Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Satellite Company Says There’s ‘Uncertainty’ Around Final Location of Plane

October 17, 2014 Updated: October 17, 2014

The satellite company that has been instrumental in providing information about missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has said there’s nothing certain about the final location of the plane, which disappeared in March.

The company, Inmarsat, published a report in the Journal of Navigation, which admits “there remains significant uncertainty in the final location.”

But it added that it’s certain “the aircraft remained operational for at least seven hours after the loss of contact as the satellite terminal continued to transmit messages during this period.”

“It may further be deduced that the aircraft navigation system was operational since the terminal needs information on location and track to keep its antenna pointing towards the satellite,” said the report.

However, there’s a significant number of potential flight paths suggested in the data. It said Flight 370 changed its course after it passed the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra before going south until running out of fuel in the southern Indian Ocean.

This map from the Australian Transport Safety Burea shows details of the rebooted the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. After a four-month hiatus, the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 resumed this week in a desolate stretch of the Indian Ocean, with searchers lowering new equipment deep beneath the waves in a bid to finally solve one of the world's most perplexing aviation mysteries. (AP Photo/The Australian Transport Safety Bureau)
This map from the Australian Transport Safety Burea shows details of the rebooted the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. After a four-month hiatus, the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 resumed this week in a desolate stretch of the Indian Ocean, with searchers lowering new equipment deep beneath the waves in a bid to finally solve one of the world’s most perplexing aviation mysteries. (AP Photo/The Australian Transport Safety Bureau)

The wife of a passenger who was on board Flight 370 has said she is clinging to the belief that her husband is still alive.

Jennifer Chong of Melbourne, Australia, said, “I felt that if Air Traffic Control in Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines’ operations centre had done their duty in the early hours, we would not be in this situation. It’s also extraordinary that the radar system in the Mandarin countries did not detect the aircraft at all.”

Chong said she has been in regular contact with the families of passengers on the plane.

“We have benefited from the emotional support for one another. No one can understand what it’s like,” she said. “I do believe that whatever happens, the truth will be revealed. I don’t know how long it will take,” according to News Ltd.

A Muslim woman cries as she waits outside Bunga Raya Complex at Kuala Lumpur International Airport before victims' bodies of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 are flown back, in Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. The bodies and ashes of 20 Malaysians killed when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine in July have arrived in Kuala Lumpur. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
A Muslim woman cries as she waits outside Bunga Raya Complex at Kuala Lumpur International Airport before victims’ bodies of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 are flown back, in Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. The bodies and ashes of 20 Malaysians killed when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine in July have arrived in Kuala Lumpur. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

Meanwhile, the search for the plane resumed a few weeks ago in the southern Indian Ocean:

THE SHIPS

Three ships will take part in the search: the GO Phoenix, provided by Malaysia’s government, and the Equator and Discovery, provided by Dutch contractor Fugro. The GO Phoenix was first on the scene, with the Discovery joining in later this month. The Equator is still mapping areas of the search zone and will join the hunt once that is complete, likely at the end of the month.

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THE SEARCH AREA

The search zone is about 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) off Australia’s west coast. This 60,000-square kilometer (23,000-square mile) area lies along what is known as the “seventh arc” — a stretch of ocean where investigators believe the aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed, based largely on an analysis of transmissions between the plane and a satellite. The water ranges from 600 meters (2,000 feet) to 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) deep — the equivalent of three-quarters of the height of Mount Everest. The average depth is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). The terrain is mountainous, with ridges and volcanoes jutting out of the seabed and deep crevasses providing sharp, sudden drop-offs.

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THE CREW

Each ship will have a crew of 25 to 35 people working around the clock. The teams can stay at sea for up to 30 days before heading back to shore to refuel, resupply and rotate the crew. It takes up to six days just to travel between the search area and the Australian coast, the closest land.

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THE EQUIPMENT

Each ship will use towfish, underwater vessels equipped with sonar that create images of the ocean floor. The sonar on the towfish has a spread of 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) on each side. The Fugro ships will use the EdgeTech DT-1 towfish, and the GO Phoenix will use the SLH ProSAS-60 towfish.

The towfish are attached to the ships by thick cables up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) long. They are dragged slowly through the water about 100 meters (330 feet) above the seabed. If a towfish detects something of interest, it is hauled up and fitted with a video camera, then lowered back down to film the seabed. The towfish are also equipped with sensors that can detect the presence of jet fuel.

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THE DATA

Unlike the Bluefin-21, the underwater vehicle used in the initial search, the towfish can transmit data back to the ship in real time, which means the crew should quickly spot anything unusual. A separate team in Perth will also review the data, to ensure those on board haven’t missed anything.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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