TIME Aviation

The Missing Jet Hunt Goes Back to the Drawing Board

Leading Seaman, Boatswain's Mate, William Sharkey searches for debris at sea in the Southern Indian Ocean on April 6, 2014.
Australian Defence Department/EPA Leading Seaman, Boatswain's Mate, William Sharkey searches for debris at sea in the Southern Indian Ocean on April 6, 2014.

The team investigating the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished with 239 people aboard on March 8, plans to re-examine its data and meet this week to discuss acquiring more sophisticated underwater search equipment

All data gathered in the nearly two-month hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be re-examined to ensure investigators are looking in the jet’s most likely resting place, officials said on Monday.

A trilateral meeting between Malaysian, Chinese and Australian representatives convened to discuss how best to proceed with finding the Boeing 777, which vanished shortly after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8 with 239 people on board.

Pioneering analysis of maintenance data transmissions by British satellite firm Inmarsat indicate the 200-ton, twin-engine aircraft crashed about 1,000 miles northeast of Perth, Western Australia. But after 334 air missions to scour 1.8 million sq. mi. (4.6 million sq km) of ocean, combined with a combing of 121 sq. mi. (314 sq km) of the seabed by underwater drone, not a single trace of the missing plane has been discovered.

“Unfortunately all of that effort has found nothing,” Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters in Canberra. “The operation must now enter a new phase.”

Operations will now be expanded to examine 23,000 sq. mi. (60,000 sq km) of ocean floor using more assets—most likely both towed side-scan sonar and unmanned submersibles—the acquiring of which will be discussed on Wednesday, but will likely be from private contractors.

“We will continue to search in accordance with the consensus reached at this meeting. We are sure that the search will not be interrupted, not be suspended, not be given up, and not [slacken],” said Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang. About two-thirds of the passengers on board the missing jet were Chinese citizens.

Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein praised the “unprecedented” cooperation and “sense of urgency.” The operation was “structured and focused, and I believe we are on the right track,” he said.

Officials admitted last week that the new phase could take up to a year to complete.

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