Years later, a breakthrough in the missing Malaysian flight

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Malaysian Flight MH370 mysteriously vanished on March 8, 2014. Now, additional analysis of satellite photos, taken two weeks after the flight’s disappearance, narrow the search area for the still-missing Malaysian Airlines aircraft.

MH370 was carrying 239 passengers and crew on board when it disappeared three years ago. In March 2017, a drift analysis was conducted by Australian science agency CSIRO. According to their findings released Wednesday, the search should be focused on three regions in the southern Indian Ocean. The agency based its findings on French satellite images taken on March 23, 2014.

It says twelve “probably man-made” floating objects were captured in the images, although the agency cannot say with certainty that the objects are debris from an aircraft.

Chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Greg Hood cautioned that due to a lack of resolution, there can be no certainty of a link to Flight MH370. He said the objects might be debris from another source of the type “found floating in oceans around the world.”

However, in January, Hood said it was “highly likely” the Malaysian plane was within a 9,700-square-mile expanse identified by a panel of experts. The area the ATSB found adjoins the original search zone, far to the southwest of Australia.

The initial conclusion was that the flight ran out of fuel. The search was centered on an area identified through satellite analysis of the final hours of the flight.

The ATSB lead the search for Flight MH370 the week after the Boeing 777 vanished, but satellite experts at Geoscience Australia weren’t asked to analyze the images until March 2017. After CSIRO identified the objects, which may have been drifting for two weeks, they set about trying to determine where they might have originated.

Although they can’t be certain the objects seen in the images are pieces of the plane, they believe it should be investigated further.

“This might be a really good clue. It might be a red herring. But if you are going to search, then you’d be silly to ignore this potential clue,” CSIRO oceanographer David Griffin said.

Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister Aziz Kaprawi reportedly said the civil aviation department needs to evaluate the CSIRO data, considering it’s based on old satellite images.

“We will need to verify the data to see if it’s credible before we make any decision,” Aziz reportedly said.

Ocean investigators are negotiating with Malaysian authorities to receive a reward for finding the missing aircraft. Ocean Infinity, based in Houston, Texas, made an offer to launch a private search. In April, the company said it “would like to be paid a reward if and only if it finds the main debris field,” according to Voice370, a support group for victims’ families that has encouraged Malaysia to accept the offer.

On Wednesday, Aziz said they were considering the offer, but that there were some other “monetary terms” in the agreement that were unacceptable to the government. He gave no details, but said the offer included “three categories of findings” and that “the terms are a bit ambiguous.”

“The government wants the terms to be transparent and clear,” Aziz said.

The ATSB is preparing a final report on the MH370 search. According to reports, the data should be available by the end of September.

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