With 4,000 km of “final arc” to search, Australia spent three years searching less than 300 km of it. Those in charge of the search refused to communicate with anyone not a member of “the team”, and they didn’t find so much as a hubcap.
Australia also defaulted on former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s promise to search until it was found.
The only debris found to date has been found by beachcombers on the Islands of Reunion, Rodrigues, and Mauritius. Unlike those paid millions to search for the plane, beachcombers asked nothing, were paid exactly nothing, and without so much as a “thank you” in several instances.
Some debris was also found on Madagascar beaches and on East African beaches, but it offers no help in the search, or in understanding what may have happened to the plane. All debris ends up in only two places if it misses the Mascarene Islands: 1) Madagascar, and 2) the long East African coast between northern Tanzania and South Africa. Nothing that ends up on Madagascar or East African coasts can be traced to a starting point. It is absolutely worthless in the effort to find the plane.
Importantly, debris was NOT found on Western Australia beaches or along the Great Australian Bight. Nor was it found on the islands of St. Paul or Amsterdam to the south, or Cocos or Christmas islands to the north. Likewise, there were no acoustic detections at Rottnest Island or farther south at Cape Leeuwin where nuclear proliferation stations should have picked up artifacts of a “hard crash”. Implications: it came down where it would have been extraordinarily unlikely for debris to drift east; it probably came down as a “soft crash” water ditching; and it is likely to still be mostly in one piece.
Part of the search problem is that searchers hypothesized it was a murder / suicide and then they used that to decide where to search. It may very well turn out to be a murder / suicide, but whomever did it was infinitely smarter than those who are trying to second guess him.
I personally gave up on the official search area when the flaperon was found on Reunion Island on July 29, 2015, 508 days after the crash. We do not know how long the flaperon was adrift in the Reunion Island area before it was retrieved, but it may have been there for six months or more. We know from NOAA’s satellite-tracked drifters that, on average, it only takes 230 days for debris to drift all the way to Madagascar from the most likely initial areas along the plane’s “final arc”.
Those who have followed me for a while know I have been enormously critical of the Australian government for refusing to listen to anyone not on its own payroll. But I try to be an equal opportunity critic, and my patience has also run out on Malaysia’s small “next of kin” support group, which has been indecisive and supportive of failure for nearly three years. It takes more to go beyond official government intransigence. In my opinion, which I share too willingly at times, new leadership is required for the NOK group. It needs a decisive voice, a visionary voice, not just a soft shoulder.
Unless and until that happens, the real question has to be, Does anyone really care if the plane is recovered? I frankly can’t tell, and that isn’t a good sign. But if there are still some who care, it’s going to cost between $5 million and 10$ million USD, and those who want it need to roll up their sleeves now. If I am involved in any capacity, I will only work with Williamson and Associates of Seattle. No more amateur sidescan towfish like EdgeTech and ProSAS-60. It’s time to get the job done right, and quickly or not at all.