Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history—and search authorities now admit there's a strong chance it will forever remain that way. Martin Dolan, head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, tells the Guardian that with more than 40,000 square miles of the southern Indian Ocean search zone covered as of last week, there is a "decreasing possibility" of ever finding what's left of the Boeing 777. Only around 5,800 square miles, an area around the size of Connecticut, remains to be searched. "When we walked into this, the best advice we had from all experts is that it was highly [probable] but not certain the aircraft would be found in this area," Dolan says. "We have to contemplate now the possibility that we will not find the aircraft."
Dolan—who predicts the search will be over by July, plane or no plane—says there's still a strong chance of success, but they are "just now contemplating the alternative." He says that even though pieces of plane debris have been found in locations consistent with their drift modeling, if the search finds nothing, investigators will reconsider their theory that the plane crashed after running out of fuel instead of being deliberately steered into the ocean. Dolan says that even if the wreckage isn't found, the search, funded by the Australian, Malaysian, and Chinese governments, has at least eliminated a large area from the search and delivered "secondary results" like mapping a previously unknown part of the seafloor. (The search has also discovered at least two shipwrecks.)