MH370 Remains `Agonizing Mystery' Two Years After Vanishing

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Malaysians Remember Flight MH370

A family member of a passenger of flight MH370 cries during an interview at the remembrance event for Malaysian Airlines MH370 on March 6, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Photographer: Mohd Samsul Mohd Said/Getty Images
  • Malaysia's Najib says still hopeful aircraft will be found
  • Nations to gather `to determine the way forward' if hunt fails

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said his government is committed to solving the “agonizing mystery” of Flight 370 as the country marks the second anniversary of the aircraft’s disappearance.

Vessels looking for the Malaysia Airlines jet are due to finish scouring 120,000 square kilometers (46,330 square miles) of southern Indian Ocean by mid-2016. If that search fails, officials from Malaysia, Australia and China will gather “to determine the way forward,” Najib said in a statement Tuesday.

Relatives of Flight 370 victims gather outside Lama Temple in Beijing.
Relatives of Flight 370 victims gather outside Lama Temple in Beijing.
Photographer: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

The Boeing Co. 777 that vanished from radar on March 8, 2014, en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur has become modern aviation’s biggest mystery. There has been no trace of the 239 people on board. Families of the victims, more than half of whom were Chinese, want the hunt to continue even if the current search comes up empty, while investigators say the hunt will end unless fresh clues are found.

In Beijing on Tuesday, about 30 relatives marked the day by praying at Lama Temple, one of the city’s most historic sites. Many families don’t believe their loved ones are dead because no bodies have been recovered. 

‘Return Peacefully’

Outnumbered by police, they chanted, “We won’t give up until you return my family members.” Some held placards showing a picture of a plane with the words, “Definitely will return peacefully.” The relatives later headed to Malaysia Airlines’ office in Beijing and the Malaysian embassy to demand more information.

Malaysia Airlines faces lawsuits over the incident. The families of 44 passengers -- 42 Chinese and two Americans -- filed for legal action in Malaysia to seek compensation, following similar proceedings in the U.S., their Kuala Lumpur-based law firm, Thomas Philip Advocates & Solicitors, said in a statement Tuesday.

Authorities still have little idea what took place in the cockpit or why the plane flew off course.

Last week, investigators began examining an object found on the coast of Mozambique that they suspect could be from the missing plane, according to a person familiar with the probe. If verified, that washed-up fragment would be only the second component ever found from MH370.

Wing Part

A barnacle-encrusted wing piece was discovered on Reunion Island in July 2015. The same resident who found that part came across another piece on Reunion last week, made of similar material, and turned it over to police, according to Agence France-Presse.

Thousands of miles to the east, the main search for the jet centers on a remote patch of Indian Ocean. About 90,000 square kilometers, or three-quarters of the area, have been scanned without success, the Australian government said Tuesday.

“The search has been the most challenging in aviation history,” Najib said in his statement. He said he was still “hopeful” the jet would be found in that area.

Wreckage on Africa’s east coast would indicate authorities are looking in the right place, Australia’s government said March 3. Analysis of ocean drift indicates debris from the crash could have reached the coast of Mozambique, the government said.

Military Radar

Two years ago, air-traffic controllers lost contact with MH370 less than an hour after takeoff as it approached Vietnam. Military radar showed the plane took a left turn and looped back across Malaysia.

Based on pings between the plane and a satellite, Australian investigators believe MH370 cruised south over the Indian Ocean before plunging into the water.

It’s very unlikely that anyone was in control of the plane when it hit the ocean, Martin Dolan, head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said in an interview last month. 

Analysis of the satellite-communication data suggests the plane was on auto-pilot until it ran out of fuel. It then probably banked left and spiraled into the ocean, Dolan said.

Safety Recommendations

A Malaysian-led investigation team is still working on conclusions and safety recommendations from the aircraft’s disappearance, according to a statement Tuesday. Malaysia will release a final report on the disaster if wreckage is found or the search is called off, the statement showed. 

The team’s eight areas of focus are: the flight’s diversion from its planned route; air traffic services; the profiles of the crew; the plane’s airworthiness and maintenance record; satellite communications; wreckage and impact; organization and management at Malaysia Airlines and the country’s civil aviation department; and the plane’s cargo.

“The document is meaningless. It doesn’t say anything new,” Zhang Lixia from Heilongjiang province, whose daughter was on the flight, said at the Lama Temple. “We want to know exactly what happened.”

— With assistance by Clement Tan, and Angus Whitley

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