The best leads in the underwater search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 will be exhausted in about a week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Mr Abbott said if the Bluefin-21 underwater drone scanning the Indian Ocean’s seabed in the search area fails to locate wreckage, a rethink would have to take place.
“We believe that search will be completed within a week or so,” Mr Abbott said.
“If we don’t find wreckage, we stop, we regroup, we reconsider.”
Mr Abbott said he was confident searchers were looking in the right place for the plane based on the electronic signals, possibly from the aircraft’s black boxes, detected by equipment towed by Australian naval vessel ADV Ocean Shield on April 5 and 8.
The prime minister’s latest comments come as the US media questions the Australian government’s use of the single Bluefin-21 in the search area after its first two missions were aborted.
The man who led the search for aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart’s plane in the Pacific Ocean has been critical of the Bluefin-21.
“I can tell you it didn’t work for us,” Richard Gillespie, founder of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, told CNN.
“We were very hopeful the Bluefin-21 would be the answer – the way to search for this very hard to find wreckage.
“What we found was the Bluefin-21 couldn’t perform reliably. We had extremely frustrating aborted missions, just as we have seen in the Indian Ocean. We saw malfunctions.”
Mike Dean, the US Navy’s deputy director for salvage and diving, told CNN one of its Orion-towed search systems was available in Maryland for use in the search if Australia requested it.
The Orion can send back real-time data to searchers.
Other search experts say a REMUS 6000 autonomous underwater vehicle, used to find Air France flight 447 after it went down in 2009, would be more suitable.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was carrying 239 passengers when it disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.