Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 search comes to an end

Malaysian government promises to release long-awaited report on missing plane

A woman leaves a message of support for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370, in central Kuala Lumpur. File photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

A woman leaves a message of support for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370, in central Kuala Lumpur. File photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

 

Malaysia’s new government has promised to release a long-awaited report into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, as a privately-funded underwater search ended on Tuesday.

Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, vanished en-route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8th, 2014, becoming one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.

The government of prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week that US seabed exploration firm Ocean Infinity, which had scoured the southern Indian Ocean for the aircraft since January, would end its hunt on Tuesday.

The previous administration of Najib Razak, who was defeated in a stunning election upset on May 9th, had promised up to $70 million (about €61 million) to the Texas-based firm if it found the plane within 90 days.

Malaysia’s transport minister, Anthony Loke, said a full report into MH370’s disappearance would be published in the near future, but he did not give a date.

“I can assure you the final report will be published with full disclosure. There will not be any edits, or anything hidden,” he told reporters late on Monday.

Asked whether the report would refer to controversial elements of the MH370 case, he said: “To me, whatever elements, we will just publish it.”

Home simulator

Last year, Australian authorities said the MH370 captain had flown a route on his home simulator six weeks before the disappearance that was “initially similar” to the course actually taken by the aircraft.

Peter Foley, who led the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s search efforts for the plane, told an Australian senate hearing “control inputs” had been made to fly the airliner off course, but he could not say if one of the pilots had done so.

Malaysian investigators said in 2015 they had found nothing suspicious in the financial, medical or personal histories of the pilots or crew.

The decision to engage Ocean Infinity came after Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless $159 million search across a 120,000sq km expanse of the Indian Ocean last year.

This was despite investigators calling for the target area to be extended north by 25,000sq km.

Ocean Infinity chief executive Oliver Plunkett said on Tuesday their team had searched more than 112,000sq km of ocean floor in a little over three months.

While the outcome was “extremely disappointing”, Mr Plunkett hoped the company would be able to offer its services again in a future search for the airliner.

Asked if China would consider further funding for the search, or whether search organisations had asked China for more resources, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had always maintained close communication with the relevant parties.

“We will continue to maintain communication with relevant parties,” she told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Relatives’ group

Voice 370, a group representing the relatives of those aboard the flight, has pressed the new Malaysian government to review all matters related to MH370, including “any possible falsification or elimination of records related to MH370 and its maintenance”.

Calvin Shim, whose wife was a crew member on the plane, said he was concerned that the accident report would not include key information such as the plane’s full cargo manifest and the results of a separate investigation by Malaysian police.

“We know that this issue is already four-years -old and a lot of people involved want closure,” he said.

“These four years have not been fun to us, the families.”

Australia’s deputy prime minister Michael McCormack said the search had tested the limits of technology and the capacity of experts.

He said it would only resume if there was “credible evidence which identifies a specific location of the missing aircraft”.

“We will always remain hopeful that one day the aircraft will be located,” Mr McCormack’s office said in a statement.

The only confirmed traces of the plane have been three wing fragments found washed up on Indian Ocean coasts. – Reuters