Missing Malaysian airlines flight crash
A helicopter takes off from Jinggangshan warship to search the waters suspected to be the site of the missing Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight MH370Reuters

It has been 10 days since the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people aboard and in spite of an extensive international search operation, there has been no sign of the plane. What happens if the plane is never found?

As per an Inquirer.net report, such an outcome, though considered unlikely by experts, will be most devastating for the families of those missing.

"In any kind of death, the most important matter for relatives and loved ones is knowing the context and circumstances," said Kevin Tso, the chief executive of New Zealand agency Victim Support, which has been counseling family and friends of the two New Zealand passengers aboard the flight. "When there's very little information, it's very difficult."

It will also have a complex impact on the airline industry, which will struggle to learn lessons from the incident not knowing what really transpired.

Ric Gillespie, a former US aviation accident investigator who wrote a book about Earhart's still-unsolved 1937 disappearance over the Pacific Ocean, says, "When something like this happens, that confounds us, we're offended by it, and we're scared by it.

"We had the illusion of control and it's just been shown to us that oh, folks, you know what? A really big airliner can just vanish. And nobody wants to hear that."

According to Andrew Thomas, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Transportation Security, the airline systems continue to use primitive outdated technology and are not as sophisticated as many people might think.

He says that airports and airplanes around the world use antiquated radar tracking technology, first developed in the 1950s, rather than modern GPS systems.

"There are lots of reasons why they haven't changed, but the major one is cost," he said. "The next-generation technology would cost $70 to $80 billion in the US."

While a GPS system might not have solved the mystery of Flight MH370, it would probably have given the search teams a better read on the plane's last known location, Thomas says.

Another major factor that will come into play for courts, if the plane is not found, is liability issues. With no wreckage, it would be difficult to determine whether the airline, manufacturers or other parties should bear the brunt of responsibility.

"The international aviation legal system does not anticipate the complete disappearance of an aircraft," said Brian Havel, a law professor and director of the International Aviation Law Institute at DePaul University in Chicago. "We just don't have the tools for that at present."


Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport en route to Beijing at 00:41 on Saturday 8 March (16:41 GMT Friday).

About 50 minutes later, the aircraft lost contact with air traffic control.

No distress call was made.

On board, there were 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 countries. That included 153 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

Two Iranian male passengers, Pouria Nour Mohammad Mahread and Delavar Syed Mohammad Reza, were travelling on fake passports. Neither had any apparent links to terrorist groups.

No debris from the plane has been found in the international search.

Last confirmed communication with Indian Ocean satellite occurred at 08:11am, meaning plane continued to fly for seven hours after radar signal was lost.

At least 25 countries, including China, the US and Singapore, have now joined in the search for the missing plane.