MH370: What will searchers find?

January 15, 2018
MH370, (the B777) on an earlier visit to Perth Airport. Credit: Tsen Tsan

The new search team looking for MH370 will almost certainly find the wreckage of the Boeing 777 in a small area as international experts agree that the aircraft struck the water intact and likely in a vertical dive.

The new Ocean Infinity led search onboard the Seabed Constructor will begin this week in the area suggested by an international team led by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau that includes the CSIRO.

That area of 25,000sq km is about 1800km west-south-west of Perth.

Ocean floor near Broken Ridge where MH370 is thought to be
Ocean Floor showing CSIRO coordinates of 35.5S and 92.8E in the lower right-hand side. GeoScience Australia / ATSB

While considerable wreckage has turned up around the Indian Ocean the majority, including the fuselage, wings, engines, and undercarriage will be on the seabed.

In the case of Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330, which was lost on June 1, 2009, on the flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, France all the wreckage in the mid-Atlantic was in a tight debris field 200m by 600m at a depth of 3,950m.

The depth where experts say MH370 is located varies from 3500m to 4500m.

With AF447 over a period of a month, in 2011, one engine, the avionics bay, and the black boxes were raised along with 104 bodies.

Main landing gear of AF 447
Main landing gear of AF447. BEA

Those bodies were still strapped into their seats.

Fifty bodies had been previously recovered from the ocean surface but 74 were never recovered.

Photos issued by the French investigator, the BEA, of the AF447 debris field, show very clearly the undercarriage, engines and a wing.

Engine from AF 447.
Engine from AF447. BEA

The ocean floor in the general area identified by the CSIRO as the most likely location of MH370 has deep canyons, extinct volcanoes and mountain peaks.

However, others believe that MH370 may be a little further north around the area of Broken Ridge which is due west of Perth.

Victor Iannello of Radiant Physics has produced a highly detailed map showing the various search zones and likely locations shown here below. The area outlined in yellow has been searched and the area outlined in green is the area the CSIRO / ATSB says is an area of high interest.

MH370 search graphic
MH370 search graphic. The area to be searched first is CSIRO 1. Radiant Physics


This area is likened to the Swiss Alps with very deep ravines and towering peaks.

Depth in the area is put at over 5000m.

The Ocean Infinity search will cover all areas identified as likely locations.

The deepest recovery of an aircraft was that of South African Airways Flt 295 a 747 that crashed into the Indian Ocean near Mauritius on November 28, 1987.

The 747-200B Combi, which has cargo and passengers on the main deck, was on a flight from Taiwan to Johannesburg and experienced a catastrophic in-flight fire in the cargo area.

All 159 passengers and crew perished.


  1. Hello Geoffrey, thank you for this great AirlineRatings website. I have followed the progress on this terrible event, MH370 since the tragedy in March 2014. It is an enduring mystery which I hope will be solved before long. What does trouble me is that, if the aircraft went into the ocean from it's cruising height of say 34,000 feet at near vertical fall would it not be totally shattered with possibly only the two engines and the landing gear the only items sizable enough to identify the final location? The flaperon and other very small pieces of the cabin that were found are possible evidence of this theory. Was it ascertained how AF447 crashed into the ocean? Was it a controlled crash which would have allowed several large pieces of the fuselage to survive and retain some passengers in their seats as indicated in this report? I think this would be the major difference between the MH370 and the AF447 disasters and why, possibly, larger identifying parts of MH370 will never be found.
  2. Dear Sir: Thank you for your comment. The question is how vertical was the dive. Our story says near vertical and that is the variable. AF447 was more in a flat spin I understand. What I think the experts are trying to get across is that it was not in a controlled descent under power with flaps out. Best regards Geoffrey Thomas
  3. I would have to read the French BEA report again to be sure but from memory AF447 was recovering from an inadvertant stall but did not have sufficient remaining height to recover before it hit the water. As a result it hit the water more or less flat with a forward ground speed around 110kt but also still with considerable downward velocity. I don't remember it as being in reported as being in a spin when it hit the water. I certainly hope that MH370 is found for some comfort to the relatives and friends of those on board and for any contribution to air safety resulting from the investigation of the evidence by way of wreckage and recorders examination. I believe it is imperative to discover the reason for this crash.