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MH370 remains an ‘agonizing mystery’ two years after vanishing

Jacquita Gomes, wife of Patrick Gomes, the in-flight supervisor on the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, prepares balloons with names of those on board during a remembrance event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, March 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)
Jacquita Gomes, wife of Patrick Gomes, the in-flight supervisor on the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, prepares balloons with names of those on board during a remembrance event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, March 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

(Bloomberg) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said his government is committed to solving the “agonizing mystery” of Flight 370 as the country marks the second anniversary of the aircraft’s disappearance.

Vessels looking for the Malaysia Airlines jet are due to finish scouring 120,000 square kilometers (46,330 square miles) of southern Indian Ocean in the middle of this year. If that search fails, officials from Malaysia, Australia and China will gather “to determine the way forward,” Najib said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday.

The Boeing Co. 777 that vanished from radar on March 8, 2014 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur has become modern aviation’s biggest mystery. There has been no trace of the 239 people on board. Their families are urging authorities to keep the search alive, while investigators say the hunt will end unless fresh clues are found.

Last week, investigators began examining an object found on the coast of Mozambique that they suspect could be from the missing plane, according to a person familiar with the probe.

Wing piece

If verified, that washed-up fragment would be only the second component ever found from MH370. A barnacle-encrusted wing piece was discovered on Reunion Island in July 2015. The same resident who found that part came across another piece on Reunion last week, made of similar material, and turned it over to police, according to Agence France-Presse.

Thousands of miles to the east, the main search for the jet centers on a remote patch of southern Indian Ocean. More than 85,000 square kilometers of that area have been scanned without success. 

“The search has been the most challenging in aviation history,” Najib said in his statement. He said he was still “hopeful” the jet would be found in that area.

Wreckage on Africa’s east coast would indicate authorities are looking in the right place, Australia’s government said March 3. Analysis of ocean drift indicates debris from the crash could have reached the coast of Mozambique, the government said.

Military radar

Families of the victims have said they want the hunt to continue, even if the current search comes up empty. They say the aviation industry needs to know what happened to ensure the disaster isn’t repeated. Authorities still have little idea what took place in the cockpit or why the plane flew off course.

Two years ago, air-traffic controllers lost contact with MH370 less than an hour after takeoff as it approached Vietnam. Military radar showed the plane took a left turn and looped back across Malaysia.

Related: Family of American on disappeared flight sues Malaysia Airlines

Based on pings between the plane and a satellite, Australian investigators believe MH370 cruised south over the Indian Ocean before plunging into the water.

It’s very unlikely that anyone was in control of the plane when it hit the ocean, Martin Dolan, head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said in an interview last month. 

Analysis of the satellite-communication data suggests the plane was on auto-pilot until it ran out of fuel. It then probably banked left and spiraled into the ocean, Dolan said.

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