MH370 searchers not looking in crash ‘hotspot’: Inmarsat

LONDON- The search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 is yet to target the most likely crash site after being distracted by what are now believed to be bogus signals, British company Inmarsat claimed Tuesday.

Inmarsat’s scientists told the BBC’s Horizon programme that they had calculated the plane’s most likely flight path and a “hotspot” in the southern Indian Ocean in which it most likely came down.

The flight lost contact on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with total of 239 passengers and crew on board.

Hourly pings sent by the plane were received by Inmarsat’s spacecraft, leading scientists to calculate its likely path.

Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield was dispatched to investigate, but before reaching the likely site it began to detect a signal that it believed was coming from the plane’s black box, Inmarsat said.

Two months were spent searching 850 square kilometres (330 square miles) of sea bed northwest of Perth, but the source of the “pings” was not found and a submersible robot found no evidence of the airliner.

“It was by no means an unrealistic location but it was further to the northeast than our area of highest probability,” Chris Ashton at Inmarsat told Horizon.

Experts from the satellite firm modelled the most likely flight path using the hourly pings and assuming a speed and heading consistent with the plane being flown by autopilot.

“We can identify a path that matches exactly with all those frequency measurements and with the timing measurements and lands on the final arc at a particular location, which then gives us a sort of a hotspot area on the final arc where we believe the most likely area is,” explained Ashton.

Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), established to manage the search, said the four acoustic “pings” picked up by the black box detector attached to Ocean Shield had to be pursued at the time.

“The four signals taken together constituted the most promising lead in the search for MH370 and it was a lead that needed to be pursued until completion so the search team could either discount or confirm the area as the final resting place of MH370,” JACC said in a statement to AFP.