Efforts to locate missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been hampered by poor weather in the Indian Ocean, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) says.
In its weekly operational update, the ATSB said it had less than 10,000 square kilometres of the agreed 120,000 square kilometre area left to search.
However, the conditions out at sea have resulted in some delays, which could prolong operations.
“Ongoing poor weather conditions have severely impacted search operations and resulted in delays to search operations of around 6-8 weeks,” the ATSB said.
“Since the onset of poor conditions associated with winter weather, progress has slowed with only a minimal area searched during this time.
“In the event of further poor weather, or delays as a result of unforeseeable problems such as equipment failure or crew incapacity, searching the entire 120,000 square kilometre search area may continue well beyond the winter months.”
Flight MH370 went missing enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 2014, with 239 passengers and crew on board.
While the search effort in the Indian Ocean was yet to locate the Boeing 777-200ER, registered 9M-MRO, that operated the flight, debris from the missing jet has washed up on African coast and on the island of La Reunion.
The governments of Australia, Malaysia and China have said previously that in the absence of new leads the search would not be expanded beyond the current 120,000 square kilometre area.
The ATSB said marginal weather conditions still allowed the use of deep tow equipment. Further, the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) used to search areas that the deep tow sonar could not was only able to be used in calmer conditions in spring and summer.