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Malaysia signs a $70 million deal to find missing aircraft

In an attempt to find the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft MH370, Malaysia signed a deal worth $70 million with a US seabed exploration firm. The deal is signed for finding the aircraft within a period of 90 days of embarking on a search in the Southern Indian Ocean. The investigators urged that the search should be extended 25,000 sq km further north.

Considered as one of the greatest aviation mysteries, the disappearance of the aircraft en route Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014 had 239 people onboard. China, Australia and Malaysia ended a fruitless search costing A$200-million ($157 million) in an area of 120,000 sq. km in January last year. The transport minister of Malaysia, Liow Tiong Lai said that a Houston based private firm named Ocean Infinity would search for the aircraft in the 25,000 sq priority route on a no cure, no fee basis, which means it will be paid only if it finds the plane.

The search is supposed to start on 17th January and if the plane is found within 5,000 sq km, Ocean Infinity will be paid $20 million. If it is found within 10,000 sq km, it will be paid $30 million and if it is found in the area of 25,000 sq km, it will be paid $50 million. Any area beyond that will be paid $70 million. The priority is to locate the wreckage of the flight and present evidence to confirm their location within a period of 90 days.

Ocean Infinity’s vessel carries eight autonomous underwater vehicles which will scour the seabed with scanning equipment for any information to be sent back for analysis. The crew has 65 individuals including two government representatives from the Malaysian navy. The ship can complete the search within three to four weeks and cover up to 60,000 square kms in 90 days and maybe faster than the earlier efforts. The core business of Ocean Infinity is in oil and gas industry as well as subsea exploration services which include underwater cabling and seabed mapping. The upfront costs of the search will be borne by the shareholders of the company.

The debris from MH370 can provide clues to events on board before the crash. There are various theories that the aircraft suffered mechanical failure and was intentionally flown off course. It is also believed that someone could have deliberately switched off the plane’s transponder before diverting it thousands of miles over Indian Ocean.

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