More than two months after the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went underwater officials say they have been looking in the wrong place.
Australian officials said on Thursday that an 850 sq km area where “pings” – thought to have been from MH370’s black box – were heard has now been ruled put as the final resting place of the plane.
The area can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370. Australian Transport Safety Bureau
On top of this, a US official said earlier on Thursday that the pings, on which the search area had been largely based, probably came from the ships searching for MH370 or the locating equipment itself.
“The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has advised that the search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections can now be considered complete and, in its professional judgment, the area can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370,” a statement said.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared from radar screens on March 8 shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.
However, a thorough scan of the seabed with an unmanned submarine has failed to find any sign of wreckage. No debris linked to the plane has been picked up despite the most extensive and expensive search effort in aviation history.
CNN quoted Michael Dean, the US Navy’s deputy director of ocean engineering, saying that authorities now almost universally believe the pings did not come from the plane.
“Our best theory at this point is that (the pings were) likely some sound produced by the ship … or within the electronics of the Towed Pinger Locator,” Mr Dean told CNN.
The search zone has already been extended to a 60,000 sq km zone that is being surveyed by a Chinese vessel. It will then be searched by a commercial operator in a mission that is expected to start in August and take up to a year.
Earlier this week Malaysia’s government and British satellite firm Inmarsat released data used to determine the path of MH370. Families of the missing passengers are hoping that opening up the data to analysis by a wider range of experts could help verify the plane’s last location.
Australian authorities said the data supported the theory that the plane crashed after running out of fuel.