Families of those on board missing flight MH370 – calling themselves Voice370 – have issued an open letter today to the governments of Malaysia, China and Australia, calling on them to reanalyse and release previous satellite data and any information, as the search for the Boeing 777-200ER passed the two-month mark with no results.
Voice370 said it represented more than 300 family members of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board the Malaysia Airlines jet which disappeared on March 8 and is presumed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean.
On April 28, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that the search for the missing plane was entering a "new phase" after the initial undersea search found nothing.
“Due to the lack of physical evidence that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean, the families are in urgent need (of a) conclusion, based on Inmarsat data analysis, that the flight (did) end in the ocean,” said Voice370, urging the three governments to reconsider the accuracy of Inmarsat’s data.
On March 24, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said MH370 "ended" its journey in the southern Indian Ocean and that conclusion was based on data and analysis from British satellite firm Inmarsat.
Voice370 said, “if Inmarsat’s analysis is unable to rule out other flight paths as a possibility, that fact must be acknowledged”.
On Monday, acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein met Chinese Minister of Transport Yang Chuantang and Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss to hammer out details on the status of the search for flight MH370 and future plans.
Reacting to the tripartite meeting, Voice370 said given the lack of tangible evidence of what happened to MH370, Putrajaya should "share and release the raw Inmarsat satellite engine ping data for 9MMRO (every ping from Friday, March 7 midnight until the final signal), "so that it can be subject to broader analysis by relevant experts".
Voice370 said Inmarsat’s data only indicated a probable southern flight path but that it was not a definitive conclusion.
“The Inmarsat satellite data is the only lead we have and is key to identifying MH370’s flight path,” it said.
“In view of the lack of emergency locator transmitter (ELT) activation, zero detected debris, and the lack of convincing pings, we feel that it is necessary that the data be subjected to independent third party review,” the group said.
Australia established the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), headed by Angus Houston and operating from Perth, to lead the search operations in the Indian Ocean and Voice370 urged JACC to share and release data of the pings picked up by the towed-pinger locator in April.
“Those pings have been characterised as oscillating at 33.3kHz with each ping being 1.106 second apart. The pings were non-continuous and the furthest distance between the locations of the pings is about 24km.
"These recorded pings are another piece of evidence needed to verify not only the accuracy of the Inmarsat calculation but also to prove the transmissions are in fact from the flight data recorder,” it said.
As part of its demand for transparency, Voice370 said Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) should be engaged to assume responsibility for the undersea search operations and to coordinate and conduct that search.
“WHOI is not a commercial entity and its successful location of Air France flight 447 demonstrates that it has the experience and expertise to conduct the search for MH370 in an ethical manner.”
(Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 and its black boxes were recovered two years later.)
At Monday’s meeting, Australia, China and Malaysia pledged not to give up searching for a MH370, despite lingering questions about how to proceed and who will pay for the mounting expenses.
With the air and surface search now halted, a new search phase costing around A$60 million (RM180 million) began after existing visual and sonar search data had been analysed and a contractor found to lease the sophisticated equipment needed, Reuters reported.
Experts have narrowed the search area where the plane is presumed to have crashed to a large arc of the Indian Ocean about 1,600km from Perth.
The JACC said today that after a short port visit at Fleet Base West to resupply and undertake routine maintenance, Ocean Shield departs tomorrow to recommence search operations. – May 9, 2014.