UK & World News

  • 13 March 2014, 16:25

Missing Malaysia Jet 'One Of Great Mysteries'

The oceanographer who helped search for the Titanic and co-led the successful recovery of a doomed Air France plane has told Sky News the case of the missing Malaysian plane is "absolutely perplexing".

David Gallo, one of the world's most accomplished scientists in his field helped locate the black box data recorders of Air France flight 447 in the South Atlantic in 2011, two years after the plane crashed.

On the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet, he said: "This has rapidly become one of the great mysteries of all time in terms of loss of an aeroplane or ship at sea."

Responding to criticism of the Malaysian authorities, Mr Gallo said he believed they were doing all they could in the face of "an unprecedented task".

Mr Gallo told Sky News: "From the outset it's easy to criticise the people in charge.

"I feel strongly that we need to lend some confidence to the Minister of Transportation in Malaysia because that position is a horrible place to be right now.

"He's got the whole world watching, he's got governmental agencies on his back, he's got the families.

"It's a horrible thing what the families, loved-ones and and friends are going through right now day after day.

"When he says he's going to make every effort to get this solved and leave no stone unturned I believe him."

The Air France flight came down in mid-Atlantic in 2009, without sending out a distress signal and killing all 228 people aboard, after a combination of aircraft technical failure and pilot error.

It took five days to find any wreckage but two years to find the black box recorders.

Mr Gallo said: "In the case of Air France 477 we had a very dedicated team.

"I am hoping the same is true in this case, so that once we can begin an undersea search in earnest that that search happens fairly quick."

But of the Malaysian case he said: "Around every corner you find some fact, then three mysteries appear."

Mr Gallo believed the best hope still came from the area beneath the set flight path of the plane to the east of the Malay peninsula.

History showed most lost planes are eventually found close to where they should have been.

And if it is found east of the peninsula in the South China Sea, the chances of discovering what brought it down are far greater, he said.

The waters are not very deep and in places are shallower than the plane is long, making the recovery of the black box data more likely.

The Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca to the west of the peninsula are extremely deep.

Mr Gallo said: "I like to use the idea we are looking for the bits of needle in a pile of hay. Ideally that pile of hay would be very small.

"So you begin by having to know the place on the ocean where the plane, if it did, impact. Where the X marks the spot.

"The way to get to that is by having the last known position, but then by finding bits of floating wreckage that are on the sea being moved around by currents, waves, and winds, and then you can backtrack those using very sophisticated models to find out where they came from, best guess, and then around there you design your search pattern.

"It's all detective work. All step-by-step very methodical, and very slow, but very precise."

He added: "You have to have several ingredients to guarantee success. You have got to have the right people on the job, the right team.

"You need to have the best instruments available - robots, sonar submarines, ships. You need to have a game plan.

"It's almost like a symphony orchestra. You need to have not just the musicians and musical instruments, but you also need to have the conductor with his music.

"When that baton comes down that team needs to play as one.

"This is tortuous for the families. The only way to know what happened, there are no witnesses, is to find those two black boxes, and hopefully the information will be there."

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

Advertisement