Perth: A mini-submarine deployed to find the crashed Malaysian jet has completed a full 16-hour mission and will be taken past its recommended depth limit to locate the wreckage, even as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott today set a week's deadline for the underwater search.
In yet another disappointment in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the oil slick detected in the Indian Ocean on Sunday by Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield has been found to be not from a plane engine or hydraulics.
"Preliminary analysis of the sample collected by ADV Ocean Shield has confirmed that it is not aircraft engine oil or hydraulic fluid," Joint Agency Coordinating Centre (JACC) that is leading the operations said on the 41st day of the search for the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
However, the mini-submarine completed its full 16-hour mission of scouring the remote area of the Indian Ocean seabed.
"Overnight Bluefin-21 AUV completed a full mission in the search area and is currently planning for its next mission. Bluefin-21 has searched approximately 90 square kilometres to date and the data from its latest mission is being analysed," the JACC said.
Bluefin 21 is searching in an area defined by four acoustic signals picked up by an Australian search team.
The JACC said the mini-submarine, which aborted its first mission earlier this week after hitting a maximum depth of 4.5 kilometres, would be taken lower after its manufacturer advised there was an "acceptable" risk.
"This expansion of the operating parameters allows the Bluefin-21 to search the sea floor within the predicted limits of the current search area," the JACC said in a statement.
The agency today dismissed as "incorrect" the media reports that said it would take Bluefin-21 anywhere from six weeks to two months to scan the entire underwater search area.
"Since the US Navy provided comment some days ago, the underwater search has been significantly narrowed through detailed acoustic analysis conducted on the four signal detections made by the Towed Pinger Locater on ADV Ocean Shield," the JACC said.
"This analysis has allowed the definition of a reduced and more focused underwater search area. This represents the best lead we have in relation to missing flight MH370 and where the current underwater search efforts are being pursued to their completion so we can either confirm or discount the area as the final resting place of MH370," it said.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Abbott said the best leads in the underwater search for the plane Boeing 777-200 will be exhausted in about a week.
"We believe that search will be completed within a week or so," Abbott was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.
Abbott said authorities would need to rethink their approach if the remote-controlled vehicle fails to locate the plane's wreckage in a narrow area of ocean where searchers picked up a series of pings.
"If we don't find wreckage, we stop, we regroup, we reconsider," he said.
"My determination for Australia is that we will do whatever we reasonably can to resolve the mystery. If the current search turns up nothing, we won't abandon it, we will simply move to a different phase," he said.