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MH370 hunt to be most expensive in aviation history

The search cost $44m in one month, equal to the cost of the search for Air France’s AF447 in 2009

Published: Updated:

The hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is ongoing but has cost hundreds of millions of dollars already, becoming the most expensive aviation search in history.

Planes, submarines, ships and satellites have contributed to the search which began around one month ago, and were deployed by 26 countries.

At least $44 million was spent on military ships and planes deployed by Australia, the U.S. and Vietnam in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, Reuters reported, based on costs reported by the U.S. Pentagon, defense analysts’ estimates and statistics on hourly costs by the U.S. defense force.

The cost is almost equal to the 32 million euros ($44m) spent in a several-month search, split up over the span of two years, for Air France’s flight AF447, which crashed in the Mid-Atlantic in 2009.

The entire search and recovery effort for MH370 could be at least double the money spent for France’s AF447, a Malaysian government source speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters.

Additional costs of the defense assets used by countries such as the UK, France, New Zealand and South Korea, and other expenses including the utilization of international intelligence and analysts, accommodation for personnel and officers and civilian aircrafts have not been included in the estimated $44m.

Australia

Australia, which has been leading the search and contributed to paying around half of the cost, hinted that it may start charging Malaysia. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, have repeatedly said the cost of the search is not an issue.

However, Australia hinted that the cost is high and it may start charging.

"At some point, there might need to be a reckoning, there might need to be some kind of tallying, but nevertheless we are happy to be as helpful as we can to all the countries that have a stake in this,” Abbott said last week.

The search effort for MH370 is costing the Australian Defense Force at least A$800,000 ($743,322) per day and possibly considerably more than that," said Kym Bergmann, editor of Asia-Pacific Defense Reporter and a former government defense adviser.

China

China, the home country of 227 passengers that were on board MH370, sent 18 ships eight helicopters, and three fixed-wings aircraft to various search areas.

The country declined to comment on the expense of the search, and confirmed that it was dedicated to continue “as long as there is a shred of hope,” Reuters reported.

The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, estimated that the Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft, two of which were sent out by China, costs $10,000 an hour to operate, excluding the cost of maintenance and accommodation for the crew.

“There's a lot of pressure in China to find the plane," said a Beijing-based Western diplomat. "China will spare no effort.” Reuters reported.

United States

The U.S. Pentagon said it has already spent more than $3.3 million in the search, and already has plans to double its original $4 million search budget.

Two Towed Pinger Locators sent by the United States have picked up signals which may from the MH370’s cockpit last week.

For its part, Vietnam’s search cost has been estimated at around $8 million, a figure still not verified by officials.

(With Reuters)