Search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 ends

Flight Officer Jack Chen uses binoculars at an observers window on a Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion during the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Southern Indian Ocean, Australia. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)
Flight Officer Jack Chen uses binoculars at an observers window on a Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion during the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Southern Indian Ocean, Australia. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)
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The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has ended after nearly three years, the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre in Australia has said.

Crews have finally completed their deep-sea search of a desolate stretch of the Indian Ocean without finding a single trace of the plane.

Australian navy ship Ocean Shield lies docked at naval base HMAS Stirling while being fitted with a towed pinger locator to aid in her roll in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

Australian navy ship Ocean Shield lies docked at naval base HMAS Stirling while being fitted with a towed pinger locator to aid in her roll in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

The centre said on Tuesday that the search had officially been suspended after crews finished their fruitless sweep of the 46,000-square mile search zone west of Australia.

The end of the hunt raises the prospect that the world’s greatest aviation mystery may never be solved.

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For the families of the 239 people on board, the suspension of the search is particularly bitter following a recent acknowledgement by officials that they had been looking for the plane in the wrong place.

There is the possibility that a private donor could offer to bankroll a new search, or that Malaysia will provide fresh funds, but no-one has stepped up yet.

In December, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau announced that a review of the data used to estimate where the plane crashed, coupled with new information on ocean currents, strongly suggested the plane hit the water in an area directly north of the search zone.

But Australia’s government rejected a recommendation from the bureau that crews be allowed to search the new area to the north, saying the results of the experts’ analysis were not precise enough to justify continuing the hunt.

The three countries’ transport ministers reiterated that view on Tuesday, noting: “Whilst combined scientific studies have continued to refine areas of probability, to date no new information has been discovered to determine the specific location of the aircraft.”