UK & World News

  • 31 March 2014, 7:01

Missing Plane: No Quick Result In Sight

How long before the critics round on the search operation for flight MH370? Probably not long at all.

In a social media world where we expect answers in minutes, with a story on which everyone has a theory, the time will surely come when frustration starts to overheat into anger and recrimination.

So when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott paid a flying visit to Pearceairbase to visit flight crew hunting for the plane, he was keen to talk up the search effort but equally eager to talk down the chances of a quick result.

The headline from his news conference was that there would be "no time limits" on the search.

I do not know his PR advisers, but I suspect they had told him to start addressing the long term.

To place a marker in the distant future is to steer a world's expectations away from imminent success.

Put that together with the thoughts of US navy captain Mark Matthews when he unveiled his pinger locator.

Never, perhaps, has so much hype and hope been pinned on a single piece of technology.

The Navy man was anxious to play it down - all his talk was of the years it took to find the Air France jet that crashed in 2009 and how, without other search teams finding aircraft debris, his piece of kit would be all but useless.

Whether it is a co-ordinated strategy or not, the past 24 hours have seen an effort to manage expectations downwards.

Officials are bedding in for the long haul. A Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) is being set up in Perth, run by a former Australian Chief of the Defence Staff.

It will oversee the search and deal with the demands of the international media.

Perth, in Western Australia, has never seen a media presence as large as that camped out at Pearceairbase. It is now beginning to reduce in size as the days pass without a discovery out at sea.

The JACC will also lay on facilities for families of those on board the missing Malaysian airliner.

Accommodation will be provided, as will interpreters, counsellors and administrative staff to help with getting Australian visas.

The plan is to welcome the relatives to the scene of the search and, probably, to fly them over the crash site.

They will have to find it first. As we know, that could take a long time.

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