Updated May 30 at 11:33 am
The Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) on Tuesday released the raw satellite data that it used as the basis for its March 21 announcement that Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 had crashed into the southern Indian Ocean after disappearing on March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The data, provided by UK-based satellite network group Inmarsat, shows the hourly “handshakes” between the Boeing 777 and a communications satellite over the course of just over nine hours. By analyzing the so-called burst timing offset values, Inmarsat’s experts were able to guide DCA officials on the possible location of the aircraft when it stopped exchanging signals with the satellite.
The release of the data more than two months after the Malaysian government declared the airliner to have crashed into the ocean provides nothing in the way of fresh input for the ongoing search for wreckage and accident investigation. It appears to have been done to meet the increasingly vociferous demands for greater transparency by relatives of the 239 people presumed to have died on Flight 370.
Meanwhile, the joint agency tasked with coordinating the search effort declared on Thursday that Flight 370 likely didn’t come to rest in the area west of Perth where the Royal Australian Navy had most recently scoured the seabed for the airplane’s remains. “The Australian Transport Safety Bureau 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,” according to a statement released by the Joint Agency Coordination Center.
The Bluefin-21 unmanned underwater search vehicle on loan from the U.S. Navy conducted its last mission in the vicinity on May 28, said the JACC, and the Australian Navy vessel Ocean Shield departed the search area that evening. However, the JACC stressed that the search continues and now involves three major stages, including reviewing all exisiting information and analysis to define a search zone of up to 60,000 square kilometers along the arc identified by satellite data in the southern Indian Ocean; conducting a bathymetric survey to map the sea floor in the defined search area; and acquiring the specialist services needed for a comprehensive search of the sea floor in that area.
The Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen has already begun a bathymetric survey of the areas identified by the ATSB. Plans call for a contracted survey vessel to join the Zhu Kezhen in June. Authorities expect the bathymetric survey to take about three months to complete and a subsequent new underwater search, scheduled to start in August, to take as long as a year.