Unwanted news for the families and friends of those experiencing the purgatory of not knowing what has happened to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Authorities have announced that they are suspending search operations for a number of weeks that could stretch out to two months or longer.
CNN reported May 26 that the Bluefin 21 robotic sub mapping the Indian Ocean floor in its quest to find the missing plane would end its current mission within a few days. When it did, there would be no underwater search operation ongoing. This comes just a month after the search area for the U. S. Navy's Bluefin 21 was widened as it failed to recover the black boxes of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which is believed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean west of Australia.
Martin Dolan, Chief Commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said, "The aim would be to have to negotiate and agree to contract with a successful tender within two months of the release of the tender documentation."
That documentation, a request for tenders to participate in the next phase of the search, will be posted by the Australian government within the next week or so.
Back in early May, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, who heads organization coordinating the search for Flight 370, told Sky News Australia that it was hoped that new equipment would be in the water in early June.
The Bluefin 21's last mission (of 20) concluded May 28.
Still, the search for the missing plane and its 239 passengers and crew will not be totally suspended. Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Committee has reported that the Chinese survey ship, Zhu Kezhen, arrived in the search area on Saturday and has started its bathymetric survey, or underwater mapping of the ocean floor. It will be joined by a contracted commercial survey ship in June.
In the meantime, the international search team will continue to go over satellite data in hopes of discovering something in the information that might more accurately pinpoint the location of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777. Current search areas were gleaned from satellite data from Inmarsat, a British satellite company.
The Malaysia government released a 45-page report containing raw Inmarsat satellite data to the public on Tuesday. Although officials said it was a show of transparency by the much-criticized government and its investigatory efforts, families of those aboard Flight 370 and other interested parties began petitioning for the release of the material two months ago in the hope that independent analysis could shed a more effective light on the mystery of the plane's disappearance and its possible location.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been missing since March 8.