PETALING JAYA: More than 24,000 sq km of the seafloor have been searched for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, said the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC).
According to the JACC in a statement on Wednesday, this constitutes about 40% of the priority zone area.
“Assuming no other significant delays with vessels, equipment or from the weather, the current underwater search area may be largely completed around May 2015.
“In addition to locating the aircraft, the underwater search aims to map the MH370 debris field in order to identify and prioritise the recovery of specific aircraft components, including flight recorders, which will assist with the Malaysian investigation,” it said.
The vessels involved in the search and recovery operations include GO Phoenix, Fugro Discovery, Fugro Equator, which departed Fremantle for the search area on Feb 20 and is expected to arrive there on Thursday (Feb 26).
The Fugro Supporter departed Fremantle on Feb 21 after completing calibration testing of its equipment and departed for the search area on Feb 23. It is expected to arrive in the search area on March 1.
In its search for the aircraft, Fugro Discovery is using a towfish equipped with side scan sonar, synthetic aperture sonar and multibeam echo sounders.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has utilised the data from the bathymetric survey work to prepare the initial plan for the underwater search to be followed and referred to by all parties involved, according to the JACC.
The plan includes search timings, methods, procedures, safety precautions and the initial search areas for the various vessels.
On the weather, the JACC said that conditions in the search area are expected to be favourable this week, with sea states anticipated to rise no higher than three.
“A tropical low currently in the vicinity of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is predicted to deepen and move to the south or south-west over the coming week.
“The low pressure system could potentially become a tropical cyclone and may bring strong winds and heavy seas to the search area from as early as next weekend.
“Overall conditions are expected to continue to be generally favourable during the warmer months,” the JACC added.
Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.
The plane is believed to have ended its journey in the southern Indian Ocean.
On Jan 29, Flight MH370 was officially declared as an accident.