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Air search for missing MH370 jetliner called off



By ROD McGUIRK

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- The aerial search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet was called off Monday, and the underwater hunt will be expanded to include a vast swath of ocean floor that may take at least eight months to thoroughly search, Australian officials said.

Not a single piece of confirmed debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been recovered by a massive multinational hunt that began after it disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board.

"It is highly unlikely at this stage that we will find any aircraft debris on the ocean surface. By this stage, 52 days into the search, most material would have become waterlogged and sunk," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

"Therefore, we are moving from the current phase to a phase which is focused on searching the ocean floor over a much larger area," he said.

The U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21 robotic submarine has spent weeks scouring the initial search area for the plane in the remote Indian Ocean far off Australia's west coast, but has found no trace of the missing aircraft. Officials are now looking to bring in new equipment that can search a larger patch of seabed for the plane, Abbott said.

The aerial search officially ended Monday, the search coordination center confirmed.

Radar and satellite data show the jet veered far off course for unknown reasons during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. Analyses indicate it would have run out of fuel in the remote section of ocean where the search has been focused.

The unmanned sub has been creating a three-dimensional sonar map of the ocean floor for more than two weeks near where signals consistent with airplane black boxes were heard on April 8. The sub has searched a nearly 400-square kilometer (150-square mile) area.

Crews will now begin searching the plane's entire probable impact zone, an area 700 kilometers (430 miles) long and 80 kilometers (50 miles) wide, Abbott said.

That will be a monumental task - and one that will take time, warned Angus Houston, head of the search effort.

"If everything goes perfectly, I would say we'll be doing well if we do it in eight months," Houston said, adding that weather and technical issues could prolong the search well beyond that estimate.

Australian officials will be contacting private companies to bring in additional sonar mapping equipment that can be towed behind boats to search the expanded area at an estimated cost of $60 million, Abbott said. It could take officials several weeks to organize contracts for the new equipment and the Bluefin will continue to scour the seabed in the meantime, Abbott said.

So far, each country involved in the search has been bearing its own costs. But Abbott said Australia would now seek contributions from other countries to help pay for the new equipment.

Two weeks ago, Abbott said officials were "very confident" that a series of underwater signals picked up by sound-detecting equipment came from Flight 370's black boxes. On Monday, he maintained that he still had a "considerable degree of confidence" - but opened up the possibility that the signals were yet another dead end in a search that has been peppered by them.

"We're still baffled and disappointed that we haven't been able to find undersea wreckage based on those detections, and this is one of the reasons why we are continuing to deploy the Bluefin 21 submersible - because this is the best information that we've got," Abbott said. "It may turn out to be a false lead, but nevertheless it's the best lead we've got."

Abbott also acknowledged it was possible that no debris from the plane would ever be found.

"Of course it's possible, but that would be a terrible outcome because it would leave families with a baffling uncertainty forever," he said. "The aircraft plainly cannot disappear - it must be somewhere - and we are going to do everything we reasonably can, even to the point of conducting the most intensive undersea search which human ingenuity currently makes possible of some 60,000 square kilometers under the sea."

"We are going to do all these things because we do not want this crippling cloud of uncertainty to hang over these families and the wider traveling public," he said.

---

Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.

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ARCTICFOX April 28 2014 at 9:21 PM

it could certainly land on a barren strip of desert and even go undetected there as well.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
wizardsking April 28 2014 at 8:41 PM

They would have better luck looking in pakistan or iran.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
eds530 April 28 2014 at 8:31 PM

The plane disappeared. That's the whole story. Oh, it ended up somewhere else but not here. Not where it will be physically found, ever. As far as the passengers, it's anyone's guess if they could possibly survive the transition. Guess we will never know....

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1 reply
neutralslamm eds530 April 28 2014 at 8:40 PM

Relax Sparky, Hale–Bopp came and when a long time ago.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
zzyxx April 28 2014 at 8:30 PM

the little terrorists are packing it with explosives as we cyber ...........................................................................

