Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Update: Missing Plane Search Could Take ‘Years,’ Expert Claims

November 19, 2014 Updated: November 19, 2014

Officials overseeing the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 said the search will be completed by April 2015. But one expert has said that it could take “months to years” to locate the wreckage or black boxes from the plane.

The searchers have remained optimistic in finding the plane, which disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board, to give families of the passengers a sense of relief.

Judith Zielke, the head of the coordinated efforts in finding the plane’s wreckage, said the search is slow and tedious. Searchers are moving around two miles per hour amid bad weather conditions at times, reported the Rakyat Post in Malaysia.

“It will take until April next year to finish searching the entire area. I pray every day that today is the day,” Zielke was quoted as saying in the report, published Tuesday.

A coastal oceanography expert, Charitha Pattiaratchi, told the paper that it’s expected to take this long, per the newspaper.

He said it took about two years to find the black boxes from the Air France flight that crashed in 2009 in the Atlantic Ocean.

(AFP/Getty Images)
(AFP/Getty Images)

“They will find it, but it will take a long time, months to years,” he said.

Even if the black boxes are found, it might not give an adequate picture of what actually happened.

“They will certainly have closure in knowing the location where their loved ones may lie, but not really in terms of what actually happened,” he said.

But Zeilke said she was “cautiously optimistic” that the latest search efforts will turn up something. Also, Michael Barr, who is an aviation safety expert at USC, said, “Scientifically it’s worth it.”

On Wednesday, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau issued an update about its progress in locating the plane, including on the statuses of the two Dutch-commissioned search ships–the Fugro Discovery and Fugro Equator.

It said the Discovery “departed the underwater search area on 18 November to transit to Fremantle for resupply. The vessel is expected to arrive on 23 November and depart again for the search area on 24 November.” And meanwhile, the Equator’s “mobilization for the underwater search has been postponed due to delays in the supply of equipment. In the interim, the vessel has been tasked to return to the search area to conduct further bathymetric survey work.”

In all, about 6,900 square kilometers have been searched thus far.

The Australian government also released a video detailing the search effort for families of the victims on the plane.