Newsletter 06/2016

AusBG News

The Search for Flight MH370

Shortly before 1am on March 8, 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur for a scheduled flight to Beijing. Sometime in the following 8 hours the Boeing 777 disappeared into the Indian Ocean, taking with it 227 passengers and 12 crew.

More than two years have passed since the tragedy and, apart from a couple of pieces of debris washed up on remote islands, there has been no real evidence regarding the fate of flight MH370. In short, it remains a mystery.
Conjecture as to how a flight might disappear more than 8000kms away from its destination has almost become an international online sport, with theories regarding secret cargo, and subversive intentions of government agencies rating as some of the more unusual explanations by internet “experts” around the world.

What is not under conjecture is the fascinating and meticulous search methods undertaken by a research and subsea geomapping company, Fugro.

At an event held in conjunction with BeNeLux business group, AusBG and BeNeLux members and guests had the privilege of hearing about the technical aspects of the search from Mike Dravitzki – General Manager of Fugro Survey Middle East.

Mike opened the discussion by showing a photo of the passengers and crew that had been lost on that fateful flight. “It is important that we remember that there were people on board that plane. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters. We need to respect that.” He said, before noting that his talk would provide no answers, nor address the many theories surrounding the incident. “Instead, I want to talk about the how of the search. Something that Fugro has been involved in from the very start.”

It quickly became clear to the assembled guests that the search for MH370 is a massive enterprise. “Only 5% of the world’s oceans have been mapped,” Mike stated, “the area that we are searching is completely uncharted at a sub-surface level, which is also more than 5000 meters deep at times.”

Fugro’s approach involves three phases of mapping in order to get imagery from the sea floor that is high enough in resolution to analyse. Despite having searched more than 100,000 square kilometres, Fugro has yet to find any evidence of the elusive plane – but Mike noted that they have found two shipwrecks, one more than a century old, and “…thousands of shipping containers.”

When asked why it was taking so long, Mike explained that apart from the previously mentioned difficulties surrounding an unmapped and deep ocean, the issue remains that there is a large amount of guesswork involved in where to search. “We aren’t part of that, we get told where to search by government and military authorities,” he said, before adding, “remember, it took two years to find the main wreckage and black box recorders of Air France Flight 447, and they knew exactly where that plane went down.”

No doubt many attendees will still have left the Intercontinental Hotel with questions about the plight of MH370, however all would agree that the scope and sheer enormity of work undertaken by Fugro is extraordinary. Mike is confident in the technologies and search strategies Fugro is using, so perhaps it won’t be too long before the wreckage is found, despite what the conspiracy theorists might say about it.

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