Malaysia says private search for missing flight MH370 to end next week
The search by a private US company for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will end next week, Malaysia’s transport minister has said, while families of those who died onboard urged the government to review all matters related to the jet’s disappearance four years ago.
Malaysia signed a "no cure, no fee" deal with Texas-based Ocean Infinity in January to resume the hunt for the plane, a year after the official search in the southern Indian Ocean by Australia, Malaysia and China was called off.
So far, the search has not turned up anything that could shed light on one of the world’s biggest aviation mystery.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke said that the 90-day search deal with Ocean Infinity was due to end in April but was extended twice until May 29 following the firm’s request.
"There will be no more extensions. It cannot continue forever. Let’s wait until May 29 and we will then decide how to proceed," he told AP.
MH370 flight path
The plane vanished on 8 March, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Under the deal, the government will pay Ocean Infinity up to $70 million (£52m) based on the size of the area searched if the mission is successful within three months.
Officials have said there was an 85 per cent chance of finding the debris in a new 25,000-square-kilometer (9,650-square-mile) search area identified by experts.
The official search was extremely difficult because no transmissions were received from the aircraft after its first 38 minutes of flight.
MH370 captain 'deliberately evaded radar' during final moments of doomed flight
Systems designed to automatically transmit the flight’s position failed to work, according to a final report issued in January 2017 by the Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB).
Voice 370, which represents families of those aboard the flight, in a statement urged the new government to review all matters related to the jet’s disappearance including "any possible falsification" or elimination of maintenance records and any omission that may have impaired tracking, search, rescue and recovery of the plane.
Loke said the new government, which took power after the May 9 elections, is committed to transparency and will release details for public scrutiny in due time.
MH370 | The theories
Last week, aviation experts suggested MH370 Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah ‘deliberately evaded radar’ during the doomed flight’s final moments, however the ATSB has dismissed this theory.
A panel of experts assembled for the Australian TV programme 60 Minutes said the evidence suggests he executed a careful series of manoeuvres to evade detection and ensure the plane disappeared in a remote location.
Martin Dolan, former head of the ATSB, who led the two-year search for the missing plane, said: “This was planned, this was deliberate, and it was done over an extended period of time.”
Simon Hardy, a Boeing 777 instructor, said Captain Zaharie avoided detection by flying a careful course along the winding border between Malaysian and Thai air space, crossing in and out of radar cover on either side. “So both of the controllers aren’t bothered about this mysterious aircraft. Cause it’s, ‘Oh, it’s gone. It’s not in our space any more,’” he told the programme.
“If you were commissioning me to do this operation and try and make a 777 disappear, I would do exactly the same thing.”
He also pointed out the Malaysian captain had made an unexplained turn to fly over his home town of Penang. “Somebody was looking out the window. It might be a long, emotional goodbye or a short, emotional goodbye to his home town,” he said.
Larry Vance, a veteran air crash investigator, told the programme the public could be confident in a growing consensus about the plane’s final moments and that the pilot was intent on killing himself. “Unfortunately, he was killing everybody else on board, and he did it deliberately,” he added.
Theories about the plane’s disappearance being due to a “rogue pilot” emerged soon after the tragedy. Malaysian officials said they believed the plane went missing after a “deliberate act” and confirmed the last words heard from the cockpit were "good night Malaysian three seven zero".
It’s unknown whether the sentence was spoken by Captain Zaharie or the co-pilot, 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid.
However no conclusive evidence has ever been found that one or both of the pilots deliberately steered the aircraft into the ocean.