On 8 March 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared from air traffic control radar during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China with 227 passengers and 12 crew (239 people in total) on board, including 7 Australian citizens and residents.
About the Joint Agency Coordination Centre
On 30 March 2014, the Prime Minister established the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) to coordinate all Australian Government support for the search into missing flight MH370. The JACC was also the coordination point for whole-of-Australian Government information, messaging and stakeholder engagement, including keeping the families of those onboard and the general public informed of the progress of the search.
The JACC also coordinated all international engagement with the Government of Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China.
Originally based in Perth, the JACC was relocated to Canberra on 5 May 2015 to ensure ongoing close communication with high level representatives from Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China. The JACC is supported by the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities.
Search for MH370
Under Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation, the Malaysian Government, as the state of registration for Malaysia Airlines, is responsible for the search for, and investigation into, the disappearance of MH370.
After initial air and sea search operations focused on the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca, on 17 March 2014, the Malaysian Government asked Australia to assume responsibility for the search operations when analysis showed the airplane did not head north but turned south to the southern Indian Ocean.
On 24 March 2014, the Malaysian Prime Minister advised that the search had changed from search and rescue to search and recovery.
The surface search was coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and supported by the Australian Defence Force and many other agencies, including 22 military aircraft and 19 ships from eight countries (Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, United Kingdom and the United States). The surface search was conducted from 8 March 2014 until 30 April 2014.
Initial underwater search
On 5 May 2014, the Ministers from Malaysia, the People’s Republic of China and Australia met to consider next steps and agreed to take all decisions regarding the search together as a Tripartite. Ministers agreed that Australia would take the lead in the underwater search operation in the southern Indian Ocean with support from Malaysia and China.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) on behalf of Australia, led the underwater search operations in the southern Indian Ocean, including analysis of the search area. The underwater search commenced on 5 May 2014 and concluded on 17 January 2017.
Throughout the underwater search, Geoscience Australia provided specialist advice and capability in the bathymetry and sonar imagery and provided an understanding of the environment in which the search was conducted, further information on the mapping may be found at www.ga.gov.au.
Definition of the Search Area: All the evidence, based on independent analysis of satellite, radar and aircraft performance data from many international experts, indicated the aircraft entered the sea close to a long but narrow arc in the southern Indian Ocean. This arc was the focus of the underwater search efforts.
The ATSB coordinated a group of international experts referred to as the Search Strategy Working Group beginning in May 2014. The group worked to define the most probable position of the aircraft at the time of the last satellite communications with the aircraft. The group brought together a range of experts including satellite and aircraft specialists from the following organisations:
- Air Accidents Investigation Branch (UK)
- Boeing (US)
- Defence Science and Technology Organisation (Australia)
- Department of Civil Aviation (Malaysia)
- Inmarsat (UK)
- National Transportation Safety Board (US)
The initial surface search and the subsequent underwater search for the missing aircraft have been the largest searches of their type in aviation history. The 52 days of the surface search involved aircraft and surface vessels and covered an area of 4.2 million square kilometres. A sub surface search for the aircraft’s underwater locator beacons was also conducted during the surface search.
The underwater search started with a bathymetry survey which continued to be updated throughout the underwater search and mapped a total of 710,000 square kilometres of Indian Ocean seafloor, the largest ever single hydrographic survey. The high resolution sonar search covered an area in excess of 120,000 square kilometres, reaching depths of 6,000 metres, also the largest ever search or survey of its kind. Despite the extraordinary efforts of hundreds of people involved in the search from around the world, the aircraft has not been located.
On 17 January 2017, the governments of Malaysia, Australia and the People’s Republic of China jointly announced the suspension of the search until further credible evidence becomes available that could identify the specific location of the aircraft.
As at 30 April 2017, a number of pieces of debris have been located on the east coast of Africa, Mozambique and La Reunion Island, with three items confirmed as being from MH370 and seven pieces confirmed as almost certainly from the aircraft. The Debris Report may be found at: www.mh370.gov.my.
Consistent with drift modelling performed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the discoveries confirmed the loss of flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean and continued to inform the definition of the search area at that time. A further eight pieces found were confirmed as highly likely from the aircraft.
On 3 October 2017 the ATSB published a final investigation report detailing the history of the search and made conclusions and recommendations relating to the search activities. Further detail of the search that was undertaken may be found at the ATSB website dedicated to the Search for MH370: www.atsb.gov.au/mh370/.
Second underwater search
On 16 January 2018, the Malaysian Government announced the commencement of a second search, led by the Malaysian Investigation Team, by Ocean Infinity on a no find, no fee basis, located immediately north of the previous search area.
On 29 May 2018, the Malaysian Government advised that the second search operation to locate MH370 had come to an end, bringing the total seafloor searched to more than 1,800 kilometres long, between 86 and 146 kilometres wide and close to 200,000 square kilometres in total, without locating the missing airline.
The Malaysian Government released the final Safety Investigation report on 31 July 2018, which acknowledged that, as the main aircraft wreckage, including the aircraft’s Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder had not been located the investigation team were unable to draw definitive conclusions about what happened to flight MH370.
Details of the final Safety Investigation report and other related information may be found at the MH370 Official Malaysian Government website: www.mh370.gov.my.
Further information/related links
For further information, please go to the following links, and type MH370 into their search engine:
Email Malaysian agency responsible for the investigation: Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia: MH370_QA@dca.gov.my