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1 reply
neutralslamm zzyxx April 28 2014 at 8:41 PM

.................................oh as little zzyxx's pack little ballz' of fudge - sprinkled with a dash of lies, lol.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
lester April 28 2014 at 11:35 PM

DOES IT NOT SEEM STRANGE THAT NOT ONE SINGLE PIECE OF WRECKAGE HAS BEEN FOUND? I MEAN OF ALL THE OTHER AIRCRAFT THAT HAS GONE DOWN IN THE OCEAN THERE HAS BEEN SOME WRECKAGE FOUND OR EVEN A FUEL SLICK. THIS REALLY SURPRISES ME THAT NOTHING HAS BEEN FOUND.MAKES YOU WONDER IF IT DINT GO DOWN ON LAND SOMEPLACE THAT THEY HAVENT LOOKED? THERE ARE SOME PRETTY THICK JUNGLES OVER THERE.I FEEL FOR THE FAMILIES,THERE WONT BE ANY CLOSURE FOR THEM UNTIL ITS FOUND

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
HI BEAUTIFUL lester April 29 2014 at 1:43 AM

Yeah, check the middle east for starters.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
shoefreddi7755 April 28 2014 at 11:53 PM

I keep telling you eithe #1 plane landed some where in a remote Island and all passengers are alive and held captive or #2 plane was taken over by alliens( yes there is life out there besides us)

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
Dave Thomas shoefreddi7755 April 29 2014 at 12:05 AM

There has been no other explanation. You may be right on the money except we do not live in a movie this is real time, real lives and a tragic loss. Pray for the families.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Roger Mitchell shoefreddi7755 April 29 2014 at 12:33 AM

yes there may be life out there but there is none human life under the water

Flag Reply +1 rate up
ChingOW Mango April 29 2014 at 12:46 AM

I will continue to keep the families and friends of the missing in my prayers.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
travasham April 28 2014 at 7:49 PM

Wow, our imaginations are really running away with us today. Every time I see one of these articles, it's conspiracy, conspiracy, conspiracy. elaborate theories, that make no practical sense, born out of parinoia and uneducated speculation. It's in the ocean people!!! no country spends millions of dollars looking for something without good evidence that it's there. You people have no evidence.... just gut feelings.

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1 reply
kmcc895370 travasham April 28 2014 at 8:50 PM

Show me their 'good evidence' that it's in the ocean. You talk about 'gut feelings' and 'uneducated speculation'. Well, here's some speculation that is anything BUT uneducated - Jet airliners were sucessfully used to completely destroy not one but two skyscrapers and damage the Pentagon. A jetliner disappears after someone turns off all locating devices and makes a drastic course change. No cell phone messages (except one verified as coming from a prisoner passenger held at a semi-secret US island base Diego Garcia) were recieved from any of the crew or passengers. Not one shred of wreckage has been found on or beneath the ocean. Common sense deduction - The plane was taken and is going to be used either as a terrorist weapon or to frame a country so the US has an excuse to start a war with said country. This makes a lot more sense than a plane crash in the ocean with not a single trace of . . . anything. Believing it's there playing underwater hide and seek requires a lot of imagination and the dubious ability to exist in a state of denial where all others are paranoid.

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1 reply
gramargo kmcc895370 April 28 2014 at 9:16 PM

Really? There was a verified phone call from a prisoner on Diego Garcia? That base is certainly not "semi-secret" at all.......it's been there for many years. You do realilze cell phones need either towers or satellites (depending on the type of phone it is) and there are no towers in the ocean, and very few satellites that would go over that part of the world very often
Share with us, if you will, when that call was made, by whom, and what the caller said, who "verified" it and how you learned about it. I think everyone would really like to know.

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rdcabe April 29 2014 at 1:41 AM

The plane sunk like a ship. The water is 3 miles deep.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
richatodd April 29 2014 at 2:17 AM

It is a shame they have not found anything to prove the plane went down in the suspected area. So far it is just an educated guess based on the small amount of evidence they have and a lot of analysis as to what would be possible. Most people who comment here do not understand the problems with locating something as small as an airplane in the vastness of the ocean. The search has to be 3 dimensional, length, width and depth, all add to the problem, if we knew the track we could answer the width, the length can be estimated by available fuel and burn rate, depth is the real variable that is so tough to deal with there is just so many machines in the world that can work at that depth, the pressure is unimaginable, it is very cold and dark, and the ocean floor is irregular and can easily obscure items and all this assumes that it went in the general direction predicted in the Indian Ocean and ran out of fuel at about the projected point, but that is not proven. If they find it, it will be a miracle or accident. Good luck.

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1 reply
any1care richatodd April 29 2014 at 2:44 AM

Why are you not in CHARGE of the OPERATION since you know so much. Another JERK.

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1 reply
poker25005 any1care April 29 2014 at 4:21 AM

Look who's talking, Jerk.

Flag +4 rate up
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