Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8, has proven to be the most baffling and frustrating aviation mystery of all time. While 239 people remain missing and likely dead in that incident, the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17 killed all 298 on board — the eighth-worst air disaster in history.
But while the cost in human lives and suffering has been incalculable, there has been another cost resulting from the twin Malaysia Airlines disasters in 2014 — a cost in money.
And the exact amount of that cost, at least for Malaysia Airlines’ home country, was finally revealed Thursday, when a Malaysian government official was forced to reply to a legislator who demanded to know what the government there had spent on search and rescue operations for the two planes.
“Up till today, the government has spent RM33,461,861.50 to cover the search and rescue operations cost to recover MH370 and MH17,” said Malaysia Transport Liow Tiang Lai, in a written statement.
“RM” refers to the Malaysian unit of currency, the ringitt. At today’s exchange rate of 0.30 ringitt to the dollar, 33,461,861.50 ringitt is worth $10,021,523.
Liow also said that 3,732 Malaysia public servants had been involved on some level with the search and rescue operations for the two planes.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was on a routine redeye commuter flight from Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China, when it suddenly cut off all communication withe the ground, took a sharp westward turn and, investigators believe, flew for about seven more hours until its fuel ran out.
A multi-national search operation is currently underway in a remote region of the Indian Ocean, looking for any trace of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. But as with a massive search conducted earlier in the year, immediately after the plane disappeared, no sign of the missing plane has been found.
The fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 is much less mysterious, though because the plane was shot down over — and crashed into — a war zone in eastern Ukraine, investigators have yet to determine exactly what happened.
Most Western countries believe that Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels shot down the plane, probably using a Russian missile launcher. But Russia contends that a Ukrainian military jet shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane in mid-air.
The costs for the Malaysia Airlines searches are not all the responsibility of Malaysia. Other countries involved in the operations pay their own costs.