If Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) is not found by the end of May, the three countries leading the search for the plane in the southern Indian Ocean will re-examine data and come up with a new plan, an official has said.
Malaysia's transport minister Liow Tiong Lai told a group of foreign reporters on the eve of the first anniversary of the plane's disappearance during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that he remains cautiously optimistic that the Boeing 777, which was carrying 239 passengers and crew, should be in the area where the underwater search has been ongoing.
He said Australia, Malaysia and China are due to meet next month to discuss the search efforts.
Meanwhile, British pilots organisation Balpa said it wanted more technical aircraft data to be transmitted to a "virtual black box" when a flight experiences problems.
Balpa says aircraft should be modified to send a burst of vital technical data from the cockpit as soon as aircraft behaves outside normal flight patterns.
This information would be saved virtually and used to locate the aircraft and provide an early indication of what has taken place, pending a full investigation using the black box cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder once retrieved from the aircraft.
To support this change and prevent misuse, protections would need to be in place to ensure data is only used to investigate serious safety incidents and that investigators do not jump to the wrong conclusions or decide not to recover the wreckage and carry out a thorough investigation.
Balpa has also welcomed the trialling of improved tracking of aircraft flying in and out of Australia. Pilots want this trial to lead to minimum global standards and technology in flight tracking to minimise the pain caused to the family of passengers and the crew while an aircraft is being located.
Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said: “Being able to locate a crashed aircraft, understand what has gone wrong and stop it happening again is vital to making every flight safe.
“With the right safeguards against misuse in place, pilots want more cockpit information to be transmitted when a flight gets into trouble and stored in a ‘virtual black box’. This would help to minimise the unacceptable anguish suffered by the families of the passengers and crew while they wait for information.
“Pilots also welcome the trialling of improved tracking technology and practices and want to work with airlines and regulators to establish minimum international tracking standards so that aircraft can be quickly found, wherever they are in the world.”
A report into the disappearance from the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation is due imminently.