MH370 Operational Search Update—
17 September 2014
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This operational report has been developed to provide regular updates on the progress of the search effort for MH370. Our work will continue to be thorough and methodical, so sometimes weekly progress may seem slow. Please be assured that work is continuing and is aimed at finding MH370 as quickly as possible.
The bathymetric survey provides a map of the ocean floor to ensure the safe and effective operation of equipment during the underwater search.
Over 106,000 square kilometres of the wide search area have been surveyed (see map below).
[Click map to view larger image]
The priorities for the search will continue to be reviewed and will change over time.
Fugro Equator continues its work to map priority areas in preparation for the underwater search. Heavy sea conditions have affected the progress of the survey in recent weeks, leading to some re-sounding work to fill gaps in the data. On 13 September, the vessel commenced passage to Fremantle for resupply. It is expected to arrive in port on 18 September and depart again on 19 September to continue survey work in the search area.
The Chinese survey vessel Zhu Kezhen has suspended survey operations since 6 September in order to avoid inclement weather.
The Chinese support vessel Haixun 01 continued to be stationed at the Port of Fremantle for repairs.
A strong cold front will cross the search area during Thursday as a deep low passes well to the south. Sea conditions between sea states 2 and 7 are expected over the next three to four days.
Vessels involved in the search are being jointly funded by Malaysia and Australia. Fugro Discovery and Fugro Equator (which is currently being used to survey the search area) are Fugro Survey Pty Ltd vessels, and the GO Phoenix has equipment and experts provided by Phoenix International (Phoenix).
Mobilisation of search assets is already under way. GO Phoenix has completed mobilisation in Singapore and is currently scheduled to begin its assigned search tasks within the month.
Fugro Discovery is completing fit-out work in South Africa. Search equipment and a mission crew are expected to be mobilised on the vessel in Fremantle at the end of September.
Fugro Equator, the vessel currently being used to survey the search area, is expected to be mobilised as a search vessel when its bathymetric work is complete around the end of October.
The ATSB, in consultation with the contracted search experts, is completing the initial plan for the underwater search. The comprehensive plan for the underwater search will include a sequence of priority areas. The first area to be searched has already been surveyed to ensure an accurate understanding of the sea floor topography.
From early in the search, analysis has consistently indicated a very high probability of finding the aircraft along a defined arc in the southern Indian Ocean (where the aircraft last communicated with a ground station through a satellite). This is where the aircraft is assessed to have run out of fuel.
Since then, complex, ground-breaking technical analysis of limited communications data and aircraft flight information has been developed and refined. This work has concentrated on determining the point on the seventh arc that the aircraft was most likely to have reached. This will enable a prioritised search effort in areas along the seventh arc.
Recent refinement to the analysis has given greater certainty about when the aircraft turned south into the Indian Ocean and has produced a better understanding of the parameters within which the satellite ground station was operating during the last flight of MH370.
Based on these refinements, the Search Strategy Working Group is finalising its latest assessment of the highest priority areas for the search, which will most likely extend south of the previous ‘orange’ priority area.