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“Unacceptable… for such a large commercial aircraft to be missing”

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It’s been three and a half years since Malaysian Airlines flight 370 vanished. Investigators say it is “inconceivable” that we still have no idea what happened to the plane, the passengers or the crew.

Despite speculation, conspiracy theories, extensive searches, data analysis, books and pressure from the families of the missing passengers, almost nothing is still know all these years later.

In January this year, the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China called off the search after more than 1,000 days of searching more than 700,000 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean.

The flight vanished, quite literally vanished, after departing from KL on a routine flight to Beijing in March 2014.

In its final report on the unsuccessful search for the missing Boeing 777 the Australian Transport Safety Bureau says “the reasons for the loss of MH370 cannot be established with certainty until the aircraft is found.

“It is almost inconceivable and certainly societally unacceptable in the modern aviation era with 10 million passengers boarding commercial aircraft every day, for such 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.”

The report has exhaustively documented the many efforts taken to find the plane. Most significantly, a long term underwater search over many years involving many countries providing resources, equipment and expertise.

Phuket had two small side stories related to the disappearance of the plane.

Firstly, in the days following initial reports of the missing plane it was discovered that two of the men on the flight were carrying passports that had been stolen in Phuket just months before.

Phuket stolen passports may unravel missing Malaysian flight mystery

Phuket Gazette World News: Interpol says use of stolen passports on Malaysian flight ‘of great concern’

And then a few month later I was reporting about a yacht that had been sailing from India to Phuket, and approximately under the alleged flightpath assumed by investigators at the time, reported seeing ‘a plane on fire in the sky’ but didn’t contact anyone about it at the time and certainly had no knowledge of the missing plane before they arrived in Phuket.

“I thought I saw MH370 on fire,’ says Phuket yachtie

These two side-show stories were just a tiny part of a much larger puzzle that still baffles aviation experts – how such a large, sophisticated piece of modern aviation equipment could simply vanish, leaving so few clues that virtually nothing is known about the fate of the passengers.

MH370 departed from KLIA early on March 8, 2014 heading for Beijing on a routine flight that would take it out across the Gulf of Thailand and then over the South China Sea. Within hours it had stopped communicating, then completely vanished from radar after it made an unplanned and seemingly random bank to the west of the flightpath. The Boeing 777 was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew.

An intensive scan through satellite pings and scant external flight data funnelled the search for the plane on the seas off the western coast of Australia. Analysis of the last satellite readings from the missing plane showed it appeared to be spiralling fast towards the sea when it stopped transmitting.

But not a single clue has been discovered after years of extremely detailed undersea searching.

Debris that was confirmed to come from the missing aircraft has washed up along the eastern coast of Africa and beaches of Indian Ocean islands. Even these important clues have done little to provide anything other than hints that the aircraft has probably fallen into the Indian Ocean, somewhere.

Relatives of the missing passengers, mostly Chinese, refuse to give up on the missing flight and have say they plan to continue the search through a private company.

 

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2011. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for 42 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program (public radio Australia), presented over 11,000 radio news bulletins, 3,950 in Thailand alone, hosted 1050 daily TV news programs and produced 2,100 videos, TV commercials and documentaries. He also reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and other major stories in Thailand.

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