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Eight years since it vanished, a company commits to a new search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

The mystery of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has gripped the world since it disappeared less than an hour after takeoff on March 8, 2014, leaving many to speculate where remnants of the Boeing 777 landed. Eight years later, despite the search for the airliner that carried 239 people to their deaths, theories and questions are abundant, but few answers have emerged. What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 The aircraft left Kuala Lumpur International Airport heading for Beijing. Shortly into the flight, the airliner vanished from radar and air traffic control was lost contact with the plane. Several countries launched large-scale search operations but neither the twin-engine jetliner or wreckage were initially found. The first piece of debris was discovered over a year later, when the right wing flaperon washed up on a beach on the French island of Réunion. According to Britannica, an additional 26 pieces of debris were later found among the shores of South Africa and Madagascar, among others. Three pieces were positively identified as coming from Flight 370, and 17 others were likely to have come from the aircraft. In January 2017, the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China called off the search for Flight 370 after finding no additional trace of the aircraft. "Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting-edge technology, as well as modelling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft," the Joint Agency Coordination Center in Australia said in a statement. Ocean Infinity, an American marine robotics company, was granted permission by the Malaysian government in January 2018 to pick up the search for three months. Under a "no-cure, no fee" agreement, the company was offered nearly $70 million for finding the lost aircraft. The company ended the search in May empty-handed. In July 2018, four years after the tragedy that shook the world, the Malaysian government issued a final, 1,500-page investigative report on the disappearance. Mechanical malfunction was deemed extremely unlikely, but the overall conclusion was that there simply was no information to conclude one way or the other. Investigators identified multiple mistakes made by air traffic control, including not initiating emergency phases available to them, and delaying search and rescue operations, reported The Guardian. The pilot and first officer, according to investigators, were well-rested and not under emotional, financial, or psychological stress. It was confirmed in the report that roughly seven theories are plausible but none have been confirmed. The search for Flight 370 could restart as early as 2023In 2019, Reuters reported that Malaysia would consider resuming the search for Flight 370 if companies came forward with valid proposals or credible leads as to the aircraft's location. According to the Ocean Infinity website, the aircraft is believed to lie along the "7th Arc" in the Southern Indian Ocean, one of the most remote locations in the world. Ocean Infinity CEO Oliver Plunkett has committed his team to find the missing Boeing 777 with a new search in early 2023 or 2024, reports Airliner Ratings. "I was thinking how quickly eight years had gone by and how important it was that you are still here and still remembering and talking about this," he said. "I can tell you from our perspective, it is an almost daily conversation of when we'll be able to get back to it." A spokesperson from Ocean Infinity did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on the new search. In a presentation made on the eighth anniversary of Flight 370's disappearance, Plunkett said he had hoped to begin a search in 2020, but COVID-19 put too many obstacles in their path. The vessels used in the original 2018 search, dubbed the Seabed Constructor, were deemed to be outdated. Ocean Infinity is instead working on producing 23 robotic ships that can be operated entirely remotely which are expected to be ready for use at the beginning of next year. Plunkett said they will be searching along the 7th Arc in a spot backed by research provided by Richard Godfrey, a retired aerospace engineer and physicist, who has studied the aircraft's disappearance for years. He used Weak Signal Propagation Reporter analysis to track the aircraft's route and discovered disturbances made in radio frequencies. ?Ocean Infinity's projected search area for the missing Boeing 777. The yellow dot is a search box based on Richard Godfrey's work. The red dot is a potential search box based on independent group research. Photo courtesy of Airliner Ratings.In a statement issued in February of this year, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau described Godfrey's work as ‘credible', but has not launched a new investigation. ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said, "The ATSB is aware of the work of Mr. Richard Godfrey and acknowledges that he is a credible expert on the subject of MH370, but the ATSB does not have the technical expertise to, and has not been requested to, review his ‘MH370 Flight Path' paper and workings. "The ATSB does acknowledge that Mr. Godfrey's work recommends a search zone for MH370, a significant portion of which covers an area searched during the ATSB-led underwater search." Plunkett reiterated the intent of Ocean Infinity to renew the search in early 2023, but noted that obstacles like preparing the new vessels and gaining support from the Australian and Malaysian governments could slow the process. ?"There's a lot of stuff to sort out between now and 2023," he concluded. "So, we're going to try and make it happen. And if not, it's 2024."
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