Search area development

Key information regarding the VH-MDX accident is not clear, missing and appears to be subject to interpretation errors. Attempting to recreate the flight after more than thirty years with such shortfalls will result in continual amendments. Additionally, information and data is continually flowing in which changes interpretation and understanding.

Most people simply want a small box on a map that says ‘its in here’ and over the years many have confidently specified such small areas only to fail in locating VH-MDX. Given the lack of key items of information, synthesizing a small, fixed area of interest that will remain stagnant with time is not viewed as a realistic outcome by us.

A flexible system needs to be in place to absorb change gradually and offer some stability.

To offer some certainty Glenn Strkalj specified a three area approach in 2014. This was a very different approach to the methodology of VH-MDX most probable area theories used up until then.

Each area uses progressively tighter tolerances and therefore higher risk (in VH-MDX not being within) as the area becomes smaller. Each area serves a purpose offering some stability whilst also allowing the smallest area to move as research and understanding  progresses.

From this, a simple tool is yielded allowing emergency services to easily allocate the appropriate resources to witness reports and search activities.

Taking a big to small approach pushes us to review information more critically whist putting ‘pen to paper’ in stages offers more forced finesse.

The three areas are:

  • Maximum Possible Extent (MPE): It is highly unlikely VH-MDX is outside this boundary. Do not apply significant resources into reported potential VH-MDX impact location outside this boundary. Unlikely to change with time.
  • Most Likely Extent (MLE): It is likely that VH-MDX is within this boundary. Full-scale search operations should only be conducted within this boundary. May change somewhat with time.
  • Most Probable Area (MPA): Considering current information, data and interpretation thereof, this area is viewed as the most probable location VH-MDX is resting within. Likely to change significantly with time.