A vessel that’s hunting Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing in March 2014, switched off its Automatic Identification System for more than three days, according to reports.
The system was disabled on the Seabed Constructor on Jan. 31, 10 days into the fresh search for the plane, and it wasn’t reconnected until several days later, according to Australia’s News Ltd. It means there are about 80 hours of time that are unaccounted for.
Some amateur aviation specialists and Flight 370 watchers have been observing the Constructor’s movements since it left port on Jan. 2 to search for the plane in a new area. Texas-based exploration firm Ocean Infinity is searching for the vessel under a “no cure, no fee” contract with the Malaysian government, CBS reported.
If the Constructor doesn’t find Flight 370—or remnants of the missing plane—within 90 days, it won’t get paid by the government. If it does, the firm will receive about up to $70 million.
Last Wednesday, the vessel “went dark,” observers noted, according to the News Ltd. report.
— Kevin Rupp (@LabratSR) February 4, 2018
U.K.-based space scientist Richard Cole wrote: “I think that the AIS transmission from Constructor has been disabled. The question is whether this is finger-trouble by someone adjusting the AIS system settings ahead of departing for Fremantle, or deliberate action,” according to the report.
A few days later, the Seabed Constructor turned its Automatic Identification System back on and is now heading to Perth, Australia.
Ocean Infinity is also slated to provide an update on the search later this week.
#MH370 Morning Update – Nothing new. Seabed Constructor is now over 15 hours without updating her AIS position. I will post as soon as anything changes
— Kevin Rupp (@LabratSR) February 1, 2018
“The primary mission by Ocean Infinity is to identify the location of the wreckage and/or both of the flight recorders … and present a considerable and credible evidence to confirm the exact location of the two main items,” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told a news conference in January.
“We have a realistic prospect of finding it,” Ocean Infinity Chief Executive Oliver Plunkett said at the time. “While there can be no guarantees of locating the aircraft, we believe our system of multiple autonomous vehicles working simultaneously is well suited to the task at hand.”
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers and crew members on board.