resides with Australia. So far as we can determine from the findings by Inmarsat, the British satellite firm, this is mainly because flight MH370 came down inside the southern Indian Ocean near the oceanic jurisdictional waters of the Australian continent.

Investigators have scanned 4.6 million square kilometers of ocean surface, with 29 aircraft carrying out 334 flights and 14 ships afloat as part of the operation, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said at a May 5 press conference.

The Australian government has authorized A$89.9 million ($83 million) in its federal budget appropriation this month for the MH370 search over these two years ending June 2015.

Unfortunately, more millions may be needed.

Standby for Months: Reboot Phase of MH370 Search is Complete in 4 Steps

As we reboot the MH370 search process, we will have to re-perform over the next several months four steps: (1) redefine a possible Boeing 777-200 airliner crash zone, where computational models will be used to reconstruct the movement of any possible MH370 wreckage debris; (2) research any possible airliner signals that are not oceanic acoustical noise, where ships like the Ocean Shield tow hydrophones through the waters at depths up to 6,000 meters to locate any possible wreckage resting on the seabed; (3) map out a wider 60,000 square kilometer area of the southern Indian Ocean seabed, where ships like the Ocean Shield tow an acoustical system, known as a side-scan sonar, to map out the topology of the seabed, capturing images and recording Global Positioning System locations of these images; and then finally (4) scour new targeted oceanic seabed, where remote autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles scour the seabed to capture high resolution photos for investigators to analyze.

Solicitation of commercial contractors — who will be taking over these 4 steps of the reboot process of the MH370 search, including the deep sea unmanned vehicles search for MH370, after the government procurement process is completed in a couple of months — is the next phase of the recovery of the missing Boeing 777-200 airliner.

As the MH370 deep sea drone search phase off the coast of Australia concludes, about a half dozen private firms will be solicited to propose possibly taking over the extended deep sea scanning of the southern Indian Ocean, which will likely include extensive deep sea search technologies, such as towed sonar, an autonomous underwater vehicle with mounted sonar and optical imaging equipment, Australian officials said.

mystery_mh370_recovery

Procuring these specialized private firms and negotiating contracts will not be complete until August. Australian officials have said they want a single private contractor to lead this new phase of scouring over 60,000 square kilometers, costing over $60 million dollars in search of the Boeing 777-200 airliner, now presumed to reside in the southern Indian Ocean, reports CNN International.

Investigators will now use ship-based sonar to assemble a more accurate map of the seabed before resuming the hunt, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Center said. The renewed undersea search carried out by private contractors will not begin until the seabed mapping is finished in about three months.

MH370 Search Reboot is a Poignant Metaphor

Just as a locked-up computer, the MH370 search is now being rebooted for a renewed and refreshed look at all of the data stored and recently released by Inmarsat and Malaysian officials.

Angus Houston, MH370 search chief for the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Center, said searchers are performing “groundbreaking work” with satellite analysis, which has helped isolate the search area in the Indian Ocean.

“Without that, we would be essentially searching the whole of the Indian Ocean, and I think the chances of finding the aircraft in those circumstances would have been slim,” Houston said. “I think by having this defined search area … I think eventually we will find the aircraft.”

This week’s about-face statement by officials of the Joint Agency Coordination Center is a reboot from Houston’s cautious optimism on May 12, 2014, regarding such a ‘defined search area’ at this point, as of May 29, 2014.

Houston said further his greatest concern throughout the two-month search has been the families of those on board.

“To have a set of circumstances where you don’t know what’s happened to your loved ones in circumstances such as this, it’s just a terrible, terrible emotional trauma of all of those involved,” he said.

“And beyond that, the wider public has a great interest in what happened here because we all fly in airplanes, and we all fly long distances over water, and a lot of people want to know what happened and why it happened.”

This is the reason why this has been an especially difficult article for me to write. Most of us, like me, hate to have to reboot our computers, when they suddenly crash. This is the poignant metaphor I am humbly making here in the face of our ongoing worldwide engagement in the MH370 ‘search-for-a-cause’ and recovery. History says our chances for a successful recovery here are remote, yet possible hopefully and prayerfully, given the successful recovery of Air France 447 back in 2009 from the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil. History can repeat, but oftentimes in different cycles. Sometimes we just have to reboot to make history repeat.

If we are unfortunately sometimes unsuccessful in advancing our MH370 search work that we have invested so much of our limited time, maximum assets, manpower effort, advanced science and technology, and capital reserves into, remarkably, it can be a body blow not only to our ‘search-for-a-cause’, but also to the recovery of the grieving families and friends of MH370’s 239 passengers and crew from the aftermath of this Boeing 777-200 airliner crash.

But, I believe travelers can still hope for a rare breakthrough in finding an airliner lost in the ocean. MH370 would be only the second airliner lost and found in the ocean since 1948. The first one was Air France 447.

However, we must all remain hopefully engaged in our reboot here and collectively envision a day of joyful news that MH370 has been at last found!

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