Written by Ashley Boncimino
After two weeks of failed search efforts, Malaysia caved and requested technical assistance from the U.S. And it wasn’t just assistance – it was a request for physical undersea surveillance equipment.
And that wasn’t all. Every finding in the search thus far has been from efforts at least 26 nations.
For example, the U.S. Navy sent a towed pinger locator, which dives 20,000 feet below the water’s surface to search for signals that can be heard up to two nautical miles away.
Automatic underwater vehicles (AUVs) have yet to play a role in the MH 370 disaster but were instrumental in finding a sunken Air France flight, the plan wreckage off the coast of Venezuela and ship sunk by a German U-81 submarine in WWII, according to CNN.
Remotely operating vehicles will be used to comb wreckage sites for specific items like black box recorders.
The more concerning thing may be Malaysian authorities’ disorganized flight investigation, which may be indicative of larger, more general issues deep below the surface. Authorities have had trouble providing even basic information about the flight and its passengers, and frequently backtracked on what they told the public and families about the incident.
China’s official Xinhua news agency blasted Malaysia’s failure to release information more quickly, saying it was “intolerable” and adding that “massive efforts have been squandered, and numerous rumors have been spawned, repeatedly racking the nerves of awaiting families.”
New York Magazine pointed to the country’s lack of preparation for crisis and media scrutiny, which additionally target the country’s political unrest, its sensitivity to the topic of terrorism and its diminished regional cooperation due to area tensions.
The airline also allegedly lost voice recorder data from a 2012 plane forced to turn back to London’s Heathrow Airport during a flight to Kuala Lumpur.
While the aircraft was manually landed safely, it was discovered that the cockpit voice recorder – which records in a continuous loop – “continued to run for some time after the aircraft had landed and as a result all relevant recordings were lost,” said a report by the U.K.’s Air Accident Investigation Branch.
But perhaps Malaysia should not be blamed. After all, Malaysian authorities did managed to glean the general location of the crash from satellite and radar data, and the over 26-nation search is still very much alive and kicking.
Despite advances in technology, Navy surveillance planes with radar, cameras and electro-optical sensors were reduced to using binocular-equipped sailors in the search for any signs of the aircraft, including rafts, seat cushions, evacuation chutes and luggage.
“While the process may seem simple, factors such as the number of ships or objects in the area, sea state, drift rate, and visibility can affect how much area we’re able to cover,” said U.S. Lieutenant Joshua Mize to Bloomberg News.
Malaysia may have needed help, but the fact it’s taken 26 nations to get this far indicates not so much a lack of technological advancement as much as simply the right tools in a long and arduous search. It may be behind the curve, but the search for the missing flight may be more difficult for any country to take on alone.