A year on, what's the latest in the hunt for Flight 370?

25 PHOTOS
Search for missing Flight MH370 March 22 and forward
See Gallery
A year on, what's the latest in the hunt for Flight 370?
Relatives of Chinese passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 offer prayers at Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur on March 1, 2015. The visit to the temple comes nearly a year after Malaysian Airlines MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board in March 2014. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of one of the Chinese passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries before offering prayers at Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur on March 1, 2015. The visit to the temple comes nearly a year after Malaysian Airlines MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board in March 2014. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Relative of Chinese passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as he gathers outside Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's office in Putrajaya on February 18, 2015. Chinese relatives of MH370 passengers gathered outside the Malaysian prime minister's office to demand his government rescind its declaration that all on board the plane were presumed dead. AFP PHOTO/ MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of Chinese passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 offer prayers at Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur on March 1, 2015. The visit to the temple comes nearly a year after Malaysian Airlines MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board in March 2014. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of Chinese passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, cries during a protest outside the Malaysia Airlines office in Subang on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on February 12, 2015. Chinese relatives of passengers on missing flight MH370 protested outside the Malaysian Airlines office demanding Malaysia withdraw the statement that all the passengers are dead. About 15 people gathered outside the gates wearing white caps and red t-shirts with words: 'Pray for MH370.' AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of one of the Chinese passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries before offering prayers at Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur on March 1, 2015. The visit to the temple comes nearly a year after Malaysian Airlines MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board in March 2014. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
The Malaysian government says the plane is believed to have went down in a remote area of the Indian Ocean and everyone on board was killed.
Malaysian activists hold banners during a protest accusing US news channels of unprofessional reporting on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, outside the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on April 3, 2014. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak vowed on April 3 'we will not rest' until the fate of Flight MH370 is known, as Australia called it 'the most difficult search in human history'. AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Malaysian activists hold banners during a protest accusing US news channels of unprofessional reporting on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, outside the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on April 3, 2014. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak vowed on April 3 'we will not rest' until the fate of Flight MH370 is known, as Australia called it 'the most difficult search in human history'. AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 04: Chief Coordinator of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (Ret'd) addresses the media at press conference at Dumas House on April 4, 2014 in Perth, Australia. Fourteen planes and nine ships resumed in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia today. The airliner disappeared on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board and is suspected to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Malaysian activists hold banners during a protest accusing US news channels of unprofessional reporting on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, outside the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on April 3, 2014. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak vowed on April 3 'we will not rest' until the fate of Flight MH370 is known, as Australia called it 'the most difficult search in human history'. AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Communications specialist Hidetaka Sato, on a Japan Coast Guard Gulfstream aircraft, looks out of a window searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean on April 1, 2014. Malaysia revealed the full radio communications with the pilots of its missing flight on April 1, but the routine exchanges shed no light on the mystery as an Indian Ocean search for wreckage bore on with no end in sight. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Rob GRIFFITH (Photo credit should read ROB GRIFFITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Page 1 of the full transcript of communications between flight MH370 and Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control released by the Malaysian defense minister on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
Page 2 of the full transcript of communications between flight MH370 and Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control released by the Malaysian defense minister on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
Malaysian officials show Chinese relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 the new search area at the Metro Park Hotel in Beijing on March 28, 2014. Relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have demanded China mount its own inquiry into the disappearance, a letter shows. The document, sent to Beijing's special envoy in Kuala Lumpur, denounced Malaysia's handling of the search and asked the Chinese government to set up its own 'investigation office'. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo posted to Twitter by China's CCTVNEWS of an object spotted and photographed in the new Flight MH370 search area on Friday, March 28, 2014.

The tweet read:

Picture: suspicious object spotted by New Zealand military plane on Friday. #MH370 http://t.co/KWCt1zrv2k

INDIAN OCEAN - This handout Satellite image made available by the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) shows a map of the new search area in the Indian Ocean for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on March 28, 2014. The revised search area, 680 miles to the north of previous searches, comes after a new radar analysis suggests the jetliner may have run out of fuel sooner than first believed.
Messages from schoolchildren to Chinese relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at the Metro Park Hotel in Beijing on March 28, 2014. Relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have demanded China mount its own inquiry into the disappearance, a letter shows. The document, sent to Beijing's special envoy in Kuala Lumpur, denounced Malaysia's handling of the search and asked the Chinese government to set up its own 'investigation office'. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Malaysian Minister of Defence and Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein shows pictures of possible debris during his statement on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at the Putra World Trade Center (PWTC) in Kuala Lumpur on March 26, 2014. Malaysia drew criticism on March 25 for its announcement that the missing passenger jet had been lost at sea, even before any wreckage was found. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force AP-3C Orion arrives back at RAAF Base Peace at Bullsbrook, some 35 kms north of Perth after continuing the search for debris or wreckage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean, on March 26, 2014. Six countries have joined the search for the missing plane believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean. AFP PHOTO/POOL/ROB GRIFFITH (Photo credit should read ROB GRIFFITH/AFP/Getty Images)
A Malaysia Airlines plane (below) prepares to go onto the runway and pass by a stationary Chinese Ilyushin 76 aircraft (top) at Perth International Airport on March 25, 2014. Wild weather halted the search on March 25 for wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed into the Indian Ocean, frustrating attempts to determine why it veered off course and bring closure to grieving relatives. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
Updated search map in hunt for missing Flight MH370 on Monday, March 24, 2014.
Satellite image shared with Australian officials by China in the search for Flight MH370 on Saturday, March 22, 2014.
A Chinese woman takes a photo of a message board set up by relatives of passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing on March 24, 2014. Ships and planes from several nations swarmed over the southern Indian Ocean on March 24 as mounting evidence of floating debris energised the search for Malaysia's missing passenger jet. AFP PHOTO/GOH CHAI HIN (Photo credit should read GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Australia's deputy prime minister said the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 cannot go on forever, and discussions are already under way between Australia, China and Malaysia as to whether to call off the hunt within weeks. No trace has been found of the Boeing 777 aircraft, which disappeared a year ago this week carrying 239 passengers and crew, in what has become one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE


SYDNEY (AP) - Nearly a year has passed since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, sparking one of the most perplexing mysteries of modern times. Since then, search crews have taken to air, land and sea in a thus-far fruitless hunt for the plane and the 239 people who disappeared with it.

