SYDNEY • The Australian authorities said they deeply regret not finding the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and the ongoing mystery is "unacceptable", in their final report on the unsuccessful search.
"The reasons for the loss of MH370 cannot be established with certainty until the aircraft is found," the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said in the report published yesterday.
"It is almost inconceivable and certainly societally unacceptable in the modern aviation era... for a large commercial aircraft to be missing and for the world not to know with certainty what became of the aircraft and those on board."
The disappearance on March 8, 2014, of the Boeing 777 with 239 people on board, on a flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, has become one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries.
It is thought to have been diverted thousands of kilometres off course out over the southern Indian Ocean before crashing off the coast of Western Australia.
Australia, Malaysia and China called off a A$200 million (S$213 million) 21/2-year fruitless search, led by Canberra, for the plane in January, despite the protests of families of those on board.
It is almost inconceivable and certainly societally unacceptable in the modern aviation era... for a large commercial aircraft to be missing and for the world not to know with certainty what became of the aircraft and those on board.
THE AUSTRALIAN TRANSPORT SAFETY BUREAU, in its final report yesterday.
The initial search zone was 60,000 sq km but was doubled in April 2015. Following the underwater search, a re-analysis of satellite imagery had narrowed the plane's likely resting place to an area of less than 25,000 sq km, the ATSB said.
Australia's main scientific agency said in August that it believed with "unprecedented precision and certainty" that the plane crashed north-east of the search zone. But those findings were dismissed by the Australian government at the time as not specific enough, and the search has not been reopened. Doing so depends on finding credible, new evidence about the plane's whereabouts.
The ATSB report detailed the unsuccessful 1,046-day hunt for the plane, above and below the surface of the Indian Ocean, and scientific analyses of satellite pictures, sea currents and even barnacles found clinging to a piece of the plane found on Reunion Island.
"The understanding of where MH370 may be located is better now than it has ever been. The underwater search has eliminated most of the high-probability areas," the ATSB said.
"We deeply regret that we have not been able to locate the aircraft, nor those 239 souls on board that remain missing."
The report recommended that aircraft and aircraft equipment makers consider providing better methods of automated satellite tracking for planes if they encounter problems during flight in future.
Malaysia has continued to investigate the mystery and in August said it received an offer from a private seabed exploration firm, Ocean Infinity, to resume the search.
In releasing the ATSB's final report, the bureau's chief commissioner Greg Hood offered his condolences to the families and friends of all the 239 people who were lost.
"I hope, however, that they can take some solace in the fact that we did all we could do to find answers. Governments from around the world contributed to the search, with extraordinary expertise committed to the task."