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New MH370 report reveals rescuers 'were searching for missing plane in the WRONG place'

Mirror logo Mirror 4 days ago Tony Whitfield
a large passenger jet flying through a blue sky: The doomed Malaysia Airline MH370 went missing with 239 people onboard © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited The doomed Malaysia Airline MH370 went missing with 239 people onboard

Search teams trying to find the final location of missing Malaysia Airline MH370 could have been looking in the wrong place, a study has found.

While the exact location of the Boeing 777 with 239 people on board still remains unknown, researchers hope their new model taking into account ocean drifts will help in future searches.

British, German and French scientists said along with surface ocean currents and wind, the so-called "Stokes drift" was also of central importance for calculating how debris from the aircraft drifted before making landfall.

At least nine items belonging to the Boeing 777 aircraft with 239 people onboard that disappeared from radar in March 2014 washed up along the western coasts of the Indian Ocean.

Since then experts have been trying to calculate the route the debris took and backtrack it to a possible crash site.

But because they don't know the buoyancy of debris pieces, how long it had made land before being found and how long it had been drifting in coastal waters before being washed ashore, scientists said they may never be able to say where MH370 lies.

Lead investigator Dr Jonathan Durgadoo said ignoring Stokes drifts in the simulation can lead to major errors, as seen in the MH370 incident.

He said: "For any application where surface drift is studied, Stokes drift should be included to provide more precise tracking results."

a fighter jet sitting on top of a runway: Scientists said it's important to consider how debris from the aircraft drifted before making landfall © AFP/Getty Images Scientists said it's important to consider how debris from the aircraft drifted before making landfall

"Detailed analysis of satellite communications, provided in the form of handshakes between the aircraft’s engines and satellites, indicated that the plane had lost contact along the ‘7th arc’ around the position of the satellite, which extended from Java, Indonesia, to the southern Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia.

"However, the precise location of the aircraft’s last position was not known.

"In the following months, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, led by the Australian government, started the search for the aircraft around the 7th arc.

"The unsuccessful search was halted in January 2017 and spanned an area in excess of around 120,000 square kilometres."

Researchers found a part of the debris believed to belong to MH370 last November © FAZRY ISMAIL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Researchers found a part of the debris believed to belong to MH370 last November

When debris of the plane washed ashore in subsequent years, it gave hopes for experts to pinpoint the airliner.

Shortly after the sighting of the first piece of debris, a flaperon on La Réunion in 2015, GEOMAR scientists started to simulate its possible drift in the hope of narrowing down the area of the possible crash site.

A few months later, a European consortium was able to refine the calculations by adding the effect of surface waves.

They suggested the most likely crash-site region of the MH370 was located west of Australia, north of the then search area.

a close up of a map: The doomed Malaysia Airline MH370 went missing with 239 people onboard © ITV The doomed Malaysia Airline MH370 went missing with 239 people onboard a person in a car: Military officer looks out a window during a mission to find the doomed flight © REUTERS Military officer looks out a window during a mission to find the doomed flight

But after searches proved fruitless, researchers from different backgrounds continued their work on simulating the drift or marine debris.

The goal was to establish strategies for future quasi-real-time applications of the drift of objects or organisms in the ocean.

They addressed the importance of considering surface waves in the calculations, of using advanced simulation techniques and statistics, and whether or not the use of more pieces of debris would refine their results.

The researchers assessed the differences in using the methods of forward- and backward-tracking in time.

The path of an object can be traced back in time or can be predicted.

a yellow boat in the water: An autonomous underwater vehicle was deployed into the southern Indian Ocean in search of the missing flight MH370 © REUTERS An autonomous underwater vehicle was deployed into the southern Indian Ocean in search of the missing flight MH370

Dr Durgadoo added: "The different tracking approaches provide a robust methodology and enable an assessment of uncertainties.

"These can be minimised by simulating sufficient numbers of virtual objects."

In the case of MH370, the team also extended their initial analysis, which was based solely on the flaperon found on La Réunion in 2015, to also include other items of debris that were recovered in other locations.

Despite considering these other wreckage parts, the crash area could still not be refined.

a person posing for the camera: A girl looks at a board with messages of support and hope for missing passengers © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited A girl looks at a board with messages of support and hope for missing passengers

But Dr Durgadoo cautioned: "We note in particular that the area searched by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau overlaps with the region of highest probabilities that intersects the arc."

With no further information available to use, Professor Arne Biastoch at GEOMAR said the current estimations suggest that, with at least five items of debris, an optimal area for the most probably crash-site region can be achieved.

While there is very little hope for new information on the drift characteristics of MH370 debris Dr Durgadoo said: "The exercise of estimating the surface drift of debris from MH370 has led to an improved preparedness for future applications".

The study was published in the Journal of Operational Oceanography.

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