New York Times
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - As the intensive hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 entered its second month Tuesday, all that was certain was that it would become the most expensive search and recovery effort in aviation history, with an international fleet of ships and planes scouring the Indian Ocean at a cost of millions of dollars a day.
For the most part, the dozens of countries that have contributed personnel, equipment and expertise to the search have borne the costs while declining to disclose them, with officials offering a united front in saying that it would be callous to talk about money while a commercial airliner and the 239 people aboard remained unaccounted for.
The Australian official in charge of the search, Angus Houston, said today that a ship searching for the jet detected two more signals on Tuesday that are consistent with a plane's black boxes. Finding the sound is crucial to narrowing the search area.
But many of the governments involved in the search will soon face a tough decision about whether to keep bearing the extraordinary costs, analysts said.
"Each country will have to ask itself: What are the prospects of further investigation and the cost-benefit of it?" said Ramon Navaratnam, chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies at the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute in Kuala Lumpur. "If there's no prospect, there's no prospect: We have to be very realistic. But it's a very difficult to decision to make. It's like someone on a medical support system and you have to determine whether to pull the wires or not."
Until now, the costliest search and recovery effort ever undertaken followed the crash of Air France Flight 447 hundreds of miles off the coast of Brazil in 2009, reaching roughly $160 million at the time, over the course of two years, according to estimates by experts involved in that effort. But the search for Flight 370 is far more complicated, and may have already topped that total.
The plane vanished March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.