Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation has said: “We officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident.”
Does that mean they know what happened?
No. The greatest mystery in aviation history remains unsolved. The aircraft with 227 passengers and 10 crew on board disappeared in the early hours of 8 March last year, on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The jet was initially presumed to have been lost in the South China Sea. But ground-breaking analysis of automated “pings” from the aircraft led investigators to conclude it crashed in the Indian Ocean west of Australia after running out of fuel.
So why conclude it’s an accident?
To allow grieving relatives of the victims to begin the process of claiming compensation for their losses. Defining the disappearance as an “accident" means that the Montreal Convention, which governs pay-outs when planes are lost, comes into play. Article 17 says: “The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft.” Under a separate aviation treaty, the Chicago Convention, the term “accident” includes cases where the aircraft is missing. The government in Kuala Lumpur said: “Malaysia Airlines is ready to proceed immediately with the compensation process.”
In pictures: Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
In pictures: Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
1/13 Chinese relatives
A family member of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 burns incense as he prays at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
2/13 Chinese relatives
Family members of passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 burn incense to pray at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
3/13 Chinese relatives
A family member of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 comforts another relative as they gather to pray at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
4/13 Chinese relatives
Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cry as they gather at the Lama Temple in Beijing. Chinese relatives marked 100 days since the plane went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing by offering prayers and burning incense at the buddhist temple
5/13 Chinese relatives
Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 offer prayers at the Lama Temple in Beijing
6/13 Chinese relatives
A Chinese relative of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 prays at the Lama Temple in Beijing
7/13 Chinese relatives
Chinese relatives of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 hold incense sticks and pray at the Lama Temple in Beijing
8/13 Malaysian relatives
Intan Maizura Othman (34) wife of MH370 fligh attendant Hazrin Hasnan holds placard during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
9/13 Malaysian relatives
A young relative tries to stick paper planes on a board during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
10/13 Malaysian relatives
Pictures of crews and passengers is displayed during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
11/13 Chinese relatives
Chinese police men try to prevent relatives of Chinese passengers onboard the Malaysia Airlines MH370 from marching to the Malaysian embassy from a hotel in Beijing
12/13 Search for flight MH370
Boatswain's Mate, Able Seaman Morgan Macdonald (L) observing markers from a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3K Orion at sea in the Southern Indian Ocean. An oil slick in the Indian Ocean is not from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, officials said when insisting underwater search efforts would be 'pursued to their completion'
13/13 Search for flight MH370
Craig Turner from Phoenix International monitoring the Artemis' depth and speed as the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle scans the ocean floor for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 in the southern Indian Ocean
Is the search continuing?
Yes. The director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation says: “We have never wavered in our commitment to continue our efforts to find MH370 and bring closure for everyone, most of all for the families of the passengers and crew. This declaration is by no means the end.” Australian safety authorities are conducting a systematic search of the seabed in the area of the Indian Ocean thought most likely to contain the plane. It covers an area where the water is 6,000m deep.
How long could it take?
The project began in the autumn and is expected to take up to a year.
If they find the plane, what will it tell us?
That depends on many factors. But suppose the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder are recovered intact, and that they were not disabled deliberately. They may provide clues to what happened, including in particular any commands given to the controls in the latter stages of the flight - and anything audible from the flight deck.
What if it reveals that the crash was a deliberate act - will the “accident” verdict stand?
From a strictly legal point of view in the application of the Montreal Convention, yes - though if evidence were to implicate a member of the Malaysia Airlines crew in the disappearance, the relatives of the victims could pursue other legal options.Reuse content