It will be a long long and a hard slog in the search for MH 370

21 March 2014

Alain Bouillard told The Telegraph that investigators in the MH370 case faced a “colossal task” in their search for the missing Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) on the 14th day.

The Malaysian Insider reports – The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will be “far, far harder” than the two-year search for the Air France jet which crashed into the Atlantic in 2009, said the investigator who led the French inquiry.

Alain Bouillard told The Telegraph that investigators in the MH370 case faced a “colossal task” in their search for the missing Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) on the 14th day.

A Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777

A Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777

Experts have described the waters in the southern Indian Ocean, where debris which may belong to MH370 were spotted, as “one of the most hostile environments in the world”.

Bouillard had led the charge into the search for the Air France jet which crashed on June 1, 2009, between Rio de Janeiro and Paris with 228 people on board.

French and Brazilian naval forces took six days to locate the first bodies and the tailpiece of the Airbus A330. That marked the start for a search, spanning two years in total, for the Air France plane.

The 63-year-old Bouillard worked for France’s air accident investigation bureau, BEA, a world authority on air crashes and had also led the investigation into the Concorde disaster outside Paris in 2000.

It was reported that three BEA members are assisting Malaysia in the search for MH370.

“This disappearance is still a great mystery, and will lead to an inquiry and a search that is far, far harder than that we had looking for Air France 447,” Bouillard said.

“First, we had many more clues. We knew that the Air France plane had a problem, thanks to 24 ACAR messages sent over four minutes; we knew its precise location four minutes before impact, which allowed us to reduce our search zone to only 40 nautical miles.

The search area some 2,300 km south west of Perth Western Australia

The search area some 2,300 km south west of Perth Western Australia

“That is nothing compared with the surface area of today’s search,” he added.

Bouillard said he would remain “prudent” over debris sightings as there have been many false leads so far.

“We were initially put off by satellite images of a fuel slick that turned out to be a false lead,” he was quoted as saying.

“Planes found debris that had nothing to do with the crash, including wreckage of another plane on a beach.”

But if the images did prove to be from MH370, experts, he said, would have to start studying currents in this area in order to plot the “reverse drift” – which is a theoretical estimation of the initial position of bodies and debris by studying currents and winds in the crash area.

“Objects that have drifted for two weeks will have travelled a long way in that time,” he said.

“If you have currents at four knots, that mean four nautical miles per day and a considerable distance in 14 days.”

Besides that, the satellite images were taken eight days after the aircraft was spotted on radar. That would mean that the debris would have drifted further east since the images were captured.

“After you have identified and examined some debris, you can piece together how the plane broke up. Was it in the air, was it during a sea landing, or did it hit the ocean surface? From that you can build up a scenario,” he was reported as saying in The Telegraph.

Despite putting together all the world’s vessels capable of locating a wreckage, the search for Air France’s main wreck and black boxes proved fruitless for long.

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In the end, investigators decided to scour the zone systematically instead of predicting the wreckage’s likely location with complex equations and later found the black boxes.

“It was a euphoric moment,” Bouillard said.

As for investigations into MH370, he said: “There are three main questions you must ask in an inquiry: what happened, how did it happen and why did it happen? We still have still made no progress on what happened.

“It will be highly complex, colossal task and a result is anything but guaranteed.”

 

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