Learning the lessons of ill-fated flight MH370
The Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared three years ago, but the likelihood of a recurrence is slim given that steps have now been taken to monitor flights throughout their journey
Pragmatism has prompted a suspension of the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Almost three years has passed since the Boeing 777-200 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew disappeared and what became of the plane remains as much a mystery now as then. Suspected wreckage has been found on African beaches and tens of millions of dollars have been spent combing 120,000 square kilometres of the floor of the southern Indian Ocean, to no avail; it is time for a different approach. The anguish and continuing hope of relatives of those aboard are understandable, but there is also a need for being practical and realistic.
Those involved did their best given the circumstances. The search team, involving China, Malaysia and Australia, used cutting-edge science and technology, the latest undersea equipment and advice from experts. They now believe an area of 25,000 square kilometres to the north is more likely to yield results. The last ship has returned to dock and the investigation will now revert to sifting through data with no certainty on when or whether searchers will return to sea.
This is not what the families, most of them Chinese, want to hear. They seek closure and that will not be possible until the plane is found. They wonder why the search cannot shift to the new area, some contend a more thorough operation should have been conducted and a few cling to the belief that their loved ones are still alive.
Air travel is extremely safe; the industry has responded to accidents by improving rules, regulations and procedures. What happened to MH370 is not known and until the wreckage and black box recorders are found and examined, it will remain that way. But changes have already been made or are planned, the focus being on ensuring aircraft can be tracked throughout flights, no matter where in the world they are. That is no comfort to the families, but assures that in coming years, there will be little possibility of a plane again vanishing without a trace.