back to article MH 370 search to resume as Malaysia makes deal with US oceanographic company

Malaysia has struck a deal with US biz Ocean Infinity to resume the search for missing airliner MH370. The Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8, 2014. None of the 239 people aboard have been seen or heard from since. It is presumed that the plane's crew was incapacitated, leading the 777 to fly until it ran out …

  1. Blotto Bronze badge

    Glad the search is continuing

    I do hope Boeing and other interested parties contribute to the costs if the plane is found.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Glad the search is continuing

      "I do hope Boeing and other interested parties contribute to the costs if the plane is found."

      Why would they? That'd be like Mercedes Benz contributing to the costs of the investigation in to Princess Diana's death.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Glad the search is continuing

        I have this vague feeling there'd be some sort of conflict of interests if Boeing did pay. Ideally the investigation should be completely independent of the aircraft manufacturer to avoid any undue influence over the verdict. Or we'd still be flying on aircraft with square windows because that totally wouldn't be the cause of the catastrophic de-pressurisation.

        1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Re: Glad the search is continuing

          Malaysian Airways is owned by a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, so in that case there's a conflict of interest with the Malaysian government paying as well if that sort of thing bothers you.

          1. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Glad the search is continuing

            'so in that case there's a conflict of interest with the Malaysian government paying'

            That depends on whether the Malaysian government then investigates the crash and finds Malaysian Airways free of all fault. I'm not saying they aren't, it's just it would look suspicious.

            Ultimately thought there are rules about this set by ICAO that determine who can and can't be involved in the investigation, which is the angle I was getting at.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          ...independent of the aircraft manufacturer...

          It would be impossible to satisfactorily investigate aircraft accidents without the involvement of aircraft manufacturers.

          "Or we'd still be flying on aircraft with square windows..."

          You're just being silly there; if an aircraft design kept crashing because of a fundamental design fault then the airlines would stop using them.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Glad the search is continuing

        "That'd be like Mercedes Benz contributing to the costs of the investigation in to Princess Diana's death."

        If there was a mystery about how the crash happened or how the car performed in it, they would.

        Boeing and others have a huge interest in trying to find out how the whole thing happened. The problem is that unlike the Air France operation the plane clearly hit the water at speed - pulverising it, so there may not be enough left to solve the mystery.

        To my mind the most likely scenario is a fire in or under the cockpit (possibly oxygen fed, there have been a few cockpit fires of this nature on the ground) causing the aircrew to switch off breakers (standard procedure) and turn back to Malaysia (it made a beeline for the longest runway in the area) with them becoming overcome by smoke shortly afterwards (which would easily explain why it didn't descend when approaching land and then flew where the winds blew it afterwards).

        An oxygen-fed fire would easily pierce the pressure hull - the egyptair one being a good example, resulting in hypoxia killing everyone, or the fire could have knocked out the pressurisation system which would have had the same effect. Contrary to popular belief, jetliner oxygen systems - even in the cockpit - only last long enough to descend down below 10,000 feet - 20 mins at most. MAS was in deep financial trouble, with a dispirited workforce and had a number of major poor-maintenance related incidents in the months leading up to the disaster. This could easily have been another near-miss instead of a total loss.

        1. DainB Bronze badge

          Re: Glad the search is continuing

          Planes on fire do not fly 9+ hours on their own.

          "and then flew where the winds blew it afterwards"

          Ah. Sure.

  2. Korev Silver badge

    Good luck

    I hope they find the aeroplane so the families get some "closure" and also so the authorities can act to lower the chance of a similar thing happening again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good luck

      As an international plane that goes missing mid-flight will most likely land over water they should have a beacon that ejects and floats on the surface of the water as soon as it detects either catastrophic G force or water pressure of maybe greater than 10ATM.

      This could be fairly easy to engineer and would not be overly difficult to retrofit. We should rely on a black box at the base of the ocean with 30days battery to find a downed plane.

      1. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Good luck

        Re: beacon - It comes down to the cost to implement against the insurance pay out.

