MH370 Two Year Anniversary: What We Know

08/03/2016 1:14 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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MANAN VATSYAYANA via Getty Images
To go with AFP story 'MALAYSIA-CHINA-AUSTRALIA-AVIATION-ACCIDENT-LAW' FOCUS by Dan Martin A Malaysia Airlines flight attendant (top) prepares the aircraft prior to departure at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on February 25, 2016. Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 next-of-kin have begun filing a slew of lawsuits over the plane's disappearance as a two-year deadline approaches on March 8, with some hopeful that court scrutiny will help reveal answers about what befell the ill-fated plane. AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP / MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Two years ago, on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished with 239 people on board, including six Australians.

The disappearance of the Boeing 777-200ER was unprecedented and the search for it has been the most challenging in aviation history.

To date, the only confirmed trace of the plane being a barnacle encrusted flaperon wing that washed up on the French Island of Reunion in the southern Indian Ocean last July.

However, new pieces of possible debris are currently being analysed after washing up on Reunion Island and Mozambique’s coast.

Current search efforts are expected to be completed by the middle of this year, yet they continue to be focused on the southern Indian Ocean in an area that is 120,000 square kilometres in size.

As of this January, more than 80,000 square kilometres have already been searched and even though the location of the plane is still unknown, Martin Dolan, Chief Commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) remains confident that it will be found this year.

“It’s as likely on the last day [of the search] as on the first that the aircraft would be there,” he told The Guardian.

“We’ve covered nearly three-quarters of the search area, and since we haven’t found the aircraft in those areas that increases the likelihood that it’s in the areas we haven’t looked at yet.

“We’ve still got some serious area to cover, including some areas in the assessment that are highly prospective for finding the aircraft, and the aircraft’s very likely there.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak remained hopeful that MH370 would be found, with Australia, Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China already agreeing to plans for recovery activities, including securing all the evidence necessary for the accident investigation.

However, in the absence of credible new information that provides a lead to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, these countries have also already agreed that there will be no further expansion of the search area after mid-2016.

The anniversary of the missing flight also coincides with the last day that the victims’ families can take legal action against Malaysia Airlines.

Under international law, the Montreal Convention dictates that any action must be brought within two years from the date of arrival at the destination, or from the date on which the aircraft ought to have arrived, or from the date on which the carriage stopped.

Joseph Wheeler, an aviation lawyer with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers who represents five Malaysian families who have filed MH370 lawsuits told the ABC’s Radio National breakfast program on Tuesday that there had been a recent spike in the number of families seeking legal advice.

“In the last couple of weeks we have had several inquiries from people who are really just trying to understand what the eighth of March means in a legal sense,” he said.

“There are potentially other entities who could be sued and may well be sued in the future but those sort of actions require evidence.

“Without the aircraft being found and without an investigation pointing to Boeing or any other component manufacturer of the aircraft, we couldn’t rightfully commence action.”

Many of the victims’ families however refuse to lose hope and remain optimistic that their loved ones will one day be found. However, due to the two year time limit, many have taken their fight to the courts or risk losing their right to ever sue the airline.

Zhang Qihuai, an aviation lawyer from Beijing representing some of the families in China, told Agence France-Presse that many had been “deeply conflicted” over the decision to sue.

“Originally, many didn’t intend to sue, and instead wanted to continue waiting,” he said.

“But there’s a time limit, so they have no other choice -- losing the right to sue would be terribly painful.”

In the absence of any new information, the world continues to wait to find out exactly what happened to MH370.

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