The determination to find the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 is palpable, shared by the three main parties to the search: Australia (leading the search process), Malaysia (obviously) and China (more Chinese citizens were lost on the flight, whose destination was Beijing, than any other nationality).
These nations, aided by expertise from many others, work together through the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, an organisation set up by the Australian government at the end of March 2014, the month in which the aircraft went missing.
The specialist search vessel Fugro Discovery returned to the search area on 3 December after an interruption caused by a crew medical emergency. The operation so far has searched 75,000 square kilometres of the southern Indian Ocean floor, but the JACC says there are 45,000 more yet to search in the areas calculated to be the aircraft’s most likely resting place.
Fortunately, as summer advances in the southern hemisphere, search operations become easier and suffer fewer interruptions.
So when they find it, what next? This is what the JACC says: “In the event the aircraft is found and accessible, Australia, Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China have agreed to plans for recovery activities, including securing all the evidence necessary for the accident investigation.”
For relatives of those lost with the aeroplane, that also means hope of recovering some remains. The Chinese affected have been so horrified and angered by the MH370 story that it has soured relations between China and Malaysia.
If the aeroplane was ditched intact, this hope could be borne out, but no-one can pretend they know it was. The indicator the people cling to is that only one small piece of wreckage from the aircraft has been found, so they hope this indicates that the aircraft sank more or less intact.
For those interested in finding out more about how the search areas have been defined, the Australian Transport Safety Board has just released a report.
For some background, look to the blog entry I posted in November which explains why I am optimistic about this phase of the search.