Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The missing aircraft, 9M-MRO, in 2011
|Date||8 March 2014|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 777-200ER|
|Flight origin||Kuala Lumpur International Airport|
|Destination||Beijing Capital International Airport|
|Malaysia Airlines Flight 370|
|Search (JACC) · Timeline
Unofficial disappearance theories
|See also: List of aerial disappearances|
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370/MAS370)[a] was a scheduled international passenger flight that disappeared on Saturday, 8 March 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia to Beijing Capital International Airport, People's Republic of China. Flight 370 last made voice contact with air traffic control at 01:19 MYT (17:19 UTC, 7 March) when it was over the South China Sea, less than an hour after takeoff, and the aircraft disappeared from air traffic controllers' radar screens at 01:21 MYT (17:21 UTC). Malaysian military radar continued to track Flight 370 as it deviated from its planned flight path and crossed the Malay Peninsula; Flight 370 left the range of Malaysian military radar at 02:15 MYT while over the Andaman Sea, 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi) northwest of Penang in northwestern Malaysia. Neither the crew nor the aircraft's communication systems relayed a distress signal, indications of bad weather, or technical problems before the aircraft vanished. The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, was carrying 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 15 nations.
A multinational search effort began in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, where the flight's signal was lost on secondary surveillance radar, and was soon extended to the Strait of Malacca and Andaman Sea. Analyses of these communications by multiple agencies concluded that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean. The focus of the search shifted to the southern part of the Indian Ocean, west of Australia and within its concurrent aeronautical and maritime search and rescue regions; accordingly, Australia took charge of the search effort on 17 March and later established the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) to coordinate the multinational search effort for Flight 370. The current phase of the search is a comprehensive search of the seafloor, which began in October 2014, that is expected to take up to 12 months at a cost of over AU$52 million; the seafloor search follows a bathymetric survey of the search area, also ongoing, which began in May 2014.
Despite being the largest and most expensive search in aviation history, there has been no confirmation of any flight debris, resulting in many unofficial theories about its disappearance. On 24 March, the Malaysian government, noting that the final location determined by the satellite communication was far from any possible landing sites, concluded that "flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."
At the time of its disappearance, and if the presumed loss of all lives aboard is confirmed, Flight 370 was the deadliest aviation incident in the history of Malaysia Airlines and the deadliest involving a Boeing 777. Flight 370 was surpassed in both regards just 131 days later by the unrelated crash of another Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777—Flight 17—that was shot down over Ukraine on 17 July 2014, killing all 298 people aboard.
- 1 Disappearance
- 2 Search
- 3 Aircraft
- 4 Passengers and crew
- 5 Investigation
- 5.1 International participation
- 5.2 Analysis of satellite communication
- 5.3 Analysis of hydroacoustic data
- 5.4 Possible in-flight events
- 5.5 Possible causes of disappearance
- 6 Aftermath
- 7 Timeline of events
- 8 In popular culture
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Flight 370 was a scheduled red-eye flight in the early morning hours of 8 March 2014 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China. It was one of two daily flights operated by Malaysia Airlines from their hub at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA; IATA code: KUL) to Beijing Capital International Airport (IATA code: PEK)—scheduled to depart at 00:35 local time (MYT; UTC+08:00) and arrive at 06:30 local time (CST; UTC+08:00).
At 00:41 MYT, Flight 370 took off from runway 32R. Less than a minute after take off, Flight 370 was cleared by air traffic control (ATC) to climb to flight level 180[b]—an altitude which corresponds to 18,000 feet (5,500 m) based on atmospheric pressure—on a direct path to waypoint IGARI and transferred from the airport's air traffic control to "Lumpur Radar" air traffic control on frequency 132.6 MHz. Air traffic control over peninsular Malaysia and adjacent waters is provided by the Kuala Lumpur Area Control Center (ACC); Lumpur Radar is the name of the frequency used for en route air traffic. Lumpur Radar cleared Flight 370 to flight level 350[b]—35,000 ft (10,700 m) based on atmospheric pressure. At 01:01, Flight 370's crew reported to Lumpur Radar that they had reached flight level 350, which they confirmed again at 01:08.
|Transcript of ATC conversations with Flight 370 A transcript of conversations between ATC and Flight 370 from pre-departure to final contact (00:25 – 01:19 MYT).|
|ATC conversations with Flight 370 Audio recordings of conversations between ATC and Flight 370 from pre-departure to final contact (00:25 – 01:19 MYT).|
The aircraft's final automated position report and last message using the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) protocol was sent at 01:07 MYT;:2:36 among the data provided in the message was total fuel remaining—43,800 kg (96,600 lb).:9 The final verbal contact with air traffic control occurred at 01:19 MYT, when one of the aircraft's pilots acknowledged a send-off by Lumpur Radar to Ho Chi Minh ACC:[c]
[Lumpur Radar] "Malaysian three seven zero, contact Ho Chi Minh one two zero decimal nine. Good night."
