Malaysia: What Happened To Flight 370 Might Always Be A Mystery, As The Jet's Black Box Is About To Expire

As the search for missing Flight 370 drags into another day, Malaysian officials have announced we may never know what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The Malaysian police chief, Khalid Abu Bakar, said that the inquiry into the disappearance of the plane was now being treated as a criminal investigation. He warned that the real reason why the plane vanished may never be discovered.

“Investigations may go on and on and on. We have to clear every little thing,” Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters, according to the Associated Press. “At the end of the investigations, we may not even know the real cause. We may not even know the reason for this incident.”

Flight 370 went missing in the early hours of March 8, during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Satellite analysis subsequently determined that the jet and the 239 passengers on board plunged into the South Indian Ocean, but as yet search teams have been unable to recover any signs of wreckage.

Wednesday marked the 25th day of the search. The black box inside the plane's cockpit, which emits pings and contains a voice recorder, only has a battery life of 30 days, meaning time has almost run out on the one item that could possibly shed some light on what happened the night of the jet's disappearance. The pings are also the rescue team's best hope of ever locating the plane.

The search, which has been narrowed down to a still-vast 85,000 square miles of South Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia, now involves 10 planes and nine ships from a half dozen countries. Britain has just sent its sonar-equipped submarine HMS Tireless to join the team. The search in this area, one of the most treacherous and remote stretches of water on earth, is being constantly hampered by bad weather.

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Khalid Abu Bakar said that all 227 passengers had been cleared of any involvement in the plane's disappearance, and that the cabin crew and pilots were now the focus of the investigation. Police are also said to be investigating the plane's cargo and the food served during the flight to rule out poisoning of passengers and crew.

On Tuesday Malaysian officials released the full transcript of the last known words from the cockpit of Flight 370. This revealed that contrary to earlier accounts, the pilots did not sign off with the casual "All right, good night," but with the apparently more standard line "Good night Malaysian three seven zero." Minutes later, all communication with the cockpit was lost.

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Since the investigation into the jet's disappearance began, Malaysia has been beset by critics from around the world for their handling of the incident. The most vocal criticism has come from relatives of the Chinese passengers on board, who made up around two-thirds of the flight. Some of these relatives have claimed Malaysian officials withheld important information about the airliner and the search, and even lied to victims' families and the media.

On Wednesday, South China Morning Post reported that Malaysians are fed up with being blamed and chastised for the way their government has handled the search. They say that they, too, lost family and loved ones on board the airliner, and that China can take over the search from Malaysia if they believe they can do a better job.

In the meantime, the efforts of the search and rescue team in the South Indian Ocean continued Wednesday, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority reported good visibility and favorable search conditions.