Australia, China and Malaysia have confirmed the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flights MH370 will not be extended beyond the current 120,000 square kilometre search zone.
The joint decision was announced at a meeting of officials from Australia, China and Malaysia just outside Kuala Lumpur on July 22.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said despite a number of aircraft parts that have been discovered in the two and a half years since the Boeing 777-200ER, 9M-MRO, disappeared enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, “none of it had provided information that positively identified the precise location of the aircraft”.
“With less than 10,000 square kilometres of the high priority search area remaining to be searched, Ministers acknowledged that despite the best efforts of all involved, the likelihood of finding the aircraft is fading,” Chester said in a statement.
“Ministers agreed that should the aircraft not be located in the current search area, and in the absence of credible new evidence leading to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, the search would not end, but be suspended upon completion of the 120,000 square kilometre search area.”
“The suspension does not mean the termination of the search. Ministers reiterated that the aspiration to locate MH370 has not been abandoned. 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.”
Chester said a further search beyond the 120,000 square kilometre area was “not currently viable” without credible new evidence.
“We have been mindful that any future search needs to have a high likelihood of success to justify raising the hopes of family and friends,” Chester said.
It could take until December 2016, or beyond, to complete the search of the remaining 10,000 square kilometres given the ongoing poor weather in the search region.
Malaysian Minister of Transport Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai chaired the Tripartite Meeting of ministers, which was also attended by Chester and the Chinese Minister of Transport the Hon. Yang Chuantang.
Meanwhile, New York magazine reported it had obtained a previously unreleased report from Malaysian police that showed the captain in command of MH370, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had flight simulator sessions where he flew an aircraft deep into the southern Indian Ocean less than a month before the flight vanished.
Zaharie performed those flights on a home-built flight simulator, the magazine said, adding that Malaysian investigators knew about the flight simulator sessions but withheld that information from its public report.