A joint communique by the Australia, Malaysia and China search partners says the last ship has left the sea floor search area for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the south Indian Ocean.

The communique says:

“Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modelling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft.

“Accordingly, the underwater search for MH370 has been suspended.”

It can be read in full here.

MH370 vanished as a transponder identified flight on air-traffic control screens on March 8, 2014, while over the Gulf of Thailand on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people onboard.

There are many festering issues that remain unresolved at this stage of the greatest mystery in the history of aviation.

At their heart is the lying and callous indifference of the Malaysian authorities and its national flag carrier on the night of the disappearance and the days immediately afterwards.

According to Malaysia’s own censored interim or preliminary investigation into the crash, published on May 1, 2014, only two or three attempts were made to call the company satellite phone in the cockpit of the Boeing 777-200ER after it vanished.

No calls were made to the hundreds of ships that would have been under or near the known path taken by the missing jet before radar contact was finally lost when it was off the southern coastline of Thailand apparently headed further into the Andaman Sea.

No calls were made to any kampongs, police stations or resort staff that might have noticed anything unusual in the night sky that night.

Security and safety operatives in other airlines expressed utter amazement at the indifference of the authorities and the airline, one saying “had it been one of our jets we would have pressed buttons calling the cockpit, and everyone else, until our finger tips bled”.

Had Malaysia Airlines engaged itself in such no doubt inconvenient middle-of-the-night obligations it would have actually generated, via unanswered calls to the satellite phone, a much better set of satellite data with which to try and reconstruct the course of MH370.

[Is this the moment when MH370’s pilots realised all was lost?]

But “no”, it failed to even convene an emergency response team until after MH370 was due to have landed at Beijing. The Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak insisted that the early search partners for floating or grounded wreckage from MH370 look deeper into the South China Sea, or across central Asia, or in western Indian islands and waters, at a time when his acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein said cabinet knew the jet had likely diverted westwards across the Malaysia Peninsula.

This seemingly scandalous behavior has had all sorts of apologies made on its behalf, but something continues to stink to high heaven in Kuala Lumpur as to the motives, knowledge and actions of the authorities and Malaysia Airlines at that and subsequent times.

While the overwhelming focus has been on the Australian-managed search for MH370, at the direction of Kuala Lumpur, profoundly important questions remain unanswered about the context of the flight and the ineptitude of the those concerned in making truthful and timely disclosures to next of kin and the media.

But it seems that authority and power in Malaysia don’t answer such questions, and appear to have taken the view that the only narrative that applies is the one they offer, with all its vaguenesses and inconsistencies.

The indifference and lack of professionalism at the top of Malaysia Airlines extended to its permitting one of its flights, MH17, to be flown through airspace, claimed by Ukraine to be safe, on July 17, 2014, where 16 aircraft had been shot down in hostilities in the proceeding weeks.

On that day, all 298 people on MH17 were killed by a missile strike identified by a Dutch Safety Board (DSB) report as having been a Russian made BUK missile. The hunt for the perpetrators continues, but if the actual written findings of the DSB are taken seriously, they must include the management of Malaysia Airlines for its gross neglect of the safety of passengers aboard that flight, also operated by a Boeing 777-200ER.

There are a lot of rent-seekers and ratbags attempting to associate themselves with the loss of MH370. The hard facts are comparatively few, the difficulties in finding the sunk wreckage of the jet are immense, and the official Malaysia narratives severely lacking in credibility in the earlier stages of the mystery.

If work commissioned by the search partners in Australia is carefully considered, the possibility that MH370 broke up into many fragments as it dived toward the surface of the sea on March 8, 2014 is deeply troubling.

The wreckage could be more dispersed — and on an often deep, complex and silty ocean floor — than anticipated earlier in the search. The highly professional and thorough sea floor search relied on sonar scan returns from towfish to identify objects that may form part of a debris field and merit closer search by autonomous and tethered vehicles able to get near enough to read letters, identify the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, and resolve the likes of window and seat frames.

But there may not be a coherent debris field. The risk that MH370 debris has been overlooked may be small, but it exists.

There are recovered fragments of MH370 which offer some plausible insights into the force with which it struck the water, the configuration of some control surfaces, and even the extent to which seat fabric was ripped off the surrounds of coat hooks on the back of seats.

Much careful analysis and research has been done by the Independent Group or IG, by wreckage sleuths like Blaine Gibson, and by Michael Gilbert, who has made some unsettling discoveries about MH370 and its airframe, which support a scenario involving a short, intense cockpit fire and a heroic attempt by the wounded pilots to save the flight.

But one day, somehow, someone may solve the riddles of MH370 by finding the missing flight data and cockpit sound recorders. If that day is too far in the future, then of course, no one will be alive with any connection to the forgotten mystery of MH370 and the significance of such a find will not be recognised.

The sea will have kept yet another secret. The surging waves and the howling winds will hide the perpetual darkness of the depths where MH370’s remains become dissolved into the geological record. A world those alive today cannot even begin to imagine will have moved on.

*This article was originally published on Crikey blog Plane Talking

Peter Fray

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