KUALA LUMPUR – The number of ships used in the deep-sea search for Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean should be increased – not reduced.
And the search equipment should be improved with more scanners and a new ocean floor mapping methodology, according to aviation experts.
They were responding to the announcement that Phase Two of the search mission will be carried out with two vessels instead of three.
Universti Kuala Lumpur Aircraft Research and Innovation head Dr Mohd Harridon Mohamed Suffian said that more ships should be deployed for “speed and thoroughness”.
Fomer Royal Malaysian Air Force pilot Capt Abdul Rahmat Omar Tun Mohd Haniff agreed, saying: “Using more ships with deep sea scanners, you can ensure that every part of the search area is covered and faster.”
Abdul Rahmat is an incidents investigator and corporate senior manager of Sapura Kencana, a provider of oil and gas services and solutions.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said on June 18 that Go Pheonix would quit the search. Only Fugro Equator and Fugro Discovery would be involved in Phase Two covering another 60,000 sq km of the ocean floor.
The Malaysia Airlines plane was carrying 239 passengers and crew when it disappeared from radar screens while heading to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on the morning of March 8 last year.
Scientists and aviation experts are relying on a series of satellite “handshakes” to try to pinpoint the plane’s final resting place estimated to be in a 1.1 million sq km area of the southern Indian Ocean.
The Malaysian, Chinese and Australian Governments agreed in March to continue the search mission into Phase Two.
Abdul Rahmat said the mission was using the same equipment utilised for deep sea oil and gas exploration.
“The equipment needs to be refined, or new equipment should be developed, for this search,” he added.
Mohd Harridon said the technology used in the search could not map the ocean floor thoroughly and some “things” might be overlooked.
“The ocean floor has abysses and mountains. The current deep-sea autonomous vehicle is using multi-beam echo sounder and side-scan sonar to create a three dimensional image of the ocean floor.
“The equipment should have additional scanners for better image as the mapping process is made from the reflection of sounds instead of visuals,” he said.
Mohd Harridon said the Southampton University National Oceanography Centre in Britain had come up with an improved mapping methodology.
“The map is created using information on the topography and sediment type of the sea floor,” he said.
“Using data collected from a multi-beam echo sounder and a side-scan sonar, the map is then analysed to break down the sea floor into a series of zones. Statistical analysis is used to identify distinct geomorphological terrains in an objective and repeatable way.”
Meanwhile, retiree Selamat Omar, the father of MH370 passenger Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat, said: “The search should not be confined to the water. They should also look in other places.”
Maira Elizabeth, daughter of Chief Steward Andrew Nari, said: “We are all tired of waiting to see any positive result. We hope there are other ways to look for the aircraft. But we understand the government is doing their best to find it.”