Underwater search for MH370 postponed for at least 2 months

    Just Watched

    Final Bluefin-21 mission ends today

Final Bluefin-21 mission ends today 01:51

Story highlights

  • The Bluefin-21 drone wraps up its final underwater mission Wednesday
  • Officials are trying to solicit a private contractor to lead the next stage of the search
  • That stage will use more high-tech equipment, possibly in two months
  • Meanwhile, a Chinese ship is trying to map ocean floor

After two grueling months with no word from their loved ones, relatives of those on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will have to wait two more months before the search resumes underwater.

The Bluefin-21 drone is completing its final mission in the Indian Ocean on Wednesday, marking the end of the underwater hunt -- for now.

With no tangible evidence found by the drone, which costs an estimated $40,000 a day to operate, search officials are regrouping and preparing to deploy more high-tech equipment.

Only a handful of companies have such devices, which will likely include towed sonar, an autonomous underwater vehicle with mounted sonar and optical imaging equipment, Australian officials said.

Soliciting those companies and negotiating contracts will take time, and officials have said they want a single private contractor to lead the next stage of the search.

    Just Watched

    Exclusive: MH370 satellite data released

Exclusive: MH370 satellite data released 03:34

    Just Watched

    MH370: 'Put the ocean searching on hold'

MH370: 'Put the ocean searching on hold' 05:25

    Just Watched

    Inmarsat flight data finally released

Inmarsat flight data finally released 02:30

    Just Watched

    MH370: Data released after long wait

MH370: Data released after long wait 04:54

That phase, which aims to scour 60,000 square kilometers, probably won't start for at least two months. The cost? About $60 million.

Uncharted territory

    In the meantime, China is using a specialized ship to map the ocean floor in a remote part of the Indian Ocean -- something that's never been done before.

    While the Bluefin-21 can provide greater resolution than deep-towed sonar devices, the drone could only go about 4.5 kilometers deep.

    It's unclear how deep the water is in the expanded search area because "it's never been mapped," Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said earlier this month.

    China's Zhu Kezhen ship will be joined by a contracted commercial survey vessel in June, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.

    While 26 countries have participated in the hunt for the missing plane, Malaysia, China and Australia have held high-level talks about the future of the search.

    Malaysia is where the the plane is from, China had more than 100 passengers on board, and Australia had six passengers on board and is close to the stretch of the Indian Ocean where searchers have focused their hunt.

    Australia has estimated the next phase of the search will cost $60 million, with the breakdown of exactly who's going to pay for what yet to be determined.

    Satellite data released

    With the underwater search on hiatus, analysts are combing through a 47-page document containing hundreds of lines of communication logs between the plane and the British company Inmarsat's satellite system.

      Just Watched

      Flight MH370 film pitch garners backlash

    Flight MH370 film pitch garners backlash 02:15

      Just Watched

      Family of MH370 passenger reacts to film

    Family of MH370 passenger reacts to film 00:51

    Relatives of passengers have been clamoring for the release of satellite data for months.

    It was the satellite data, along with other information, that led officials to zero in on a search area in the southern Indian ocean. And some families suspect officials may be searching in the wrong spot.

    But the document released Tuesday doesn't provide the whole picture. It's "intended to provide a readable summary of the data communication logs," notes at the beginning of the document say.

    Some passengers' families, unsatisfied by the official explanation of the plane's fate, say they want an independent analysis of the complex information -- a process that could take weeks.

    CNN safety analyst David Soucie said certain key elements, which would allow independent experts to fully test the official conclusion, are missing from the data in the document.

    "There's not enough information to say whether they made an error," he said. "I think we're still going to be looking for more."

    Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce acknowledged Tuesday that the company didn't release the model to which it applied the data to estimate the plane's path -- and said the decision on whether to release the model lies with the Malaysian government, which is leading the search.

    "We'd be perfectly happy to put that model out," Pearce told CNN's "New Day."

    But Pearce also said the publicized data, along with engine and radar data, are enough for experienced third parties to plug into their own models and reach their own conclusions.

    Sarah Bajc, whose partner, Philip Wood, was on the missing jet, said she was "annoyed" that Inmarsat and Malaysian authorities hadn't released everything they used to reach their conclusions.

    "I see no reason for them to have massaged this before giving it to us," she said.

    Regardless of what information has been released, two pressing questions remain -- where is the plane, and what went wrong?

    Is Inmarsat right?

    Did Inmarsat data point Flight 370 searchers in wrong direction?

        Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

      • nr intv moni basu husbands quiet suffering flight 370_00020822.jpg

        His wife never came home from her flight on MH370, and now K.S. Narendran is left to imagine the worst of possible truths without knowing.
      • This handout photo taken on April 7, 2014 and released on April 9, 2014 by Australian Defence shows Maritime Warfare Officer, Sub Lieutenant Ryan Penrose watching HMAS Success as HMAS Perth approaches for a replenishment at sea while searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Two fresh signals have been picked up Australian ship Ocean Shield in the search for missing Malaysian flight MH370, raising hopes that wreckage will be found within days even as black box batteries start to expire.

        Was the sound of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 striking the water captured by ocean devices used to listen for signs of nuclear blasts?
      •  A crew member of a Royal New Zealand Airforce (RNZAF) P-3K2-Orion aircraft helps to look for objects during the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in flight over the Indian Ocean on April 13, 2014 off the coast of Perth, Australia. S

        What was believed to be the best hope of finding the missing plane is now being called a false hope. Rene Marsh explains.
      • Caption:A Chinese relative of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 uses a lighter as she prays at the Metro Park Hotel in Beijing on April 8, 2014. The hunt for physical evidence that the Malaysia Airlines jet crashed in the Indian Ocean more than three weeks ago has turned up nothing, despite a massive operation involving seven countries and repeated sightings of suspected debris. AFP PHOTO/WANG ZHAO (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)

        Involved parties, including the manufacturer Boeing, are bracing for a long public relations siege.
      • The painstaking search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 got a vote of confidence Friday that the effort is headed in the right direction, but officials noted that much work remains.
Credit: 	CNN

        Official: The four acoustic pings at the center of the search for Flight 370 are no longer believed to have come from the plane's black boxes.
      • INDIAN OCEAN (April 14, 2014) -- Operators aboard ADF Ocean Shield move U.S. Navy's Bluefin-21 into position for deployment, April 14. Using side scan sonar, the Bluefin will descend to a depth of between 4,000 and 4,500 meters, approximately 35 meters above the ocean floor. It will spend up to 16 hours at this depth collecting data, before potentially moving to other likely search areas. Joint Task Force 658 is currently supporting Operation Southern Indian Ocean, searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. (U.S. Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair/RELEASED)

        The underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane will effectively be put on hold this week, and may not resume until August at the earliest.
      • Movie-makers say they have recruited leading Hollywood technicians to bring their experience to mid-air flight sequences.

        Movie-makers in Cannes have announced they're making a thriller based on the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370.
      • The search for the missing Boeing 777 has gone on for eight weeks now. CNN's David Molko looks back at this difficult, emotional assignment.