MH370 report: Missing plane mystery 'unacceptable'

A report on the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 says the ongoing mystery over plane's fate is "unacceptable" and "almost inconceivable" in the modern era. The jet had 239 people onboard when it vanished in 2014.

Australian authorities said in their final report on Tuesday that despite an exhaustive search, they still could not pinpoint the plane's exact location or the reason for its disappearance.   

The Beijing-bound flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, vanished shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014, sparking a massive ocean search.

An massive international search in the Indian Ocean found no trace of the plane

The nearly three-year international search effort covering thousands of square kilometers in the southern Indian Ocean failed to find the Boeing 777. The hunt, led by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), was ultimately called off in January, despite protest from families of the lost.

"The reasons for the loss of MH370 cannot be established with certainty until the aircraft is found," the ATSB wrote in its 440-page report detailing the 1,046-day search.

"It is almost inconceivable and certainly societally unacceptable in the modern aviation era with 10 million passengers boarding commercial aircraft every day, for a large commercial aircraft to be missing and for the world not to know with certainty what became of the aircraft and those on board," it said.

Largest search in history

Experts involved in the search initially had little information to work with. No transmissions from the aircraft were received after its first 38 minutes of flight. Authorities believe the jet flew off course for around seven hours before going down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

The search for the plane was the largest of its kind in history, the bureau said in its report. Teams scoured several million square kilometers of ocean surface off Australia's west coast before conducting an underwater search across 710,000 square kilometers (274,000 square miles) of Indian Ocean seafloor at depths of up to 6,000 meters (20,000 feet).

"The understanding of where MH370 may be located is better now than it has ever been. The underwater search has eliminated most of the high probability areas," the ATSB said.

"We...deeply regret that we have not been able to locate the aircraft, nor those 239 souls on board that remain missing."

Officials search the shore of Reunion after the discovery of a MH370 wing fragment there in August, 2015

The ATSB said analysis of satellite imagery, ocean drift studies and the discovery of debris from the plane that washed up on western Indian Ocean shores in 2015 and 2016 had provided more clues about "the most likely area" the plane ended up.

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Narrowing down the area

A review carried out last year identified an area of less than 25,000 square kilometers (9,650 square miles) — roughly the size of Macedonia — to the north of the initial search zone that "has the highest likelihood of containing MH370."

The ATSB noted that although the Australian-led mission had ended, Malaysia's government was "continuing work on their investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the loss of MH370." In August, Kuala Lumpur received an offer from a private seabed exploration firm to resume the search.

The Australian government has said it will only get involved in further searches if prompted by "credible" new evidence.

nm/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

Flight MH370: Families won't give up

Until the plane is found

The search for the wreckage mustn't be called off, said Grace Nathan (left) shortly before she flew to Madagascar. Her mother was on board flight MH370. The official search is due to be abandoned in February 2017 if nothing is found before then. Relatives of those on board are protesting. "We'll pay for it ourselves," Nathan said. "The search must go on."

Flight MH370: Families won't give up

Where did the plane crash?

In March 2014, for reasons that are still unclear, MH370 deviated from its course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and flew south for hours without making radio contact. Investigators believe that the Boeing with 239 people on board went down over the Indian Ocean when its fuel ran out. Experts disagree as to the precise location of the crash.

Flight MH370: Families won't give up

The voice of MH370

Some of the passengers' relatives have formed a group called "Voice370." They are critical of the official proceedings. They say "no systematic, organized search" is taking place in the western Indian Ocean, although pieces of wreckage thought to be part of the plane have been found there. Seven of the relatives are now heading to Madagascar, where they themselves plan to search until December 11.

Flight MH370: Families won't give up

120,000 square kilometers and still no sign

The official search is concentrating on an area of 120,000 kilometers in the southern Indian Ocean. Australia, Malaysia and China are taking part in what is one of the biggest search operations in aviation history. There's been talk of calling it off since the middle of 2016.

Flight MH370: Families won't give up

Concrete evidence

On 29 July 2015, a wing flap about two meters long washed up on the tropical French island of La Reunion. The wreckage was subsequently identified as part of the missing Boeing 777. Other possible pieces of wreckage have been found in Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and on the island of Mauritius.

Flight MH370: Families won't give up

Passengers declared dead

At the end of January 2015, Malaysia's civil aviation authority officially classified the unresolved incident an "accident" and declared all 239 people on board dead. But many people don't believe it really was an accident. Relatives have been demonstrating publicly - as here, in China - because they don't feel they're being given all the information.

Flight MH370: Families won't give up

Pilot suicide?

In July 2015 the New York Magazine reported that a few weeks before the disaster the captain had practiced - on a flight simulator - the route the passenger jet is believed to have taken over the southern Indian Ocean. The magazine cited confidential records from the Malaysian police probe. Despite this discovery, the plane's disappearance remains one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.