The Phoenix International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Artemis is lifted back onto the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield after searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean on April 21. Photo: Reuters
The planned air and surface search for the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft Flight MH370 has been suspended due to deteriorating weather.
However, the underwater search will continue with the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, codenamed Bluefin-21, expected to commence mission 15 on Sunday morning, reports the Star, a Malaysian English daily.
The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), which oversees the search operation, said Bluefin-21 was expected to complete the remaining focused underwater search area and continue examining the areas adjacent to it during mission 15.
No contacts of interest have been found yet to date since the search operation commenced 51 days ago, the agency said in a statement.
The Bluefin-21 was dispatched on its maiden mission on April 14, in the hope of locating any debris of the missing plane underwater, since no further confirmed signals were picked up by the Towed Pinger Locator since April 8.
It uses acoustic sounds to create a three-dimensional map of the sea floor and will take a minimum of 24 hours to complete each mission, which includes four hours to download the data collected.
The ill-fated airliner with 239 people onboard left the KL International Airport at 12.41am on March 8 and disappeared from radar screens about an hour later while over the South China Sea.
It was to have arrived in Beijing at 6.30am the same day.
A multinational search was mounted for the Boeing 777-200 aircraft, first in the South China Sea and then, after it was learnt that the plane had veered off course, in the southern Indian Ocean.
After an analysis of satellite data indicated that the plane's last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth, Australia, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced on March 24 that Flight MH370 "ended in the southern Indian Ocean". The search continues from there.