Authorities Call Off Aerial Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Hunt for Missing Plane to Continue Underwater
Officials announced Monday a major change in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that will include a halt in the aerial searches that have taken place since early March.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the plans in a news conference. “I regret to say that thus far none of our efforts in the air, on the surface or under sea, have found any wreckage,” he said. He added that the next phase of the search will be a more intensive underwater search and will involve the use of private contractors.
The prime minister said that it is “highly unlikely” that any debris could be found on the ocean surface, explaining that the debris would by now have become waterlogged and sunk.
The new phase of the search will use private contractors and could take up to eight months to complete. Officials estimate the cost of the next phase at $56 million.
Searchers will use side-sonar equipment that can be towed behind vessels to search an expanded area. The Australian navy will continue to use the Bluefin 21 autonomous underwater vehicle, towed by the Ocean Shield, in the interim period as it could take officials several weeks to award contracts for the new plan.
“The aircraft plainly cannot disappear. It must be somewhere,” said Abbott. “We do not want this crippling cloud of uncertainty to hang over this family and the wider traveling public.”