KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 ― Malaysia formally announced last night that flight MH370, missing for over 17 days now, crashed into the Indian Ocean but despite confirmation from local and foreign experts, doubt still lingers over how the plane went down, and whether it did at all.
For many, the lack of solid proof ― such as plane wreckage ― still means that the Boeing 777 aircraft ferrying 239 people could have landed somewhere safely and is merely awaiting rescue from search teams.
In Beijing, distraught families lashed out at Malaysia for concluding that the plane had crashed without offering concrete proof..
“Where is the proof?” one woman screamed after attending a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) briefing there, according to CNN.
“You haven't confirmed the suspected objects to tell us no one survived.”
On UK's The Telegraph website, a man commented on the daily's article on how the aircraft was tracked to the Indian Ocean, saying: “Uhm, they haven't found anything yet, but they speculate based on this new data that the plane went that way, but there is no actual proof that it really did.... Seems like a coverup to me...."
Across Twitter and on TV news stations last night, one key question ― the same question that has been uttered since the crisis began on March 8 ― reared its head again: Where is flight MH370?
“We know nothing about how the plane went down... We know nothing,” aviation specialist Richard Quest said on CNN.
But according to Chris McLaughlin, senior vice president of external affairs at Inmarsat, there is no doubt that MH370 had taken the southern route to the Indian Ocean and there, it ran out of fuel and ended its nearly eight-hour journey.
The British satellite firm was responsible for arriving at the conclusion that MH370 had indeed veered off its flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the north, and that it had headed westwards before going either in a northerly direction past Thailand and towards Turkmenistan or in a southerly direction towards the Indian Ocean.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak told an emergency news conference that further calculations by Inmarsat of its satellite data indicated that MH370 had definitely taken the southern route to the vast, wild Indian Ocean, west of Perth.
Speaking on UK's Sky News last night, McLaughlin said Inmarsat's scientists used the “doppler effect” to identify the plane's track marks, which is by studying the change in frequency between the aircraft and the satellite as each one move away from one another.
“And they tested off against a number of other aircraft... known flights... and come to the conclusion that only the southern route is possible,” he said.
McLaughlin said the matching patterns between the flight path and Inmarsat's satellite data gave a “very, very good fit” to indicate that flight MH370 had been the aircraft that went down in the Indian Ocean.
Unfortunately, he said, the “pings” registered on Inmarsat's satellite from the aircraft does not offer the plane's specific position.
“It would be simple to do.. costs less than a dollar and an hour to do it but at the moment, the legislation doesn't require it,” he said.
He said if all airplanes are required to be fitted with such communication systems, satellites would be able to receive “pings” that would offer details on the plane's location, rendering it easier to locate them in future incidents.
“What information does it give? It gives an approximate direction of travel, plus or minus 100 miles to a track line,” he said.
MH370, a Boeing 777 aircraft, disappeared off the coast of Kota Baru, Kelantan, less than an hour after take-off at 12.41am on March 8 and has remained missing ever since.
Early investigations saw searchers concentrated on the waters off Malaysia's east coast — in the South China Sea and between Malaysia and Vietnam — where the plane was last heard from before it lost contact with the Subang Air Traffic Control (ATC).
But local military radar later spotted the plane flying westwards, forcing the authorities to redirect its search efforts to the Straits of Malacca.
More information from foreign military and satellite data then confirmed the plane's flight to the west of Malaysia, hundreds of miles away from its original flight path to Beijing.
According to Inmarsat on March 14, its satellite registered “routine, automated signals” from the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft during its flight from Kuala Lumpur.
On March 15 — a week after MH370's disappearance — Najib told a press conference that Malaysia would call off the search at the South China Sea and Straits of Malacca.
Search troops were then redirected troops to scour two corridors — a northern arc from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in central Asia, or a southern one from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
On March 20, authorities in Australia announced what they said was a possible breakthrough in the the two-week hunt for MH370.
Satellite images taken by DigitalGlobe, a Colorado satellite imaging company showed at least two objects in the Indian Ocean, south of the search zone for MH370 that Australia was leading.
The largest of the objects found measured 24 metres or 79 feet in length, Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Emergency Response division general manager John Young said.
Since then, much focus has been given to the search south of the vast Indian Ocean.
Over the weekend and earlier yesterday, several reports of alleged “debris” streamed it from the French, Australian and Chinese — some picked up by search planes, some via satellite images.