MH370 still a mystery after largest search in aviation history
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MH370 still a mystery after largest search in aviation history

AUSTRALIAN authorities on Tuesday released their final report into the search for lost Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (MH370) which has failed to locate the aircraft after several years, millions of dollars and the “extraordinary efforts” of hundreds of people.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report said that it “deeply regret[s]” not being able to locate the plane or the 239 people on board, and shares the “profound and prolonged grief” of the families of those who are missing.

MH370 disappeared during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China on 8 March 2014, along with 227 passengers and 12 crew. There was no contact with the aircraft after just 38 minutes of the flight, however analysis has shown the plane flew for another seven hours.

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A member of staff at satellite communications company Inmarsat poses in front of a section of the screen showing the southern Indian Ocean to the west of Australia, at their headquarters in London March 25, 2014. Source: Reuters/Andrew Winning

“It is almost inconceivable and certainly societally unacceptable in this modern aviation age with 10 million passengers boarding commercial aircraft every day, for a large commercial aircraft to be lost and for the families of those on board not to know with certainty what became of the aircraft nor those on board,” read the ATSB report.

Authorities from Malaysia, Australia and China agreed to call off the US$160 million search for the plane in January 2017 after more than 1000 days.

The last known position of MH370 – identified at the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra – hundreds of kilometres off the route it should have taken.

In August, the Australian government said two reports from the from Geoscience Australia and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), which analysed satellite imagery taken two weeks after the disappearance of MH370, suggested the possible location of the missing Boeing 777.

According to the ATSB this week, “the initial surface search and the subsequent underwater search for the missing aircraft have been the largest searches of their type in aviation history.” The underwater search mapped 710,000 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean seafloor.

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Support messages and prayers for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 2014. Source: Shutterstock

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Nevertheless, the ATSB reported that there was “very limited data” available to those conducting the search, limited to satellite communications metadata for the final six hours of flight and long-term debris drift modelling to trace where parts of the MH370 had come from.

Debris from the plane had been adrift for more than a year and sometimes almost two years, it said.

Australia has maintained that as the state of registry for the missing aircraft, Malaysia retains authority and responsibility for any future search.

“The Government of Malaysia is continuing work on their investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the loss of MH370,” said the ATSB’s report.

US-based seabed exploration firm Ocean Infinity in August offered to continue looking for MH370 at no cost to the Malaysian taxpayer unless the wreckage was found.