MALAYSIA Airlines Flight MH370 became the world’s greatest aviation mystery when it disappeared without a trace flying from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Beijing, China, in March 2014.
Analysis of the plane’s last moments have suggested it crashed at high speed without a pilot in control. Here is the latest on MH370 and the search…
Why was the search called off?
The missing aircraft, which was carrying 239 passengers and crew, vanished on March 8, 2014 – with researchers saying they had been looking in the wrong place.
Despite experts never having found the body of any of its passengers, the hunt for MH370 was set to end after nearly three years.
On January 17, 2017, it was officially suspended by officials in Australia.
Only 33 pieces of wreckage were found during the hunt, which saw investigators searching the deep sea areas near to the suspected crash site in the Indian Ocean, and scanning the water from the air.
News the search teams had abandoned their mission saw a series of conspiracy theories resurface – so here are the key facts about the missing plane.
On the third anniversary of when MH370 went missing, the Australian government minister in charge of the suspended seabed search for the Malaysia Airlines jet told victims’ families and friends at an anniversary church service that he remained hopeful that the plane would be found.
Darren Chester, minister for infrastructure and transport, said: “While to date we have been unsuccessful, we remain hopeful that at some stage in the future, there will be a breakthrough, the aircraft will be found, and we will be able to answer more of your questions.”
The Malaysian Government added: “We remain ever hopeful that we will be able to find the answers we seek when the credible evidence becomes available.”
What happened on March 8, 2014?
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur carrying 239 people on board.
They included Chinese calligraphers, a couple on their way home to their young sons after a long-delayed honeymoon and a construction worker who hadn’t been home in a year.
The plane had recorded 7,525 take-offs and landings as well as 53,420 flight hours when it made its last journey.
The MH370 Boeing was seen for the last time on military radar at 2.14am, close to the south of Phuket island in the Strait of Malacca.
Before that, Malaysian authorities believe the last words heard from the plane, from either the pilot or co-pilot, was “Good night Malaysian three seven zero”.
Half an hour later, the airline lost contact with the plane. It had been due to land at around 6.30am.
The search and rescue: What happened next?
Evidence from a military radar suggested the plane had suddenly changed course.
Dozens of rescue planes and ships moved their search efforts to the sea west of Malaysia before the country’s Prime Minister Najib Razak claimed MH370 had been deliberately diverted by someone on board.
He added that they believed it had continued flying for more than six hours after losing contact with air control.
In the end, the search spanned to almost three million square mile – which is 1.5 per cent of the earth’s surface.
A week after disappearing satellite images of possible debris appeared to suggest that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean, south-west of Australia.
But the search for the black box in this area was abandoned after nothing was found.
Now it seems that the search took place in the wrong location.
An international investigation revealed that the search area needs to be extended to an untouched 25,000 kilometre square area in the southern Indian Ocean.
In April 2017, a report by Australia’s national science body CSIRO supported the theory that the plane’s wreckage was north of the original search area. The report used data and analysis from ocean testing of an actual Boeing 777 flaperon.
At the end of August 2017, a diplomat investigating the doomed flight was shot dead in Madagascar’s capital in what is being called an assassination.
American adventurer-detective Blaine Gibson, who has been gathering suspected MH370 debris as it washes up on Madagascar and Mozambique, said Mr Raza had been due to deliver new items to Malaysian investigators in Kuala Lumpur.
When was debris from the plane discovered?
On July 29, 2015 – more than a year after the plane’s disappearance – debris was found by volunteers cleaning a beach in St Andre, Reunion.
A week later investigators confirmed the debris did belong to MH370, but it did not help to locate the plane as it had drifted in the water.
On October 7, 2017, it was announced that two wing flaps found in Mauritius came from missing flight.
Some shocked relatives found it difficult to believe that this was genuinely debris from the plane.
They said they think their loved ones are still alive and are being held at “an undisclosed location for unknown reasons.”
In August 2017, Australia released satellite imagery which it said showed 12 objects which were probably man-made floating near the suspected crash site.
The images were captured by a French military satellite two weeks after MH370 vanished, but were never released to the public.
If correct the French photographs point to an impact site in part of the Indian Ocean which was not originally searched, supporting the CSIRO April report.
What has MH370’s debris revealed?
The wing flaps showed that the plane was not in a landing position when it plunged into the ocean, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.
If the pilot was planning a controlled ditching of the plane, the wing flaps would have been configured for landing.
As this was not the case, a report by the bureau concluded that the aircraft appeared to be “out of control” during its final journey.
Chief search operator Peter Foley said: “You can never be 100%. We are very reluctant to express absolute certainty.
“You can draw your own conclusions as to whether that means someone was in control.”
If someone had been controlling the plane it could have glided much further than thought – meaning rescuers could have been searching the wrong area.
More than 20 bits of debris suspected or confirmed to be from MH370 have washed ashore on coastlines throughout the Indian Ocean.
However, a deep-sea sonar search for the main underwater wreckage found nothing.
What are the theories about the fate of MH370?
1) Russian president Vladimir Putin was accused of being involved in the hijacking of MH370. by a US Science writer.
Jeff Wise claimed Putin “spoofed” the plane’s navigation data so it could fly unnoticed into Baikonur Cosmodrome so he could “hurt the West”.
2) French ex-airline director Marc Dugain accused the US military of shooting down the plane because they feared it had been hijacked.
A book called Flight MH370 – The Mystery also suggested that it had been shot down accidentally by US-Thai joint jet fighters during a military exercise and covered it up.
3) Malaysia police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar suggested that the crash could have been suicide.
He said that someone on-board could have taken out a large life insurance package before getting on the plane, so they could treat their family or pay back the money they owed.
What has the final report said?
In October 2017, Australian investigators delivered thier final report into MH370’s disappearance and the subsequent search.
The Australian Safety Bureau (ATSB) – the agency which coordinated the search has said the fact the plane has yet to be found is a “great tragedy”.
ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood: “I hope, however, that they can take some solace in the fact that we did all we could do to find answers.”
The report states that while the plane has yet to be found, the hugely expensive search, the most expensive in aviation history, has managed to rule out large areas of the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia.
The report said: “The underwater search has eliminated most of the high probability areas yielded by reconstructing the aircraft’s flight path and the debris drift studies conducted in the past 12 months have identified the most likely area with increasing precision.”