Cambodia's aviation authority has increased staff levels and is in constant communication with its Vietnamese counterparts in an effort to contribute to the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, officials said yesterday.
MAS flight 370, which was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and carrying 239 passengers and crew, has yet to be found after going missing early on Saturday morning within Vietnamese air space – south of Phu Quoc island.
Chhun Sivorn, director of Air Navigation and Standards at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the area in question is more than 300 kilometres south of the Phnom Penh air traffic control station, not far outside Cambodian airspace.
Sivorn confirmed the SSCA had immediately coordinated radar and satellite monitoring efforts with Vietnam after being made aware of the missing airplane on Saturday.
He said it had also increased the number of personnel monitoring Cambodian airspace and scanning the Gulf of Thailand for distress beacons from its Phnom Penh International Airport and Norodom Boulevard control stations.
“We have put more staff on – 24 hours a day – monitoring our satellite imaging and radar systems,” he said.
The latest announcement from Malaysia Airlines, published on its website yesterday at 10am – 48 hours after the plane went missing – thanked search and rescue teams from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines and the US for assisting in the search.
Despite the search zone being close to the Cambodia-Vietnam airspace border, Sivorn said the Kingdom simply does not have the resources to join the on-sea effort.
“So we are doing the very best to help with what we do have,” he said.
“All aircraft have an emergency transmitter installed. If the vessel went down inside Cambodian airspace, or within range of our satellite and radar systems, we will hopefully pick it up,” he said.
But it may be too late.
Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at trade publication Flightglobal, said the chance now of locating the missing MAS Boeing 777 airplane by radar, satellite or even infrared is slim.
“The search is down to the naked eye,” he said, adding that the large number of fishing boats and pieces of trash floating around the Gulf of Thailand could cause false alarms for radar operators.
Waldron predicts the search could continue for more than a week despite the international search party.