17 January 2017 © David Eyre
The search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has sadly been suspended, as government authorities have been unable to locate the aircraft in the Indian Ocean.
MH370 has become one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history, with authorities unsuccessfully searching 120,000 square kilometres of the ocean floor.
A large number of unanswered questions remain, leading to a multitude of ideas, from conspiracy theorists and aviation experts – some of whom are credible and others less so.
Regardless, many people are still dumbfounded that with all of the modern technology available today, a large airliner can disappear.
Disappearance and search
The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER registered 9M-MRO, disappeared on 8 March 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China with 227 passengers and 12 crew aboard.
The initial search, led by the Malaysian Government, focused on the Gulf of Thailand, where its transponder last transmitted. However, the Malaysian military tracked the aircraft passing west, back over Malaysia, and then south, so another search area was added over the northern part of the Indian Ocean.
Following analysis of ACARS satellite data, it was found that MH370 continued to fly for over six hours after contact was lost. The available data indicated the aircraft entered the sea close to a long but narrow arc of the southern Indian Ocean, so the search efforts focused there.
An extensive search and rescue effort was undertaken by military and civilian aircraft and ships from several countries, but no debris was located.
In Western Australia, the search aircraft operated during March and April 2014, from RAAF Base Learmonth near Exmouth as well as RAAF Base Pearce (north of Perth) and Perth Airport.
On 31 March 2014, following an extensive sea and air search, the Malaysian Government accepted the Australian government’s offer to take the lead in the search and recovery operation in the southern Indian Ocean in support of the Malaysian accident investigation.On behalf of Australia, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is leading search operations for MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.
At a meeting of Ministers from Malaysia, Australia and the People’s Republic of China held on 22 July 2016, it was agreed that should the aircraft not be located in the current search area, and in the absence of credible new evidence leading to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, the search would be suspended upon completion of the current search area.
The Australian, Malaysian and Chinese governments issued a joint statement on 17 January 2017, that the search was suspended, but the decision was not taken lightly, or without sadness.
“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,” the statement said.
“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.”
Ministers have reiterated that this does not mean the termination of the search. Should credible new information emerge that can be used to identify the specific location of the aircraft, consideration will be given to determining next steps.