Very few aircraft lost at sea became immediate objects of expensive search efforts, so there are relatively few precedents for the response in this case. Air France 447 comes to mind, but that investigation was relatively 'easy' compared to this one, insofar as real-time comms / data had provided investigators a pretty specific approximate search area from the outset. IMHO the most significant thing that may derive from locating the wreckage is reaching some sort of conclusion(s) (however tentative; however by-default) about what caused / contributed to the doomed flight's strange behavior and ultimate end that night. I believe this - rather than anything about who or what was on the plane - is the issue that will decide whether the search is extended. Furthermore, it appears to me that any decision to pursue an extension has been delegated to Malaysia. As a result, I suspect the deciding factor becomes how enthusiastic Malaysia may be about locating the wreckage. The Malaysian authorities haven't exactly displayed a lot of enthusiasm to date. The prospective risks from achieving consensus on cause(s) are highest for the Malaysian government, because: - the missing plane was their flag carrier; - the government (via a state fund / entity) was the majority shareholder in the airline at the time; - the airline has since been re-nationalized (making the government the responsible party for any legal fallout); - the most popular default theory (Malaysian pilot suicide) tends to place liability at their doorstep; - proof of terrorist / hijacking involvement would direct attention to their security capabilities and competence; - the battery cargo fire theory traces back to a major Malaysian industry; - etc., etc. ... My suspicion is that the Malaysian government worked hard to get China and Australia to agree on terms that set bounds on search continuation *and* left it to Malaysia to make the call on, and presumably foot the bill for, any justifiable extension. I'm betting Malaysia stands pat on this agreement, respectfully discontinues further searching at this time, and crosses their fingers that nobody shows up with a precise location or area motivating new efforts (and costs, etc.).