Where is MH370? Malaysia's new deadline to end the search for missing jet

One year after the crash, no traces of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have been found. Malaysia government says it will go "back to drawing board" if MH370 is not found by May.

Joshua Paul/AP
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tong Lai gestures during an interview ahead of the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

A year after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, with all 239 passengers en route to Beijing, there has yet to be a trace of the Boeing 777.

Malaysia’s transport minister Liow Tiong Lai said that while he remains hopeful that the search for MH370  in the southern Indian Ocean will produce results, they will be forced to “go back to the drawing board” if nothing is recovered by the end of May.

The news comes almost exactly a year after the aircraft disappeared, which occurred on March 8, 2014. In January, the Malaysian government formally declared the the case an accident and the 239 passengers are presumed deceased.

The mysterious disappearance of the aircraft has prompted the industry to look hard at how to track jets when over the open sea. Airlines and regulators spent the past year debating how much flight tracking is necessary, balancing the economic costs against reassuring travelers another plane won't disappear. Now a plan is moving forward that would require airlines, by the end of 2016, to know their jets' positions every 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, the search for MH370 continues. Australia, China, and Malaysia have been scouring a 23,166-square-mile (60,000-square-kilometer) section of the southern Indian Ocean in search of debris. Thus far, they have covered about 44 percent of the area, and in that time have discovered multiple hard objects, 10 of which still need to be analyzed. However, the common discoveries have to this point been cargo containers fallen from passing ships and garbage. No trace of the missing plane has been found.

“I can't promise that the search will go on at this intensity forever,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Thursday, reported the Associated Press. "[W]e will continue our very best efforts to resolve this mystery and provide some answers."

The investigation teams released an interim report to the Malaysian government today on the findings of the last year’s search for MH370. They will publicly release the report Sunday, March 8, the one-year anniversary of the disappearance. Some of the missing passengers’ next-of-kin are questioning the government's decision to release the report at this time, which will occur a few hours before a remembrance ceremony.

Grace Subathirai Nathan, the daughter of missing MH370 passenger Anne Catherine Daisy, said that she was disappointed that the government did not consider the effect it would have on those whose loved ones were involved in the incident.

“We are in so much pain at this time that we still have no news of our loved ones,” the 26-year-old lawyer told Malay Mail Online. “What is the value of releasing this report on the 8th, minutes before the official start time of our [next-of-kin]  event . . . Can’t they release it on the 9th?”

The event is scheduled to take place at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, and will include two live-link sessions to connect with others across the world, including those in Australia, New Zealand, and France.

Liow said the interim report is a requirement under international civil aviation regulations and did not comment further on the timing, reported the Associated Press. He said the report will outline what actions the Malaysian government has taken in the search, such as plans to upgrade its radar systems and a new tracking system on Malaysia Airline flights, which will send information every 15 minutes rather than the current 30 to 40 minutes. The radar system plans were underway before the MH370 incident occurred, and the government has allocated 700 million ringgit – or $190 million – to improve the radar.

Next month, Australia, Malaysia, and China will meet to discuss future plans for the search.

“By the end of May, if we still can’t find the plane, then we will have to go back to the drawing board,” Liow said.

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