        Since so few planes these days disappear entirely in these circumstances, the cost of development, testing and fitting across the ~23,600* commercial aircraft in operation will seriously outweigh the pay out to passengers. Harsh fact I'm afraid.

        *(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travel-truths/how-many-planes-are-there-in-the-world/)

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Good luck

          Plus you've just introduced another electronic part (worse with a battery as well) to the plane. This will need regular maintenance and will require an update of all procedures so it can be shut down in event of fire/power-surge etc.

          So you're actually introducing a small extra risk to all aeroplanes in order to find the 2 planes in the last 20 years that have gone down in water and couldn't be found.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Good luck

            Batteries can be safe, the battery doesn't even need to have current flowing before it is ejected. There are already batteries in a plane which can't be shut down. The compartment can be fireproof with an exhaust vent at the top so any issue the device would just burn out.

            As for regular maintenance - it is a very simple device which can be swapped out ever five years or so, it 's not a complex piece of kit there would be minimal maintenance. It could be added to new planes only, retrofitted over time etc. It isn't a complex problem. It seems the entertainment systems can be fitted and upgraded quite regularly.

            It may be 2 planes in twenty years but seeing as it is very important to find a plane that has downed to understand if it could be prevented in all the other planes flying around then it sounds like a good idea.

            1. Smooth Newt
              Meh

              Re: Good luck with your beacon

              As for regular maintenance - it is a very simple device which can be swapped out ever five years or so, it 's not a complex piece of kit there would be minimal maintenance. It could be added to new planes only, retrofitted over time etc. It isn't a complex problem. It seems the entertainment systems can be fitted and upgraded quite regularly.

              Is it worth it for such a rare event - if you decided to force airlines to spend, say a billion pounds total, on some safety improvement, would this represent the best value, especially as it could never save a single life?

              And we are talking about this sort of cost - whilst it might be conceptually simple, it could fall on someone, damage the airframe, or get sucked into an engine if inadvertently activated at altitude and has to work reliably first time after many years of storage. None of these things is true of the inflight entertainment.

              Safety related aircraft parts are extraordinarily expensive - whilst you can buy a simple mechanical altimeter to walk up a mountain with for about £50, if you want a flight qualified one it will set you back at least a thousand pounds.

              The beacon might end up costing about £10,000, and the replacement panel with the tube that it will be ejected through might cost several times that - you can't just hack a hole in an airliner. Tens of thousands of pounds per aircraft, and nearly 24,000 aircraft means hundreds of millions of pounds expenditure.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Good luck with your beacon

                "Is it worth it for such a rare event"

                No, especially when taking into consideration that aircraft affected by a mandate to have these are already capable of continuous telemetry upload - in the MAS case it was disabled for cost reasons, but airlines are effectively no longer allowed to switch it off and Inmarsat now pass tracking data at no cost.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Good luck

              "There are already batteries in a plane which can't be shut down"

              And sometimes they catch fire, even when the aircraft is parked and safed. Remember the smoke detector which burned up at Heathrow?

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Good luck

          "Re: beacon - It comes down to the cost to implement against the insurance pay out."

          Additionally, it's probably easier to arrange streaming upload of black box data these days.

          The MAS 777 was fully capable of continuously uploading telemetry data, but the airline had switched the service off because it cost too much. The only reason there was any data at all was due to the fact that Rolls Royce paid for engine telemetry as part of their service contract.

          One of the outcomes of the disappearance is that telemetry uploading (if fitted) is now effectively mandatory everywhere.

      2. David Pearce

        Re: Good luck

        A beacon designed to eject under some circumstances, can also eject when it shouldn't, like on approach over London. As the beacon cannot be too securely mounted or it will be trapped in a crash, accidental release is all too likely.

        I have had to direction find an emergency locator beacon in the airport that was set off by accident.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Good luck

          "A beacon designed to eject under some circumstances, can also eject when it shouldn't, like on approach over London."

          Oh boy, seriously? Anything could happen on an approach over London, the whole aircraft is run by computers and fly-by-wire. Getting a locator to only eject under certain conditions is not rocket-science, it's just engineering (not even complex engineering). Far greater engineering challenges are overcome every day.

