Saturday, Aug 18, 2018
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It’s out there: The search for the Malaysian plane cannot end

  • Malaysia-Missing-Plane-22

    A man with a painted face attend the Day of Remembrance for MH370 event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • n1plane-jpg

    A girl has her face painted during the Day of Remembrance for MH370 event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

If the recent rescue of 12 Thai soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave proved anything, it’s that remarkable things can be accomplished when the best minds and equipment from around the world come together to tackle a problem.

That same ingenuity, that same persistence, must be applied to solve the four-year-old disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

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The airline, the government of Malaysia, and the international aviation community owe answers to the families of the 239 people who were aboard when the plane vanished on a flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. They owe it to everyone who flies. It’s unacceptable for a plane to drop out of the sky without answers as to why, where, and how.

For reasons that are unclear, the plane deviated from its flight path, traveling across the Malay Peninsula and ending up over the Indian Ocean. Did it run out of gas and hurtle into the sea? Did someone bring it in for a watery landing? No one knows. A 495-page report on the crash, released Monday by Malaysian authorities, provided no clues.

A couple of pieces of the plane have washed ashore in Mozambique and the island of Reunion, which are clear on the other side of the Indian Ocean. However, extensive international searches have failed to turn up the wreckage or human remains. The initial search efforts were hindered by uncertainty as to the route the plane took after it went off course.

The transponder, which allows air traffic controllers to track a plane, was turned off. It’s unclear why or by whom. Although the plane traveled for a lengthy period before dropping from the sky, the crew never issued a distress signal and no passenger made a phone call to ask for help or say goodbye.

Conspiracy theories abound, filling the void left by the mystery. Notions range from a terrorist hijacking that landed the plane discreetly in Kazakhstan to a plot to steal the industrial secrets of 22 Chinese tech experts on board. Rogue actions by the pilot and co-pilot are among the more tame theories.

Yet the new report downplays the possibility of a systems failure contributing to the plane’s course deviation and disappearance, saying “it’s more likely that such maneuvers are due to the systems being manipulated.”

The chief investigator said he didn’t believe that manipulation would have been by the pilot or first officer, whose backgrounds showed nothing alarming. But if they didn’t do it, who did? Again, the report offers no clues.

At one time, the drama of MH370 captivated the world. But the passing of time — and the absence of concrete developments — have pushed the Malaysia Airlines mystery out of the news. But it can’t be allowed to fall off the radar completely.

The most recent search ended in May, but there should be no pause in the detective work. This is a cold case that should continue to draw on safety and law-enforcement experts from around the world.

Like all cold cases, the same ground has to be trod again and again until something new emerges or something old is glimpsed in a different light. The answers are out there. It’s just going to take more money, time, patience, and smarts to find them.

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