Malaysia: Jet mystery may never be solved – USA TODAY
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia investigators said Wednesday they may never find out why a Malaysia Airlines jetliner vanished without a trace more than three weeks ago as search planes and ships scoured the Indian Ocean for wreckage.
“Investigations may go on and on and on. We have to clear every little thing,” Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar said.
“At the end of the investigations, we may not even know the real cause. We may not even know the reason for this incident,” he said.
His assessment follows an announcement Tuesday by Australian officials that Flight 370 and its 239 people on board may never be found.
The Boeing 777 disappeared from civilian radar March 8 about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The plane’s transponders, which make the plane visible to civilian radar, had been shut off deliberately, Malaysian investigators believe.
Military radar picked up the jet just under an hour later well west of its intended flight path. Authorities say that until then its movements were consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.
Police are investigating the pilots and crew for any evidence suggesting they may have hijacked or sabotaged the plane. The backgrounds of the passengers, two-thirds of whom were Chinese, have been checked by local and international investigators and nothing suspicious has been found.
They are also checking on provider of the food delivered to the plane before takeoff, to eliminate the possibility that it had been poisoned, Khalid said. And investigators are looking into the workers who handled the baggage loaded onto the jet.
Experts who analyzed hourly satellite “handshakes” between the plane and a satellite believe it crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. A search there began just over two weeks ago and involves at least nine ships and nine planes.
The British government said a nuclear-powered submarine with advanced underwater search capability had arrived in the southern Indian Ocean.
Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency coordinating the multinational search effort out of Australia, said no time frame had been set for the search to end, but that a new approach would be needed if nothing showed up.
“Over time, if we don’t find anything on the surface, we’re going to have to think about what we do next, because clearly it’s vitally important for the families, it’s vitally important for the governments involved that we find this airplane,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Flight Lieutenant Dave O’Brien, captain of an Australian P-3 Orion that arrived back after dark Wednesday at base Pearce near Perth, said it was another fruitless day of searching despite favorable weather and sea conditions.
“We didn’t see anything at all of interest,” he said. “So a fairly quiet day for us out there. However, we are back out tomorrow to try it all again.”
Searchers were also listening for signals from the plane’s flight data recorders, which record information about the condition the plane was flying under and the communications or sounds in the cockpit.
The data recorders emit a “ping” that can be detected by special equipment towed by a ship in the immediate vicinity. But the battery-powered recorders stop transmitting the pings about 30 days after a crash.
Malaysia has been criticized by the relatives of some Chinese passengers on board, who accuse it of not providing enough information or even lying about what it knows about the final movements of the plane.
On Wednesday, China’s ambassador to Malaysia sought to distance the government from some of the criticism.
“I wish to responsibly point out that these extreme and even somewhat irresponsible views are not representative of the overall group of Chinese relatives and even more so not representative of the Chinese government’s attitude,” Huang Huikang said.
Many relatives of the passengers are staying in hotels in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur courtesy of Malaysia Airlines. Authorities organized a closed-door briefing in Malaysia for the families with officials and experts involved in the hunt, including the chief of the Malaysian air force.
“The fact is they didn’t give us any convincing information,” said Steve Wang, a representative of some of the Chinese families in Beijing. “They said themselves that there are many different possibilities, but they are judging on the basis of just one of them.”