          It reminds me of when I was retro-fitting a system to a helicopter and everyone I spoke to said about the issues that would be involved and the certification necessary would make it impossible. In the end I spoke to someone from the CAA who gave a bit of guidance on the appropriate certification and testing and it was pretty straightforward.

          1. David Pearce

            Re: Good luck

            That ELB was designed not to go off accidentally, but it did.

            There was a recent case in Osaka of a 4kg panel falling from a plane onto a car. The panel was not even intended to fall off.

            Given enough flight movements, Murphy is out to get you

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good luck

        > As an international plane that goes missing mid-flight will most likely land over water they should have a beacon that ejects and floats on the surface of the water as soon as ...

        https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Emergency_Locator_Transmitter_(ELT)

  3. Martin Summers Silver badge

    “Ocean Infinity will focus on searching the seafloor in an area that has previously been identified by experts as the next most likely location to find MH370.”

    Experts whose credibility surely start degrading the more 'likely' locations they suggest. Am I an expert if I say "try there, oh nothing there? OK try over there instead it's bound to be there, nothing, hmm, really had a good feeling about that one".

    I hope these guys do find it, the families need and deserve answers to this as does the world. We can't just have planes inexplicably disappear somewhere never to be heard of again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We can't just have planes inexplicably disappear somewhere never to be heard of again.

      How much do you think is an acceptable cost for the search? The case is very unusual, but I suspect that the authorities have a VERY good idea of what happened, even on the basis of the detail that has been publicly released (they will of course have more than that). However, without the flight recorder and other aircraft evidence they can't prove their case against the extreme outlier possibilities, so they have to keep quiet.

      So what we're looking at is taking the $150m spent so far, spending more money still on a further search, in which there's no guarantee the wreckage will be found, no guarantee that they'll find the flight recorder, they certainly won't get much biological evidence from the bodies, there's no guarantee they'll recover the flight recorders, no certainty that they will contain useful and recoverable data. And from the wreckage so far recovered we know there's little chance of recovering many bodies. Note as well that Ocean Infinity have offered to try and find the aircraft, not apparently to do any recovery work.

      Is (say) another $100m a worthwhile investment, when there's no reason to expect that this will offer any closure in terms of finding the cause?

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        As far as I'm concerned any cost is acceptable where human lives are concerned. I don't know if you're aware of the Madeline McCann case (a young British girl who went missing/was kidnapped at a holiday hotel) they are continuing to fund that search years after she went missing and only the cold hearted would deny the money to do that for her or anyone else unless every possible avenue was exhausted, although unfortunately not everyone gets that level of assistance which is wrong.

        Governments find money for things when they need it and this should be no exception. It's called compassion and if any organisation can spend money on mercy missions it is a Government.

        As it happens this company are offering no find no fee which is a shame couldn't have been happening sooner. I suspect as someone else pointed out above that the company are gaining deep sea intelligence for someone else at the same time but so what, it's clever practical thinking and it means we don't just give up and relatives may well get some answers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > As far as I'm concerned any cost is acceptable where human lives are concerned.

          BS. There are lots of ways human lives could be saved if sufficient money were spent: stationing a police officer at every road junction for example. Collectively, we decide not to spend that money.

          In this case, the lives have already been lost, so the justification would be if the results turned up some information which would avoid future loss of life.

          > Madeline McCann ... they are continuing to fund that search years after she went missing and only the cold hearted would deny the money to do that for her

          Sadly, there are thousands of other children who go missing each year and are not treated the same way - only those cases which achieve celebrity status.

        2. wolfetone Silver badge

          @Martin Summers

          "I don't know if you're aware of the Madeline McCann case (a young British girl who went missing/was kidnapped at a holiday hotel) they are continuing to fund that search years after she went missing and only the cold hearted would deny the money to do that for her or anyone else unless every possible avenue was exhausted"

          What utter bullshit. They've thrown over £11,000,000+ at the investigation in to Madeline McCann, and not at any point have the parents been brought to book over their neglect.

