MH370: all they have to do is look in the right place

The MH370 search has had a morale boost.

On 13 May the Australian Transport Safety Bureau revealed it had found wreckage on the seabed in the search area.

It wasn’t from the missing aeroplane, it was a shipwreck, but it proves the sonar kit they are using can find MH370 if they look in the right place.

One of the oceanic survey vessels, Fugro Equator, found small sonar contacts that looked like man-made equipment. Fugro Supporter was sent back to have a closer look using the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

ATSB’s Peter Foley, Director of the Operational Search for MH370 said: “It’s a fascinating find, but it’s not what we’re looking for.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed that it wasn’t the aircraft, but we were always realistic about the likelihood. And this event has really demonstrated that the systems, people and the equipment involved in the search are working well. It’s shown that if there’s a debris field in the search area, we’ll find it.”

They’ve passed the sonar data to marine archaeologists who may have to search back many decades to work out which vessel it was because, from the debris, it looks as if it was a coal-burning ship.

Seabed wreckage 3,800m beneath the waves
Seabed wreckage 3,800m beneath the waves

But there’s more.

Remember Capt Simon Hardy, the Boeing 777 captain and mathematician who worked out where MH370 is most likely to be? Flightglobal published his calculations last December.

The ATSB called Hardy to meet them in Canberra on 15 May, and the plan was that he was to visit the survey ships in Fremantle on 20 May. This will all have happened by now. The ATSB have demanded that Hardy not disclose any discussions, although I can’t see what purpose secrecy would serve. Perhaps they just want to control the release of information themselves.

But now we know the AUV can detect even small debris, all we are waiting for is for them to find MH370.

It will just be interesting to see how close the MH370 wreck is to Hardy’s refined predictions, which he will have been sharing with the ATSB.