The current phase of the search in the deep, dark and desolate waters of the Indian Ocean has failed to yield a single clue about the plane's fate. Still, despite the lack of fresh leads, the official heading up the search is no less optimistic than when it began.

Here is a look at the latest in the hunt for Flight 370:

___

Q: How far along is the search?

A: Crews have scoured more than 40 percent of the priority search zone - a 60,000-square-kilometer (23,000-square-mile) area of the Indian Ocean about 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) west of Australia. An international team of investigators who analyzed transmissions between the aircraft and a satellite believe this is where the plane eventually crashed.

___

Q: How much longer is the search expected to take?

A: Despite occasional delays due to rough weather and equipment snafus, officials believe they're on track to finish searching the priority zone by May.

___

Q: What happens if they don't find the plane?

A: One option includes expanding the search beyond the priority zone to a wider search area - an imposing, 1.1-million-square-kilometer (425,000-square-mile) stretch of ocean, says Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss. Exactly how long that would take to complete, and how much it would cost, is unknown.

Ministers from Australia and Malaysia - which have each contributed $60 million to the current search effort - will be meeting with their Chinese counterpart next month to decide whether - and how - to fund another search.

"Obviously, the more partners we have in the search, the greater the capacity to search a larger area," Truss says. "And so we'd certainly welcome participation from other countries."

If officials decided to extend the search, they would want to continue using the vessels, crews and equipment currently looking for the plane, Truss says.

___

Q: How is the search being conducted?

A: There are four ships, each with around 30 people on board, combing the priority zone. Three of the ships are dragging sonar devices called "towfish" just above the seabed to scan for wreckage. In January, a fourth ship, the Fugro Supporter, joined the hunt.

The Supporter is using an autonomous underwater vehicle - essentially an unmanned submarine - that can more easily maneuver along the mountainous, uneven seabed in a few areas the towfish can't fully cover. Unlike the towfish, the underwater drone doesn't send real-time data back to the ship, so crews must haul it up at the end of each 24- to 36-hour mission to download the data.

The ships head back to shore every four weeks or so to get fresh supplies - a trip that takes up to six days each way.

___

Q: Are searchers still looking for floating wreckage?

A: Technically, yes, says Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the search. After studying the area's currents, Australian officials asked Indonesia in August to watch for any debris that might have floated west to the island nation's shores. Officials are now reviewing their drift modeling to see whether they need to revise their projections of where debris could have ended up. But because so much time has passed, Dolan says all surface debris likely sank long ago.

___

Q: Do the chances of finding the plane in the priority zone become less likely as the search drags on?

A: No, Dolan says, because they haven't been able to pinpoint any areas within the search zone where the plane would have had a higher probability of crashing. Officials could only narrow down the most likely crash site to the 60,000-square-kilometer (23,000-square-mile) priority zone. "Some people think there's a hot spot in there that should be a starting point, but it's pretty much equal priority across that area," Dolan says. "So it's no great surprise that having covered 40 percent, we haven't located it yet. It might be down to the last 1 percent before we do."

___

Q: What happens if they find the plane?

A: Australia recently asked for expressions of interest from companies with equipment capable of retrieving wreckage from the seabed, which is an average of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) deep. But bringing it to the surface would be complex.

Search officials would first need permission from the governments involved - namely Malaysia and Australia - to retrieve the wreckage. Then they would have to figure out the best way to do so.

Officials would need to map the area, photograph the debris and get specialized vessels, crews and equipment to the remote search site. All told, Dolan estimates that if the plane is found on the seabed, it would be at least a month before the recovery process even begins.

___

Q: If the plane is found underwater, what kind of condition would it be in after a year?

A: Although pressure on a plane deep in the ocean would be extreme, currents at those depths would be relatively mild - meaning there's no real concern about debris continuing to scatter once it hit the seabed. After studying the condition of the wreckage from Air France Flight 447, which was found at a similar depth two years after crashing into the Atlantic Ocean, officials think any underwater debris from the Malaysian plane would be relatively well-preserved.

"It's not going to be a pristine aircraft," Dolan says. "But for our purposes, we expect that the aircraft remains will be in satisfactory condition."

___

Q: Do officials still think they'll find Flight 370?

A: Dolan, who all along has expressed "cautious optimism" that they will find the plane, says his feelings haven't changed. If anything, he leans more toward optimism than caution these days.

He's cautious because of the scant data that led them to focus their search on the Indian Ocean. "This is hugely dependent on technical analysis of quite limited satellite information," he says. "We're always as confident as we can be in the reliability of that, but we have to remind ourselves it's not certain - it's only highly likely."

Conversely, he's optimistic because he is confident in the search crews and equipment, and the high quality of data they're getting from the sonar.

"If the aircraft is out there," Dolan says, "we will find it."

Australia Says Hunt for Missing MH370 Jet May Be Called Off Soon
Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.