A year on, what's the latest in the hunt for Flight 370?

Updated: 2015-03-08 09:53


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A year on, what's the latest in the hunt for Flight 370?

Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein shows two maps with corridors of the last known possible location of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane as he addresses reporters at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in this March 17, 2014 file photo. The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing carrying 239 passengers and crew went missing on March 8, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

Q: What happens if they find the plane?

A: Australia recently asked for expressions of interest from companies with equipment capable of retrieving wreckage from the seabed, which is an average of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) deep. But bringing it to the surface would be complex.

Search officials would first need permission from the governments involved _ namely Malaysia and Australia _ to retrieve the wreckage. Then they would have to figure out the best way to do so.

Officials would need to map the area, photograph the debris and get specialized vessels, crews and equipment to the remote search site. All told, Dolan estimates that if the plane is found on the seabed, it would be at least a month before the recovery process even begins.

Q: If the plane is found underwater, what kind of condition would it be in after a year?

A: Although pressure on a plane deep in the ocean would be extreme, currents at those depths would be relatively mild _ meaning there's no real concern about debris continuing to scatter once it hit the seabed. After studying the condition of the wreckage from Air France Flight 447, which was found at a similar depth two years after crashing into the Atlantic Ocean, officials think any underwater debris from the Malaysian plane would be relatively well-preserved.

"It's not going to be a pristine aircraft," Dolan says. "But for our purposes, we expect that the aircraft remains will be in satisfactory condition."

Q: Do officials still think they'll find Flight 370?

A: Dolan, who all along has expressed "cautious optimism" that they will find the plane, says his feelings haven't changed. If anything, he leans more toward optimism than caution these days.

He's cautious because of the scant data that led them to focus their search on the Indian Ocean. "This is hugely dependent on technical analysis of quite limited satellite information," he says. "We're always as confident as we can be in the reliability of that, but we have to remind ourselves it's not certain _ it's only highly likely."

Conversely, he's optimistic because he is confident in the search crews and equipment, and the high quality of data they're getting from the sonar.

"If the aircraft is out there," Dolan says, "we will find it."


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