Monday, April 21, 2014, 10:53
Scans of Indian Ocean floor may be completed within week
By China Daily and Reuters

Scans of Indian Ocean floor may be completed within week

Technicians from the maker of the Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle do final checks on the mini-sub before launching it on April 17. The unmanned craft has searched about half its targeted area without finding any sign of wreckage, Australian search officials said on Sunday. It began its eighth dive on Sunday. (Xinhua News Agency)

The search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 entered its 44th day on Sunday as Australian search officials said a crucial series of sonar scans of the Indian Ocean floor could be completed within a week.

The air, surface and underwater multinational search led by Australia is focused on data collected by a US Navy deep sea drone, which has narrowed its target range to a 10-kilometer circle of sea floor.

The Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle has spent the past week scouring the remote and largely unmapped stretch of ocean floor some 2,000 km northwest of the Perth, Australia, for signs of the plane, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board, including 154 Chinese passengers.

The remote control submarine is now on its eighth dive with no sign of wreckage. The drone has searched about half its targeted area, the authorities said on Sunday.

The Malaysian government has said the search is at a "very critical juncture" and asked for prayers for its success. Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said the government may consider using more remote control vehicles in the search.

The current underwater search is centered on an area where one of four acoustic signals believed to be from the plane's black box recorders was detected on April 8.

Weeks of daily sorties have failed to turn up any trace of the plane, even after narrowing the search to an arc in the southern Indian Ocean, making this the most expensive such operation in aviation history.

Hopes for further black box signals are fast diminishing, since the black box batteries are two weeks past their 30-day expected life span, search officials have said.

But while the Bluefin-21's target range has narrowed, the air and surface search continues unabated, with daily sorties a week after Australian search coordinator Angus Houston said the air and surface component of the search would end within three days.

On Sunday, up to 11 military aircraft and 12 ships were set to help with the search, covering about 48,507 sq km across two areas, the Perth-based Joint Agency Coordination Center said in a statement.