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Search for lost jet to be long drawn: Australia

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Canberra/Perth/Kuala Lumpur: The search for the “lost” Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 remained inconclusive Tuesday even as the chief of Australia’s newly formed Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC) said that the search for the missing jet could drag on for a long time.

“All aircraft assisting in the #MH370 search have returned to Perth,” the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) tweeted late Tuesday.

“No significant developments to report,” it added.


Earlier Tuesday, former Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who heads the newly established JACC, told reporters that the search and recovery operation “is the most challenging one that I have seen”.

Houston said the crucial job now was to find the debris or wreckage of the missing plane to narrow the search down to a smaller area and use advanced equipment to locate the plane’s black box, Xinhua reported.

The Australian government officially launched the JACC Monday to coordinate the multinational search for the lost Malaysia Airlines jetliner, which carried 239 people, including 12 crew, on board.

“The purpose of the JACC is to ensure the public and other stakeholders, particularly families (of those on board the lost aircraft), are well informed about the progress of the investigation into the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370,” the JACC said in a posting on its website.

“As the search and recovery process may take some time, the Australian government is seeking to provide a single point of contact for affected parties, while also taking into account the interests of other stakeholders,” it added.

According to the JACC, 10 planes and nine ships assisted in Tuesday’s search for the lost jet.

The AMSA has determined a search area of about 120,000 sq km west of Australia, around 1,850 km from Perth, the capital of Western Australia state.

Two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P3 Orions, two Malaysian C-130s, a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76, a US Navy P8 Poseidon, a Japanese Gulfstream jet, a South Korean P3 Orion, a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3, a Japanese P3 Orion were also deployed for Tuesday’s search operation with a civil jet providing a communications relay.

According to another Xinhua report from Perth, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft will be deployed by the RAAF in the search for the lost jet.

“They are very capable aircraft which can assist us in deconflicting air space in the search area, that will be in addition to the force out there,” JACC chief Houston told the media.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur shortly after midnight March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was scheduled to land in Beijing the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

The plane lost contact along with its radar signal when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

Malaysian Prime Minster Najib Razak at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur March 24, citing British investigators from its Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), said flight MH370 “ended in the southern Indian Ocean”.

“Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth,” he added.

According to a report from Kuala Lumpur Tuesday, the Malaysian government released the 64-minute transcript of communications between the missing flight MH370 and the air traffic controller (ATC) and said it revealed nothing “abnormal”.

Acting Transport Minister Hishammudin Hussein said in a statement Tuesday that the transcript has been shared with the families of all the 239 people on-board the Beijing-bound flight that went missing March 8 and was later declared “lost”, The Malaysian Star reported.

“There is no indication of anything abnormal in the transcript,” said Hishammuddin.

The transcript of the conversation between the co-pilot of the missing flight, Fariq Abdul Hamid, and the control tower begins at 12.15 a.m. March 8 from the time the aircraft was taxiing on the runway to its last known position above the South China Sea at 1.19 a.m with the final message by Hamid being “Good night, Malaysian three seven zero.”

The 43 separate transmissions over nearly 64 minutes are thick with air traffic and navigational jargon and give no hint of trouble aboard the ill-fated plane.