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Missing MH370 flight remains unexplained

Mohd Rasfan, AFP | Grace Subathirai Nathan (C), daughter of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 passenger Anne Daisy, speaks during a press conference after being presented with the final investigation report on the missing flight on July 30.

Investigators said Monday they still do not know why Malaysia's Flight MH370 vanished four years ago in aviation's greatest mystery, sparking anger and disappointment among relatives of those on board.

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In a long-awaited report the official investigation team pointed to failings by air traffic controllers, said the course of the Malaysia Airlines plane was changed manually, and refused to rule out that someone other than the pilots had diverted the jet.  

But after years of fruitless searching for the Boeing 777 that disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people aboard, the report offered nothing concrete to grieving relatives of passengers and crew hoping for some sort of closure.

"The team is unable to determine the real cause for the disappearance of MH370," concluded the largely technical 400-page report, noting that investigators were hindered in their probe as neither the plane's wreckage nor its black boxes had been found.

Investigators said the plane was airworthy and the pilots were in a fit state to fly, and dismissed the theory that the plane had been taken over remotely to foil a hijacking.

Malaysia's civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman announced his resignation on Tuesday and said he took full responsibility for the shortcomings in the air traffic control centre highlighted by the report.

Before the report's public release on Monday, relatives who were briefed at the transport ministry in the administrative capital Putrajaya expressed anger that there was nothing new in the document, with some storming out of the briefing as frustration boiled over.

"It is so disappointing," said Intan Maizura Othman, whose husband was a steward on MH370, which had been flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing carrying mostly mainland Chinese passengers when it vanished.

"I am frustrated. There is nothing new in the report."

She said the meeting between relatives and officials descended into a "shouting match" as anger mounted.

G. Subramaniam, who lost a son on the flight, added that "unsatisfactory responses left many angry".

"There is nothing new but it highlighted failings of some government agencies" that did not follow protocol and guidelines, said Grace Nathan, whose mother was on board the plane.

She said the scope of the safety investigation was also too limited, depended too much on information supplied to them by other parties rather than on their own probe, and didn't discuss the scope of the searches.

Largest hunt in history

The disappearance of MH370 triggered the largest hunt in aviation history. But no sign of it was found in a 120,000-square kilometre (46,000-square mile) Indian Ocean search zone and the Australian-led hunt was suspended in January last year.

US exploration firm Ocean Infinity resumed the search in a different location at the start of this year on a "no find, no fee" basis, using high-tech drones to scour the seabed. But that search was also called off after failing to find anything.

Only three confirmed fragments of MH370 have been found, all of them on western Indian Ocean shores, including a two-metre wing part known as a flaperon.

Malaysia's new government, which took power in May, has said the hunt could be resumed but only if new evidence comes to light.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke insisted Monday that "the aspiration to locate MH370 has not been abandoned and we remain ever-hopeful that we will be able to find the answers we seek when the credible evidence becomes available".

One area that came in for criticism in the report by the 19-member team, which included foreign investigators, was air traffic control.

It said both Malaysian air traffic control and their Vietnamese counterparts failed to act properly when the Boeing jet passed from Malaysian to Vietnamese airspace and disappeared from radars.

Air traffic controllers did not initiate emergency procedures in a timely fashion, delaying the start of the search and rescue operation, it said.

However it played down concerns about the pilot and first officer, saying neither appeared to have suffered difficulties in their personal lives that could have affected their ability to fly.

"We did not find any change to their behaviour, everything was normal," Kok Soo Chon, head of the investigation team, told a press conference.

Sakinab Shah, sister of senior pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, said she felt "relieved and happy" that Zaharie was again cleared of blame.

The "rogue pilot" theory still arises in public discussions despite Malaysian authorities saying there was no evidence linking Zaharie or his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, to any wrongdoing.

Kok said it was "human nature" to speculate on sensational conspiracy theories but that the team relied on facts.

He said police retrieved over 2,700 coordinates from various file segments found in Zaharie's home flight simulator. This included seven "manually programmed waypoint coordinates" that when linked could fly from the Kuala Lumpur airport to the southern Indian Ocean, but police could not determine if the coordinates were found in a single file or from different files, he said.

Police didn't find any data that showed a similar route flown by Flight 370 and concluded that there were "no unusual activities other than game-related flight simulations," Kok said.

He said investigators couldn't find any flaws with the plane and dismissed the theory that it was remotely controlled. Boeing has such technology to foil plane hijacking but hasn't used it on any commercial planes, he added.

Intervention by a third party could not be ruled out, the report said, but also added there was no evidence to suggest the plane was flown by anyone other than the pilots.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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