Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Flight MH370: what will happen if the plane is found?

With poor weather conditions hampering the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, speculation has turned to what might happen if the plane is ever discovered. More than 75 per cent of the original search zone in the southern Indian Ocean has been explored with no sign of the aircraft or any of the 239 people believed to have perished on board. Investigators will double the search area if the plane is not found, but they have had to suspend the use of their autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) for the winter months. This week, the Australian government announced that it had set aside an additional A$50m (£25m) to help cover the costs of the ongoing search for the missing plane. "The cost of this measure will be offset by financial contributions to the search from other countries," said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is coordinating the search. "The actual cost will depend on a number of factors, including the length of the search."
One aviation expert has warned that the plane might have to be left on the ocean floor if it is found. Neil Hansford, who has more than 30 years of experience in the airline industry, told the Daily Express that the plane could be inaccessible if it is found in a deep abyss.

Last month, senior ministers from Malaysia, Australia and China met to discuss the next steps in the search and to agree the recovery arrangements if it is found.

Ministers said it was "critical" to have arrangements in place to enable a timely and effective response and said that they remained "committed to bring closure and some peace to the families and loved ones of those on board".

In the event that the aircraft is "found and accessible", evidence would be secured for investigation in accordance with Annex 13 to the Chicago Convention, they said.

This document provides the international requirements for aircraft accident investigations, they include studying the flight recorders and carrying out autopsies with the objective of preventing other disasters in the future.

Aviation law experts have said that Malaysia would likely retain authority of the investigation as it is the "State of Registry" of the aircraft, although the Malaysian government could delegate the inquiry to Australia, as it has done with the search.

"States whose citizens have suffered fatalities in an accident are also entitled to appoint an expert to participate in the investigation," according to the document.

The bulk of Air France flight 447, which crashed in stormy weather en route to Paris from Brazil in 2009, was not found until two years later. While parts of the wreckage and two bodies were found within days, the flight recorders did not turn up until 2011 and the search eventually ended with 74 bodies still missing.

The extensive search of the Atlantic was jointly financed by Air France and Airbus. After four unsuccessful search missions, the wreckage was eventually found just 6.5 nautical miles from the aeroplane's last known location. Deep sea divers only retrieved parts of the aircraft that "were useful to the investigation," leaving the rest of the wreckage on the seabed, according to the final report. The data and cockpit recorders were also recovered, providing crucial evidence about the aircraft's final moments, though some aviation experts still dispute what happened to the plane.

Wednesday 13 May 2015


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