Malaysia’s government is not yet prepared to commit its search effort for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 away from the original site off the eastern coast.
The decision illustrates the lingering uncertainty over position data from flight MH370, and that the search co-ordinators do not yet have sufficient confidence to transfer the entire operation to alternative areas in the Straits of Malacca, Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean.
Thirteen countries have provided 57 ships and 48 aircraft for the search but the co-ordinators have been forced to split the resources between the eastern South China Sea region – which includes the last confirmed position of the 777 – and an expanding search zone off the western coast.
Malaysian acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein, speaking during a briefing on 14 March, said the search areas were being increased in both locations.
But he says the search leaders are still “not in position” to shift the assets out of the South China Sea.
Hishammuddin would not disclose any further details of evidence which opened the western region as a candidate for the aircraft’s location.
An unidentified target on military primary surveillance radar, over the Strait of Malacca, has yet to be confirmed as MH370, and investigators have yet to explain the full nature and source of data which led the search teams to consider a possible attempt by the jet to deviate from its course to Beijing.
The aircraft was powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines but the manufacturer has backed Hishammuddin’s statement that no engine health monitoring data was received.
No ACARS information was received after a point some 20min before the aircraft’s secondary surveillance target disappeared, indicating a loss of the transponder.
However, the full status of the aircraft’s various communications systems – including satcom and VHF – has yet to be disclosed.
Hishammuddin has repeatedly stated that continuation of the flight, beyond its last contact, was a possibility being considered by the investigation team.
He indicates that the investigation has addition information but that the inquiry will not release any data that has not been checked and which might prove misleading.
"As is standard procedure, the investigation team will not publicly release information until it has been properly verified and corroborated with the relevant authorities,” he states.