[Flight 370] "Good night. Malaysian three seven zero."
The crew was expected to contact air traffic control in Ho Chi Minh City as the aircraft passed into Vietnamese airspace, just north of the point where contact was lost. The captain of another aircraft attempted to reach the crew of Flight 370 "just after [01:30]" using the international distress frequency to relay Vietnamese air traffic control's request for the crew to contact them; the captain said he was able to establish contact, but just heard "mumbling" and static. Calls made to Flight 370's cockpit at 02:39 MYT and 07:13 MYT were unanswered but acknowledged by the aircraft's satellite data unit.:18:40
At 01:21:04, Flight 370 was observed on radar at the Kuala Lumpur ACC as it passed the navigational waypoint IGARI in the Gulf of Thailand. At 01:21:13, Flight 370 disappeared from the radar screen at Kuala Lumpur and was lost about the same time on radar at Ho Chi Minh ACC, which claims the plane was at the nearby waypoint BITOD. Air traffic control uses secondary radar, which relies on a signal emitted by a transponder on aircraft; therefore, after 01:21 the transponder on Flight 370 was no longer functioning. The final data from the transponder indicated the plane was flying at its assigned cruise altitude of flight level 350[b] and was travelling at 471 knots (872 km/h; 542 mph) true airspeed.
The aircraft made a sharp turn westwards and headed towards a waypoint called VAMPI in the Strait of Malacca. Soon after the turn, military radar suggests the aircraft climbed to 45,000 ft (14,000 m)—above the aircraft's 43,100 ft (13,100 m) approved flight ceiling—then descended unevenly to 23,000 ft (7,000 m) as it approached Penang Island. A source close to the investigation told media that the aircraft descended as low as 12,000 feet (3,700 m). From there, the aircraft flew across the Strait of Malacca to or close to the waypoint VAMPI, after which the plane flew along air route N571 to waypoints MEKAR, NILAM, and possibly IGOGU.:3, 38 The last known location, from and near the limits of Malaysian military radar, was 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi) northwest of Penang at an altitude of 29,500 ft (9,000 m).
Because of the sensitive nature of revealing military radar capabilities, countries in the region where Flight 370 disappeared have been reluctant to release information they may have collected from military radar. The only nation besides Malaysia to claim tracking Flight 370 is Thailand. Despite possibly flying near or over the northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia—which has an early warning radar system—has publicly denied sighting Flight 370 on radar. No radar contact was detected by Australia, including their JORN over-the-horizon radar system, which was believed to be looking north to detect illegal migrants and not west over the Indian Ocean where Flight 370 is presumed to have flown based on satellite communications.
Satellite communication resumes
At 02:25:27 MYT, the aircraft's satellite communication system sent a 'log-on request' message—the first message on the system since the ACARS transmission at 01:07 MYT—which was relayed by satellite to a ground station, both operated by satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat. After logging on to the network, the satellite data unit aboard the aircraft responded to hourly status requests from Inmarsat and two ground-to-aircraft phone calls, at 02:39 MYT and 07:13 MYT, which went unanswered by the cockpit.:18 The final status request and aircraft acknowledgement occurred at 08:10 MYT. The aircraft sent a log-on request at 08:19:29 MYT which was followed, after a response from the ground station, by a 'log-on acknowledgement' message at 08:19:37 MYT. The log-on acknowledgement is the last piece of data available from Flight 370. The aircraft did not respond to a status request from Inmarsat at 09:15 MYT.
Response by air traffic control
At 01:30, the captain of another aircraft attempted to reach the crew of Flight 370 on the International distress frequency to relay Vietnamese air traffic control's request for Flight 370 to contact them; the captain said he was able to establish contact, but just heard "mumbling" and static. At 01:38, Ho Chi Minh Area Control Centre (ACC) contacted Kuala Lumpur Area Control Centre to query the whereabouts of Flight 370 and informed them that they had not established verbal contact with Flight 370, which last spotted by radar at waypoint BITOD. The two centres exchanged four more calls over the next 20 minutes with no new information.
