Texas-based company is latest hope for the recovery of MH370
Richard Polden – Pool/Getty Images(HOUSTON) — A Texas-based oceanic exploration company will launch a high tech search in the southern Indian Ocean on Wednesday as part of a new international effort to find Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
Almost four years after the Boeing 777’s disappearance with 239 people on board, Ocean Infinity has agreed to a 90-day contract with the Malaysian government that only rewards the company if they find the aircraft.
A 378-foot vessel named Seabed Constructor departed Durban, South Africa last week with 65 crew members from Ocean Infinity, two Malaysian Navy officials and 8 autonomous underwater vehicles armed with cameras and sensors.
Officials said that on Wednesday, exactly a year after the last search was called off, the ship will reach the new 25,000-square-km search area. The plan is to launch multiple drones at a time that will search the seafloor in a grid, using cameras and sensors to detect aircraft debris.
A previous Australian-led search covered more than 120,000 square kilometers of seabed, but officials came up empty before deciding they were likely looking in the wrong place the whole time.
Ocean Infinity and the Seabed Constructor will remain at sea for two to three weeks at a time before returning the Perth to refuel and refresh the crew. They believe they can cover more than the entire search area in the agreed upon 90 day period with the underwater drones.
These untethered vehicles have the ability to dive to nearly 20,000 feet and bring back HD images and troves of data to the scientists onboard the vessel.
According to Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, Ocean Infinity’s potential reward is on a sliding scale between $20 million and $70 million, depending on what is found and how long it takes to find it.
The only search comparable to the one for MH370 was the search and eventual recovery of 2009’s Air France Flight 447 that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean on its way to Paris, killing all 228 people on board. According to the CEO Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity has two staff members who were involved in that investigation.
“What I can say is we have as much experience as is possible to have,” Plunkett said at a news conference in Malaysia.
It’s unclear how much investigators could learn in the event Ocean Infinity finds the jet. Even if the black box is retrievable and functional after years on some the ocean’s deepest floors, the cockpit voice recorder operates on a loop and the mysterious early moments of the flight likely would have been erased.
One key question however may be answered upon discovery of the cockpit: who was in control during the plane’s final moments?
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