The hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will be suspended – but not shut down completely – if the current search operation fails to find the plane.
A statement issued to relatives said for the first time that despite the best efforts of the search operation, which is scouring the Indian Ocean off Australia, the likelihood of finding the aircraft is now fading.Ministers from Malaysia, China and Australia have met in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the future of the search in one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.
It has been agreed that if the plane is not found in the current search area, and without any new information about its possible location, the hunt for the plane ‘would not end, but be suspended’.Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said: ‘In the absence of new evidence, Malaysia, Australia and China have collectively decided to suspend the search upon completion of the 120,000 square kilometre search area. ‘Should credible new information emerge which can be used to identify the specific location of the aircraft, consideration will be given in determining next steps.’
The families of the missing passengers and crew have called for the operation to continue.MH370 disappeared during a flight from the Malaysian capital to Beijing in March 2014, with 239 people on board. Family members have pleaded for the search operation to carry on.
Investigators believe the plane was deliberately flown thousands of miles off course before crashing into the southern Indian Ocean off Australia. Malaysian investigators said last year there was nothing suspicious in the financial, medical or personal histories of the pilots or crew.
Searchers at the Dutch company leading the underwater hunt have said they believe the plane may have glided down to the sea rather than dived, meaning they have been scouring the wrong part of the ocean.
It is the first time officials directly involved in the search have lent some support to contested theories that someone was in control during the flight’s final moments. Grace Nathan, a spokeswoman for the group Voice370, which represents the passengers’ next-of-kin, said the search must go on until the aircraft is found, in order to ensure aviation safety lessons can be learnt.’We don’t want the suspension to be just a way to let everyone calm down and slowly forget about it,’ she said.’We want them to be doing something in the interim to look for new information.’More than $170m has been spent on an underwater search spanning 120,000 sq km in the southern Indian Ocean, the most expensive operation in aviation history.
A few pieces of debris confirmed to be from the Boeing 777 have washed up on islands thousands of miles from the search zone, but they have failed to shed light on the mystery.The search was originally scheduled to end in June and has been hampered by bad weather.