KUALA LUMPUR: Tomorrow marks the fourth anniversary of the day that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished without a trace over the Indian Ocean.
The disappearance of the Boeing 777 passenger jetliner, which has since been dubbed the world's greatest aviation mystery, continues to baffle aviation experts as major search operations to locate it have drawn a blank.
Since early this year, no concrete evidence has been uncovered from the latest search operation, this one conducted by a United States-based seabed exploration company, which was given an official mandate to locate the debris of the missing aircraft, as it scours a search area of over 16,000 sq km.
The only news to come has been an announcement from the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation that the operation will be extended until June.
However, aviation specialists view the extension of the operation as an optimistic initiative by the authorities to resolve what appears to be an unsolvable mystery.
According to Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) test pilot Prof Dr Mohd Harridon Mohamed Suffian, high hopes are currently placed on the exploration company's Seabed Constructor, the only vessel that has been given the official mandate to locate the wreckage of MH370.
"However, there are also independent organisations which are still conducting research to pinpoint more accurately the location of the aircraft. Although not involving a physical search, it provides alternative perspectives to the search efforts.
"An interesting thing is that sailors in the Indian Ocean have also agreed to informally share information on debris found from the wreckage, giving hope to the families of the victims involved," he told Bernama.
On Jan 11, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai announced that under an agreement with the US-based exploration company, Ocean Infinity Limited, the search operation for MH370 that resumed in mid-January would cover a 25,000 sq km area within 90 days.
The ship's primary mission is to locate the wreckage, and/or both flight recorders, the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder.
bBased on the 'no cure, no fee' policy, any payment would only be made when the debris of the missing aircraft is found and confirmed by a third party.
However, Mohd Harridon noted that if the aircraft could still not be located by June, there would need to be a return to the analysis stage to conduct a more detailed investigation on MH370's last location.
"It is also hoped that MH370 can become a case study for mathematicians to locate the aircraft's last whereabouts using limited information available," he said, adding that he believed closure was important to the families of the victims, as well as for the aviation industry to identify the actual cause of the tragedy to prevent a recurrence.
Meanwhile, another aviation specialist, Captain Abdul Rahmat Omar Tun Mohd Haniff said the Indian Ocean was a massive area and that it was a daunting task for the search team to provide an accurate location, especially with the absence of an accurate signal to show the location of the crash.
If the aircraft is not found by June, the former Royal Malaysian Air Force investigating officer said the matter would be further discussed between the government and the search team.
Flight MH370 with 239 people on board vanished from radar while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
Australia, Malaysia and China jointly suspended a two-year-long underwater search for the aircraft in January last year. No indications of the plane were discovered in the 120,000 sq km search area in the southern Indian Ocean.