Australia, China and Malaysia are discussing whether to call off the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and a decision could be made within weeks.
In what has become one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history, no trace has been found of the Boeing 777, which disappeared a year ago this week carrying 239 passengers and crew.
Its most likely resting-place is thought to be somewhere in a 60,000 square-kilometre area of Indian Ocean sea floor about 1600 kilometres west of Perth.
The search of that area is likely to be finished by May, but Australia's deputy prime minister, Warren Truss, said a decision would have to be taken well before then as to whether to search beyond there.
Officials said the cost of continuing the search, already the most expensive of its kind, would be prohibitive.
Most of the costs so far - estimated at more than $A52 million - have been borne by Australia and Malaysia.
MH370 prompts jet tracking tests
Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia are to trial a new method of tracking planes.
The trial system enables planes to be tracked every 15 minutes, an increase on the current 30 to 40 minutes and uses technology already installed on most long-haul jets.
The system is expected to increase the tracking rate to five minutes or less if there is any deviation from a plane's expected route.
Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said the new system was a "world first". But he stressed the new technology would not necessarily have solved the mystery of MH370.
"It would have been very difficult, one would imagine, without knowing what precisely occurred in the case of MH370, to have intervened from outside," he said.
"But at least it would have tracked the aircraft to within 15 minutes."
Airservices Australia Chairman Angus Houston, who helped lead the search for MH370, agreed it was "no silver bullet".
"But it is an important step in delivering immediate improvements to the way we currently track aircraft while more comprehensive solutions are developed," he added.
The trial will begin in Brisbane, Queensland, before being extended to Indonesia and Malaysia.
Investigators searching for MH370 are focusing on an area of the Indian Ocean off the coast of western Australia.
- Reuters / BBC