At 02:03, Kuala Lumpur ACC relayed to Ho Chi Minh ACC information received from Malaysia Airlines' operations centre that Flight 370 was in Cambodian airspace. Ho Chi Minh ACC contacted Kuala Lumpur ACC twice in the following eight minutes asking for confirmation that Flight 370 was in Cambodian airspace. At 02:15, the watch supervisor at Kuala Lumpur ACC queried Malaysia Airlines' operations centre, who said that they could exchange signals with Flight 370 and that Flight 370 was in Cambodian airspace. Kuala Lumpur ACC contacted Ho Chi Minh ACC to query that the planned flight path for Flight 370 passed through Cambodian airspace. Ho Chi Minh ACC responded that Flight 370 was not supposed to enter Cambodian airspace and that they had already contacted Phnom Penh ACC (which controls Cambodian airspace), which had no contact with Flight 370. Kuala Lumpur ACC contacted Malaysia Airlines' operations centre at 02:34, inquiring about the communication status with Flight 370. The operations centre initially responded that they were unsure whether a message to the aircraft was sent successfully, but two minutes later said that Flight 370 was in a normal condition based on a signal download and that it was located at 14°54′00″ N, 109°15′00″E. Malaysia Airlines Flight 386 was requested by Ho Chi Minh ACC to attempt to contact Flight 370 on the Lumpur Radar frequency—the frequency on which Flight 370 last made contact with Malaysian air traffic control—and on emergency frequencies, but without success.
At 03:30, Malaysia Airlines' operations centre informed Kuala Lumpur ACC that the locations they had provided earlier were "based on flight projection and not reliable for aircraft positioning." Over the next hour, Kuala Lumpur ACC contacted Ho Chi Minh ACC asking whether they had contacted Chinese air traffic control. At 05:09, Singapore ACC was queried for information about Flight 370. At 05:20, an undisclosed official—identified in the preliminary report released by Malaysia as "Capt [name redacted]"—contacted Kuala Lumpur ACC requesting information about Flight 370; he opined that, based on known information, "MH370 never left Malaysian airspace."
The watch supervisor at Kuala Lumpur ACC activated the Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) at 05:30, over four hours after communication was lost with Flight 370. The ARCC is a command post at an Area Control Centre that coordinates search-and-rescue activities when an aircraft is lost.
Announcement of disappearance
Malaysia Airlines issued a media statement at 07:24 MYT, one hour after the scheduled arrival of the flight at Beijing, stating that contact with the flight had been lost by Malaysian ATC at 02:40 MYT; the time when contact was lost was later corrected to 1:21. Malaysia Airlines stated that the government had initiated search and rescue operations. Neither the crew nor the aircraft's communication systems relayed a distress signal, indications of bad weather, or technical problems before the aircraft vanished from radar screens.
Timeline of disappearance
|00:00||8 March||7 March||Take-off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport|
|00:20||01:01||17:01||Crew confirms altitude of 35,000 feet (11,000 m)|
|00:26||01:07||17:07||Last ACARS data transmission received;:36 crew confirms altitude of 35,000 feet, a second time|
|00:26–01:22||01:07–02:03||17:07–18:03||Satellite communication link lost sometime during this period.:36|
|00:38||01:19||17:19||Last Malaysian ATC voice contact|
|00:40||01:21||17:21||Last secondary radar (transponder) contact at |
|00:41||01:22||17:22||Transponder and ADS-B no longer operating.|
|00:44||01:25||17:25||Aircraft deviated from planned route:2|
|00:49||01:30||17:30||Voice contact attempt by another aircraft, at request of Ho Chi Minh Area Control Centre (HCM ACC); mumbling and radio static heard in reply|
|00:56||01:37||17:37||Missed expected half-hourly ACARS data transmission|
|00:57||01:38||17:38||HCM ACC contacts Kuala Lumpur ACC (KL ACC) to enquire about Flight 370. HCM ACC tells them that verbal contact was not established and Flight 370 disappeared from their radar screens near BITOD waypoint. KL ACC responded that Flight 370 did not return to their frequency after passing waypoint IGARI.|
|01:05||01:46||17:46||HCM ACC contacts KL ACC again, inform them radar contact was established near IGARI, but lost near BITOD and that verbal contact was not established.|
|01:16||01:57||17:57||HCM ACC informs KL ACC that there was no contact with Flight 370, despite attempts on many frequencies and aircraft in the vicinity.|
