Norwegian firm ready to join missing jet hunt

Oslo, March 22: Swire Seabed, a Bergen-based Norwegian company involved in the search for a missing Air France jetliner nearly five years back, has said it is ready to join a similar hunt aimed at locating the Malaysian airliner that went missing a fortnight back.

“It takes time to search for objects on the seabed. For example, it will take about three weeks to perform a search operation in an area of 1,000 sq km, depending on water depth,” said Frode Gaupaas, chief operating officer of Swire Seabed.

“We are ready to join the search if we are asked about it,” Xinhua quoted him as telling the Aftenposten, a Norwegian-language newspaper.

The company owns one of the few mini-submarines that can dive 6,000 metres deep in the sea.

The vessel, Seabed Worker, which was used in the search for an Air France plane in the Atlantic, would be shipped to Australia when requested, said Gaupaas, who participated in the highly time-consuming search for the plane which crashed into the Atlantic with all 216 passengers and 12 crew members June 1, 2009.

Describing deep sea search as highly specialized, Gaupaas said that all available data — maps, photographs, wind and weather — must be collected and analysed to assess the most likely position of the aircraft.

Side-scan sonar and autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) are often employed for locating objects on the seabed.

Mini-submarines can film findings in real time and use remote controlled arms (robot arms) to highlight parts of a crashed plane, said Gaupaas.

“If you have made a discovery of the wreckage, the first priority is to find and raise the flight data recorders and other parts that may be significant to find out what happened to the plane,” said Gaupaas.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea. The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.

A massive multinational search operation for the missing jet is currently on in southern Indian Ocean where satellite imagery showed two objects which could be parts of the plane.