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Fresh MH370 Search Faces Uphill Task

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KUALA LUMPUR – Interpreting sonar data into credible image scenes will be the primary challenge for Seabed Constructor vessel during the fresh search for Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370 which went missing in March 2014, aviation experts opine.

Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) test pilot Prof Dr Mohd Harridon Mohamed Suffian said the process involved transforming discreet sound data into three-dimensional image data.

“This transformation process tends to involve losses of discreet data., thus rendering the transformation or interpretation as inaccurate.

“But I do believe the United States-based seabed exploration company, Ocean Infinity Limited has an in-depth algorithm to ensure optimum interpretation of the data,” he told Bernama in an interview recently.

On Jan 11, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai announced that under the agreement with Ocean Infinity Limited, the search for MH370 resumes in mid-January in which the Seabed Constructor vessel would cover an area of 25,000 sq km within 90 days.

The primary mission of the ship is to identify the location of the wreckage and/or both of the flight recorders; the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR).

The search was based on ‘no cure, no fee,’ which meant that payment would only be made when the debris of the missing jetliner was found and confirmed by a third party.

Mohd Harridon pointed out that rough or bad weather during the search would be the other challenges awaiting Seabed Constructor vessel in the southern Indian Ocean.

“It depends on how forceful the vessel is during the search. Weather at that part of the ocean is terrible at times and could hinder the search effort. But I do hope the vessel could wade through the harsh environment to provide us answers in the best possible time frame,” he said.

Reports said the vessel was expected to reach and begin searching the 25,000-square kilometre area in the Indian Ocean this Wednesday, following earlier extensive searches.

Meanwhile, a researcher at a local airline, Ahmad Maulan Bardai said after almost four years, any wreckage would have been buried deeper by other sea bed debris and components and might not be found.

“These may include the black boxes. Learning from the QZ8501 incident, the aircraft black boxes were found separated from its tail section but with Ocean Infinity’s capabilities such as the eight underwater autonomous vehicle, the area will be covered quickly,” he said, adding that the effective analysis of the scanned documents from the vehicles would be the success factor in the search.

AirAsia Indonesia flight QZ8501 crashed in the Java Sea near Pangkalan Bun in central Kalimantan while ferrying 155 passengers and seven crew members from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore on Dec 28, 2014.

Meanwhile, a former Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) investigating officer Captain Abdul Rahmat Omar Tun Mohd Haniff said he hoped that Seabed Constructor vessel could trace and identify any wreckage as soon as possible based on data and debris pattern.

“Search should also be conducted along where the currents flow towards East Africa,” he said.

Flight MH370 with 239 people on board vanished from radar screens while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, and was classified among the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.

Australia, Malaysia and China jointly suspended a two-year underwater search for the aircraft in January last year. No sign of the plane was found in the 120,000-sq km search area in the southern Indian Ocean.

So far, only three confirmed fragments of MH370 have been found, all of them on the Western Indian Ocean shores, including a two-metre wing part known as flaperon. – BERNAMA

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