MH370 Has Been Missing 2 Years — Here’s What We Know Now

Two years ago today, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, leaving no indication of what happened to the 239 passengers and crew on board. Despite investigations, searches, and pleas from the family and friends of the missing, we still don’t have a clear idea of what happened to the doomed plane. MH370, a Boeing 777 aircraft, disappeared about 40 minutes into a red-eye flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing on March 8, 2014. The final contact with the plane was at about 1:19 a.m., when the pilot spoke to air control in Kuala Lumpur, saying good night as he prepared to transfer to another air control. Though the plane’s automated communication continued to make "handshakes" with ground stations for the next six or so hours, the plane never made contact with air control again. Sometime after that last communication, the plane is believed to have turned off its route north, heading west and south instead. What’s still a mystery is what happened in the plane itself. Theories, from hijacking, to pilot action, to a fire or other type of accident, have made the rounds. But nothing can be known for sure without the plane’s black box, which still hasn’t been found despite extensive searching. As the expected end date for that search approaches, families of those lost are holding out hope for answers. Here’s where we stand two years after Flight 370’s disappearance.

At least one wing fragment from the plane has been found, a sign that it did indeed crash into the ocean.

In late July 2015, a piece of an airplane wing was found on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, several hundred miles off the eastern coast of Madagascar. Several weeks later, officials confirmed that a serial number on the piece was matched to MH370. Since that discovery, several more pieces of debris that may have come from MH370 have washed ashore. Another possible piece of the plane was discovered on Réunion earlier this month, by the same man who came across the first one. That 3.25-feet long object has been given to authorities and sent out for analysis, Agence France-Presse reports.
Families of the missing are facing a deadline for filing lawsuits over the disappearance.

Many of the families of those lost have filed lawsuits against the airline and the manufacturers of the airplane. On Monday, another 44 families reportedly filed suit against the airline, one day before the two-year deadline for submitting claims. There were 12 that filed in Beijing, with an additional 32 families filing in Malaysian courts. A lawyer for the 12 families in Beijing told the Associated Press that the ultimate goal of the suit was simply to find out what happened. Other relatives criticized the airline for its lack of information In the immediate aftermath of the disappearance, both the Malaysian government and the airline itself were accused of mismanaging the crisis. Malaysia Airlines was heavily criticized for delivering its official condolences to the families of those missing via a text message written in English, according to International Business Times. The Malaysian government was also accused of withholding information from both grieving families and those volunteering to help. China, which lost several of its citizens on the flight, criticized the lack of communication in a statement eight days after the disappearance, CNN reported. “Time is life,” the statement declared.

The search efforts are hopeful, but uncertain.

In the era of “Find My iPhone,” it’s hard to understand how something as big as a plane, loaded up with communicators and responders, can go missing without a trace. The primary problem in this case is that the search area is so large. Though investigators are reasonably certain that the plane kept flying after losing contact, they can’t be sure exactly where it went, meaning that they had to draw an incredibly wide perimeter for their search. Early on, the possible search area was an astonishing three million square miles, according to the BBC. That’s 1.5% of the Earth’s entire surface. Though the search area has since been reduced to about 55,000 square miles, most of that area is still deep underwater, making searches far more difficult. Martin Dolan, the head of the Australian-led search, told The Guardian that he believes the plane will be found within the next four months, as the search team comes closer to finishing its sweep of the refined zone. But if he doesn’t find anything, the search will still end in July with the completion of the mapping. “At some point, whatever the total of the evidence is, is going to have to be assessed and a conclusion reached as to the most likely solution to the mystery,” Dolan said. That may be a cold comfort to the families still hoping, two years later, for answers.

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