As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 carries into 2015, experts say the next five months will determine whether the missing plane will be found or lost forever.
Ten months after it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, there has been so sign of the Boeing 777 in the Southern Indian Ocean despite a massive search that has covered 4,000 square miles of ocean floor.
Search teams are currently scouring the "priority area," an arc 60,000 square kilometres in size, several miles off the west Australian coast.
Investigators say they could finish searching the priority zone by May if there are no delays with vessels, equipment and weather. Countries involved in the investigation, including Australia and Malaysia, will then have to decide whether to continue the search--which has cost an estimated $48.65 million so far--and if so, where.
Experts believe the priority search area may be the last real chance to find the missing plane, as treacherous underwater conditions and an overwhelmingly large search area make it nearly impossible to find.
"The most likely theory is that [the plane] is down there in the southern Indian Ocean. And if it is there I'm almost certain it will never be found," author Nigel Cawthorne told Britain's Express newspaper.
"The current there is the worst in the world, the weather there is the worst in the world and the sea floor there is less well-known than the surface of the Moon," he added, "It is the most remote part of this planet."
The disappearance of Flight MH370 and lack of evidence has led to numerous conspiracy theories, including ideas that the missing plane was shot down by American armed forces or hijacked by terrorists and landed.
However, independent investigator Jeff Wise has said that theories are "unrooted madness."
Meanwhile, the families of those missing, struggling to find closure, are not convinced that the plane will be found on the bottom of the ocean.
"The reality is that we really do not have any proof at all of what happened to this airplane," said Sarah Bajc, the girlfriend of Phillip Wood, a Texas man who was on the plane.
"We don't have proof that it crashed in the water at all. There's been not a trace - not a tiny, tiny bit of evidence that it's crashed in the water."
"I don't believe that MH370 is in the southern Indian Ocean," added Sharil Shaari, whose cousin was among those on the flight. "It's impossible that after almost one year, there's still no sign of the aircraft. With the AirAsia aircraft, it was found within two, three days. And, MH370 was a much bigger aircraft than AirAsia's. Why can't they find it? It's impossible!"
Greg Feith, a former investigator for the NTSB, told NBC he believes the plane can still be found--but it may take several more years.
"It could be an effort like the Titanic, where it could be years, not months," he said.