SYDNEY - The head of Australia's transport safety bureau has defended the fruitless hunt thus far for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, saying he is confident that search teams are targeting the right area.
Satellite analysis in the days after the Bo-eing 777 vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board placed the jet somewhere in a huge tract of the Indian Ocean stretching from near Indonesia south towards Antarctica.
But in a setback, the area believed to be the jet's most likely resting place based on the detection of acoustic "pings" was on Thursday ruled out after an extensive underwater search.
Australia's Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Martin Dolan, whose organisation is playing a key role in the search effort, said the four signals detected in April were then the best lead in the hunt for the plane, which mysteriously diverted from its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.
He said that while experts were reassessing the satellite data that led the search to the southern Indian Ocean, the linear arc produced by analysis of this information still likely represented the plane's flight path.
"That arc is definite. We know that somewhere close to that very long arc is where the aircraft will be found," he told AFP in an interview late on Thursday.
The next phase will focus on using the satellite data to confirm a search area, completing mapping of the sea floor and getting towable sonar and other equipment to carry out an intensive deep-water search, which could take up to a year.
Meanwhile, in Subang Jaya, calls by the Malaysia Airlines System Employees Union (Maseu) for MAS to move on from MH370 have sparked anger among the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) and the families of the MH370 cabin crew.