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Search for MH370 could take decades: Malaysia Airlines

June 25, 2014 16:50 IST

The search for the missing Malaysian aircraft may take "decades" as its wreckage could be spread over a big area in the Indian Ocean, a top Malaysia Airlines official said, while criticising the government for not informing them about the air turn back made by the jet.

"Something untoward happened to that plane. I think it made a turn to come back, then a sequence of events overtook it, and it was unable to return to base. I believe it's somewhere in the south Indian Ocean," Malaysia Airlines commercial chief Hugh Dunleavy said about finding the plane that has been missing for over three months.

"When (a plane) hits the ocean it's like hitting concrete. The wreckage could be spread over a big area. And there are mountains and canyons in that ocean. I think it could take a really long time to find. We're talking decades," he was quoted as saying by the Evening Standard daily.

The Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 -- carrying 239 people, including five Indians, mysteriously vanished on March 8 enroute to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. The disappearance of the plane is one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.

Dunleavy criticised the Malaysian government for taking so long to come out with the information that the missing plane had turned back over the Malay peninsula towards the Strait of Malacca.

"I only heard about this through the news," he said.

"I'm thinking, really? You couldn't have told us that directly? Malaysia’s air traffic control and military radar are in the same freakin' building. The military saw an aircraft turn and did nothing," he said.

"They didn't know it was MH370, their radar just identifies flying objects, yet a plane had gone down and the information about something in the sky turning around didn't get released by the authorities until after a week. Why? I don't know. I really wish I did," he added.

Dunleavy described the initial hours when the plane was reported to have gone missing.

The official said he was heading to Kuala Lumpur airport to fly to a conference in Borneo when his phone flashed with an emergency text.

Dunleavy never made it to that conference, instead he spent the next 72 hours working non-stop to find out why the jet had gone missing and trying to explain his lack of an answer to hundreds of distraught relatives in a grief limbo.

He defended the airline's response to the disappearance of the plane, saying "care-givers" did not sleep, dashing between the hotel’s ballroom and chaotic press conferences.

The hunt for the Malaysia Airlines plane, the search area in the Indian Ocean is to be moved back to a zone 1,800 kilometres west of Perth, previously dismissed in late March.

The new search area, to be focused on when an underwater probe resumes in August, is not be based on fresh data but on new analysis of the plane's flight path.

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