Flight 370 searchers may have had the wrong spot all along

The tragic mystery of Malaysia Air Flight 370 continues, but the current search effort will not. After two months and a search that covered 329 square miles, investigators have not found a single piece of the missing plane or its contents, and now think they mistook their own electronics for black-box pings. CNN reported on this yesterday as the search nations reached a consensus on the failure:

The four acoustic pings at the center of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 for the past seven weeks are no longer believed to have come from the plane’s black boxes, a U.S. Navy official told CNN.

The acknowledgment came Wednesday as searchers wrapped up the first phase of their effort, having scanned 329 square miles of southern Indian Ocean floor without finding any wreckage from the Boeing 777-200.

Authorities now almost universally believe the pings did not come from the onboard data or cockpit voice recorders but instead came from some other man-made source unrelated to the jetliner that disappeared on March 8, according to Michael Dean, the Navy’s deputy director of ocean engineering.

The Washington Post confirmed it today:

Since early April, the search had focused on an area in which crews detected four deep-sea acoustic signals — presumably from the black boxes of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. Thursday, the Australian agency leading the operation said that an underwater search of that zone had concluded with “no signs of aircraft debris.”

“The search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections can now be considered complete,” Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a release. In the judgment of investigators, “the area can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370.”

That determination, coming more than two and a half months after the plane’s disappearance, adds further ambiguity to what was already one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history. With the acoustic signals leading to an apparent dead end, the search now enters a more daunting stage — one in which crews will scour a broader area of the Indian Ocean without any fresh leads to pursue.

From both reports, it appears that the search is still going to focus on the southern, Indian Ocean route presumed since satellite data provided two possible arcs for Flight 370. The other would have taken the plane over land, and a rogue flight in that direction should have been picked up by military and/or civilian aviation radar. In August, private-sector firms will start scanning a much broader area of the projected range on the southern arc, but that will likely take months, if not years, to complete.

Meanwhile, the families still wait to hear what happened to their loved ones and get answers that may never come. It’s a tragedy with no end in sight for the families of the victims.

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