Thursday (Mar 8) marks the day when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished without a trace four years ago in the southern Indian Ocean.
The disappearance of the Boeing 777 passenger jetliner, which has since been dubbed the world’s greatest aviation mystery, continues to baffle aviation experts as major search operations to locate the aircraft have drawn a nil.
Flight MH370 with 239 people on board vanished from the radar screen while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Mar 8, 2014.
Early this year, no concrete evidence was forthcoming from an operation conducted by a United States-based seabed exploration company which was given the official mandate to locate the debris of the missing aircraft as it began scouring a search area of over 16,000 sq km.
Except for an announcement from the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation that the operation will be extended until June.
However, aviation specialists viewed the extension of the operation as an optimistic initiative by the authorities in resolving what appears to be a kind of a whodunnit mystery.
According to Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) test pilot Prof Dr Mohd Harridon Mohamed Suffian, high hopes are currently placed on the exploration company’s Seabed Constructor that is the only vessel given the official mandate to locate the MH370 wreckage.
“However, there are also independent organisations which are still conducting research to pinpoint more accurately the location of the aircraft. Although not involving a physical search, it provides alternative perspectives to the search efforts.
“An interesting thing is that sailors in the Indian Ocean have also agreed to informally share information on debris found from the wreckage, giving hope to the families of the victims involved,” he told Bernama.
On Jan 11, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai announced that under an agreement with the US-based seabed exploration company, Ocean Infinity Limited, the search operation for MH370 would resume in mid-January with the Seabed Constructor vessel covering a 25,000 sq km area within 90 days.
The ship’s primary mission is to locate the wreckage, and/or both flight recorders, cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder.
In the search operation that is based on the 'no cure, no fee' policy, the payment would only be made when the debris of the missing aircraft is found and confirmed by a third party.
However, Mohd Harridon noted that if the aircraft could still not be located by June, among necessary measures that needed to be carried out included returning to the analysis stage to conduct a more detailed investigation on MH370's last location.
“It is also hoped that MH370 can become a case study for mathematicians to locate the aircraft's last whereabouts using limited information available,” he said, adding that he believed closure of the incident was important to the families of the victims, as well as for the aviation industry to identify the actual cause of the tragedy to prevent a recurrence.
Meanwhile, another aviation specialist, Captain Abdul Rahmat Omar Tun Mohd Haniff said the Indian Ocean involved a massive area and it was a daunting task for the search team to provide an accurate location, especially with the absence of an accurate signal to show the location of the crash.
Commenting on the alternative action plan if the aircraft was not found by June, the former Royal Malaysian Air Force investigating officer said the matter would be further discussed between the government and the search team.
Australia, Malaysia and China jointly suspended a two-year underwater search for the aircraft in January last year. No sign of the plane was found in the 120,000 sq km search area in the southern Indian Ocean.
So far, only three confirmed fragments of MH370 have been found on the western Indian Ocean shores, including a two-metre wing part known as flaperon.