          But then you have the parents of Ben Needham who have had to fight tooth and nail for every bit of resource they could get to find their missing boy.

          In both cases the efforts afforded to one haven't been afforded to the other. And in respect of the McCann's case, it's not in the same ball park as a plane full of passengers going missing after an abrupt sharp left hand turn.

          1. Martin Summers Silver badge

            Re: @Martin Summers

            1. I did point out that the same funding was sadly not given to everyone and it should be.

            2. Finding someone whether they are dead or alive is still a worthwhile endeavour *in my opinion* whether it's one or hundreds hence my parallel with a missing child, it was just an example. I've never lost someone close to me like that, have you? But I can damn well empathise with it. Until you have experienced that loss it's quite easy to talk in terms of return on investment, these are human lives we are talking about and if it was a member of your close family I doubt money would come into it or are you actually saying you could be that pragmatic?

            3. I expressed no opinion on the Madeline case at all other than what happened. I happen to agree with what you've said about her parents but it's got nothing to do with finding her and it wasn't her fault! I don't care what they've spent trying to find her as was my point. I'm not quite sure what was meant to be bullshit about my own opinion.

            Jeez, if you're going to criticise at least read what I've put and think about it a bit.

    2. David Pearce

      Several piece of the plane have been found since the search was cancelled. These have been drift modeled, pointing at a crash site just outside the previous search area. We also now know to be looking for a debris field, not a sunken intact plane. There is even a likely satellite image which shows what looks like debris in the target area

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No-find-no-fee

    I can imagine the phonecall:

    "Have you been affected by an aviation disaster that wasn't your fault?"

  5. MT Field
    Alien

    About that plane

    Er yeah, I'm afraid we had to borrow it.

  6. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Landing spot?

    Really? That description seems a bit overly generous.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Landing spot?

      Not generous... honest maybe. The saying about a good landing being one you can walk away from applies. Then there's the two types of landings.. controlled and uncontrolled. So basically, all airplanes land.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Landing spot?

        I believe the technical term is ditching although that does carry an implication that it was intentional.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Landing spot?

          IIRC the official term is "landing on water".

  7. Tikimon Silver badge

    Sonobuoy technology could provide cheap and easy locator

    Granted that any modification would affect loads of aircraft and cost a wee bit. However, I believe that existing active sonobuoy designs (from antisubmarine warfare) could be cheaply adapted for over-water crash beacons. Sonobuoys are self-contained and automatic. They wait quietly in canisters and when ejected from an aircraft deploy on contact with the water. A locator beacon variant would only need slight changes to the release mechanism. For maintenance or replacement simply remove the canister and slot in a new one. In fact, have two per plane, it wouldn't cost much.

    In a water crash, the buoys deploy from their tail-mounted location... or if the plane disintegrates one canister should get clear and a buoy deploy anyway. The buoy begins pinging at or near the surface. It would be much better than nothing, and cheap/easy enough to be practical even as a retrofit.

    1. David Pearce

      Re: Sonobuoy technology could provide cheap and easy locator

      I used to work with Sonobuoys 35 years ago and they were dangerous beasts.

      A saltwater battery that had to be protected from water in storage - aircraft get wet and are pressure washed

      The antenna that shot out, these were lethal if you got in the way.

      They sometimes caught fire.

      You could leave out the self destruct.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As far as I'm concerned any cost is acceptable where human lives are concerned.

    Some statements are so ridiculous, they have their own built-in "reductio ad absurdum"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As far as I'm concerned any cost is acceptable where human lives are concerned.

      Gruesome as it may sound, a blood scented (slow release)/baited submergible tunnel system which could capture and x-ray scan large sharks, scan their stomachs within the known area could also narrow the search, and certainly help find human remains.

      Where there are remains, there will be something there, eating what's left.

      Sharks could act like homing devices on the plane. The sonar images are probably being used to look for a frenzy of sharks, anyhow.

      I suppose the problem being, different fish species, operate at different depths, and maybe that time has long since past.

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