The search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be expanded by another 23,000 square miles in the Indian Ocean if the jetliner isn't found by May, officials said today, affirming their commitment to not give up until it's located. The announcement removes some ambiguity about the future of the search as it was never made clear what would happen if the plane is not located. Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters that so far 61% of the current 23,000-square-mile search area has been scoured off Australia's west coast. The remaining 39% will be searched by the end of May, he said. "If the aircraft is not found ... we have collectively decided to extend the search to another [23,000 square miles] within the highest-probability area," he said.
However, searchers are hopeful they'll find the plane in the current search area, he said. Liow said the two areas together would cover 95% of the flight path of the Boeing 777, which went missing on March 8 of last year. "We are confident we are searching in the right area," said Liow's Australian counterpart, Warren Truss. "If the plane is in the area we will find it," he said. "Australia and Malaysia have been sharing the cost and we will continue to do that. We are confident we will be able to fund whatever is necessary." The first phase cost $93.6 million; the next, which the two ministers expect to take the rest of this year, is set to cost $39 million. The lower cost is because the equipment has already been purchased. Yang Chuantang, China's transport minister, said China may contribute vessels and other assets. (Read more Flight 370 stories.)