Flight 370 Search: Dutch Firm Hired to Investigate

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It has been almost exactly five months since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) crashed somewhere along its route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China. In the frantic search conducted immediately following the plane's disappearance, scientists and investigators found essentially no trace of the plane or the 239 passengers onboard when it disappeared. After taking a short hiatus from the hunt, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss announced that his country, which has been placed in-charge of the investigation by Malaysia, has named the newest company to head the search.

Fugro N.V., a Dutch oil-and-gas servicing firm, won the $48.4 million contract with the Australian government to head the next phase of the investigation for Flight 370. While the company does not specialize in searching for wrecks or finding lost things on the ocean floor, it does have deep specialization in mapping underwater terrain and geolocation, along with a massive crew with the ability to run lengthy operations - a vital characteristic in the upcoming, 330 day search.

Fugro will utilize two ships in its search for the missing flight and will be joined by ships from Malaysia. The two ships will be deployed at separate times and each will be towing deep-water vehicles while using side-scan sonar, multi-beam echo sounders and video cameras to identify any evidence of the wreckage.

When the search continues in mid-September, Fugro will have the responsibility of mapping nearly 23,000 square miles of the ocean floor which promises many surprises: “We haven’t completed the mapping, so we are still discovering detailed features that we had no knowledge of, underwater volcanoes and various other things. We are finding some surprises as we go through,” stated Martin Dolan, head of the Australian Transport Safety Board.

Despite the fact that no firm has had any success locating the plane thus far, Deputy Prime Minister Truss still holds out hope: “I remain cautiously optimistic that we will locate the missing aircraft within the priority search area.”

On the other hand, David Mearns, a British based deep sea search and recovery expert, is less optimistic:

At the end of the day, the plane will only be found if the searchers are looking in the right place. So, the success, or failure, of this next search effort rests mainly on the latest re-evaluation of the INMARSAT handshake pings and the probable flight path, speed and altitude of the plane. Beyond that the two biggest factors will be whether the seabed is mountainous or flat and, frankly, the commitment of the authorities to find the plane no matter how long it takes or how much it costs.

With 330 days and nearly $50 million, let's hope that Fugro's attempts prove successful.

Image via Fugro

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