KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — Almost 350 family members of passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are demanding raw data be released for independent analysis, preferably to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the non-profit research facility responsible for finding the remains of missing Air France Flight 447 in 2009, almost two years after it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
Amid questions about how the investigation has been conducted, the family members made the demand in an open letter sent to the leaders of Malaysia, China and Australia today.
In the letter they questioned how authorities could be certain the Boeing 777 had crashed into the Indian Ocean after vanishing without a trace two months ago.
“Due to the lack of physical evidence that MH370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean, the families are in urgent need for the conclusion, based on [British satellite communications firm] Inmarsat data analysis, that the aircraft’s flight ended in that ocean to be reconsidered to confirm its accuracy,” they wrote.
In the letter titled “A PLEA FROM THE FAMILIES OF MH370,” the relatives argued the data analysis “only indicates a probable southern flight path.”
They said the data did not “support a definitive conclusion that no other flight path was possible.”
“We feel that it is necessary that the data be subject to independent third-party review. It is our hope that with out of box thinking, the whole world can help to look for the plane.”
The group of family members is calling itself “The Cry for Truth: Voice370”.
In the letter, it said it has the “sole intention of finding MH370 and our loved ones.”
Instead of governments leading the investigation, the families said all the data should be handed to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) which found the remains of missing Air France Flight 447 in 2009, almost two years after it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
“In our view, that WHOI is not a commercial entity and its successful location of Air France 447 demonstrates that it has the experience and expertise to conduct the search for MH370 in an ethical manner,” the families said.
With the air and surface search now halted, a new search phase costing around A$60 million (RM181 million) will begin after existing visual and sonar search data is analysed and a contractor is found to lease the sophisticated equipment needed, officials said after meeting in Canberra earlier this week.
Experts have narrowed the search area where the plane is presumed to have crashed to a large arc of the Indian Ocean about 1,600km (1,000 miles) northwest of the west Australian city of Perth.
Last week, Malaysia released its most comprehensive account yet of what happened to Flight MH370, detailing the route the plane probably took as it veered off course and the confusion that followed.
The officials have said the focus will be on 60,000 sq km (24,000 sq mile) of seabed in the Indian Ocean that could take a year to search.
US President Barack Obama had publicly promised to commit more assets, but government sources say the United States is keen to begin passing on the costs of providing the expensive sonar equipment the officials say they are trying to source.
The United States said over the weekend that it would only contribute its sophisticated Bluefin-21 underwater drone for one more month, placing pressure on Australia, China and Malaysia to find funding for the next phase of the search. A majority of the 239 people on board were Chinese nationals.
Beijing-bound MH370 disappeared after leaving Kuala Lumpur on March 8 with 239 people on board.