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Transcript: Interview with Quality Assurance Manager for the search for MH370

My name is Andy Sherrell. I work for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau—the ATSB—and my role with them is as the Quality Assurance Manager for the search for MH370. ┬áBasically my role is to ensure that the data that we collect with the underwater search vehicles is of the quality and coverage that's required to find an aircraft underwater. In addition, I provide technical advice for the underwater equipment that's being used for the search and the eventual video and optical imaging of the aircraft once it's found.

So we're out testing the first of three vessels that are going to go out to the search area and look for MH370. Basically we've assembled an international team of experts from all over the world with some really highly sophisticated underwater mapping equipment. It's got to work in extreme depths, in a very extreme environment, both on the surface and underwater, so we're doing some verifications testing, some verification testing near shore in about 600 metres of water just to test all the equipment and make sure it meets the standards that are needed, work out any bugs with the system and just a general test of the system to see if we can tweak any performance out of it to try to maximise the area of seafloor we can map with it while it's out there.

We're finding some great results, we're really pushing the limits of the systems to be able to cover as much area as possible, and the reason for that is because this area is so remote, so far away and it's such a difficult place to not only get to but also to map. The weather on the surface is very rough, it's hard for ships to operate in, let alone deploy gear off of to map the seafloor. Then once we get down to the seafloor with the underwater vehicles the terrain is very treacherous, there's sea mounds and valleys, 2,000 metres high, 4,000 metres deep, that's over 2 miles down with 1 mile high canyons and valleys that are, we're going to encounter down there, so it's very, it's really a difficult area to work in. So the vehicles are going to be challenged, it's highly likely that the vehicles could be damaged, and so we want to take all steps to make sure the vehicles are working in optimum condition, the sensors that are installed on the vehicles will give us the greatest amount of coverage and reliability that we can at those depths. This area is massive in size, bigger than any other search ever performed at this kind of water depth.