The search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, possibly the widest ranging search ever conducted, has been suspended – leaving the greatest mystery in aviation history unsolved, probably forever.
After unsuccessfully searching 120,000 square kilometres of the ocean floor, authorities admit they cannot locate the aircraft in the Indian Ocean.
The passenger plane carrying 239 passengers and crew, including six Australians, disappeared on 8 March 2014 while travelling between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, in circumstances that remain unclear. As far as anyone can tell, the aircraft was never seen again.
A joint statement issued yesterday by the Australian, Malaysian and Chinese governments, who have been cooperating in the search, read as follows:
Search crews have been trawling the Indian Ocean for MH370. ATSB photo by Mel Proudlock
Today the last search vessel has left the underwater search area. Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has not been located in the 120,000 square-kilometre underwater search area in the southern Indian Ocean.
Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modelling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft.
Accordingly, the underwater search for MH370 has been suspended.
The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly nor without sadness. It is consistent with decisions made by our three countries in the July 2016 Ministerial Tripartite meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia.
Whilst combined scientific studies have continued to refine areas of probability, to date no new information has been discovered to determine the specific location of the aircraft.
We have been overwhelmed by the commitment and dedication shown by the hundreds of people involved in the search, which has been an unprecedented challenge. Their tireless work has continued to improve our knowledge of the search area and has been critical in our efforts to locate the aircraft. We would like to reiterate our utmost appreciation to the many nations that have provided expertise and assistance since the early days of this unfortunate tragedy.
Today’s announcement is significant for our three countries, but more importantly for the family and friends of those on board the aircraft. We again take this opportunity to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives and acknowledge the enormous loss felt by their loved ones.
We remain hopeful that new information will come to light and that at some point in the future the aircraft will be located.
In December, an Australian Government report found authorities had most likely been searching in the wrong section of ocean all along.
“There is a high degree of confidence that the previously identified underwater area searched to date does not contain the missing aircraft,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau report said.
Various parts of the plane have been washed up on islands in the Indian Ocean and it has been determined that the aircraft is unlikely to have hit the water in a controlled manner.
The main section of the aircraft, however, has not been found. Barring an unexpected discovery or sudden revelation, the cause of the terrible disaster is likely to remain forever unknown.
Written by Peter Needham