|01:22||02:03||18:03||Malaysia Airlines dispatch center sent a message to the cockpit instructing pilots to contact Vietnam ATC, which was not responded to. A ground-to-aircraft ACARS data request, transmitted from the ground station multiple times between 02:03-02:05 MYT, was not acknowledged by the aircraft's satellite data unit.:36–39|
|01:22||02:03||18:03||KL ACC contacts HCM ACC and relays information from Malaysia Airlines' operations centre that Flight 370 is in Cambodian airspace.|
|01:34||02:15||18:15||KL ACC queries Malaysia Airlines' operations center, which replies that they are able to exchange signals with flight and it is in Cambodian airspace.|
|01:37||02:18||18:18||KL ACC contacts HCM ACC asking them if Flight 370 was supposed to enter Cambodian airspace. HCM ACC replies that Flight 370's planned route did not take it into Cambodian airspace and that they had checked and Cambodia had no information or contact with Flight 370.|
|01:41||02:22||18:22||Last primary radar contact by Malaysian military, 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi) NW of Penang, :3|
|01:44||02:25||18:25||'Log-on request' sent by aircraft to satellite. Satellite communication link is reestablished after being lost for between 22–68 min.:18:39 Sometimes referred to as the first hourly 'handshake' after disappearing from radar.|
|01:53||02:34||18:34||KL ACC queries Malaysia Airlines' operations centre about communication status with Flight 370, but they were not sure if a message sent to Flight 370 was successful or not.|
|01:54||02:35||18:35||Malaysia Airlines' operations centre informs KL ACC that Flight 370 is in a normal condition based on signals from the airplane and located at (Northern Vietnam) at 18:33 UTC. KL ACC relays this information to HCM ACC.|
|01:58||02:39||18:39||Ground-to-aircraft telephone call, via the aircraft's satellite link, went unanswered.:18:40|
|02:49||03:30||19:30||Malaysia Airlines' operations centre informs KL ACC that position information was based on flight projection and not reliable for aircraft tracking. Between 03:30 and 04:25, KL & HCM ACCs query Chinese air traffic control.|
|04:28||05:09||21:09||Singapore ACC queried for information about Flight 370.|
|04:49||05:30||21:30||Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) is activated.|
|05:49||06:30||22:30||Missed scheduled arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)|
|06:32||07:13||23:13||Ground-to-aircraft telephone call placed by Malaysia Airlines, via the aircraft's satellite link, went unanswered.:18:40|
|06:43||07:24||23:24||Malaysia Airlines pronounces flight missing in statement released to media|
|07:30||08:11||8 March||Sixth and last successful automated hourly handshake with Inmarsat-3 F1|
|07:38||08:19:29||00:19:29||Unexplained 'log-on request' sent by aircraft to satellite.:18:41 Sometimes referred to as a 'partial handshake' transmitted by aircraft.|
|07:38||08:19:37||00:19:37||After the ground station responded to the log-on request, the aircraft replied with a 'log-on acknowledgement' transmission at 08:19:37.443 MYT. This is the last transmission received from Flight 370.:18:41|
|08:34||09:15||01:15||Aircraft did not respond to a scheduled, hourly handshake attempt by Inmarsat.:41|
On 24 March, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said,
Using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort... Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth. This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
Just before Najib spoke at 22:00 MYT, Malaysia Airlines announced that Flight 370 was assumed lost with no survivors. It notified most of the families in person or via telephone, and some received the following SMS:
Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia's Prime Minister, we must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean.
If the official assumption holds, at the time of its disappearance Flight 370 will have been the deadliest aviation incident in the history of Malaysia Airlines (surpassing the 1977 hijacking and crash of Malaysian Airline System Flight 653 that killed all 100 passengers and crew on board) and the deadliest involving a Boeing 777, surpassing Asiana Airlines Flight 214 (3 fatalities). In both of those categories, Flight 370 was surpassed just 131 days later by Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, another Boeing 777-200ER, which was presumed to be shot down on 17 July 2014, killing all 298 persons aboard.
A search and rescue effort was launched soon after the aircraft's disappearance in Southeast Asia, but the following week, analysis of satellite communications between the aircraft and a communications satellite determined that the aircraft had continued flying for several hours and the final transmission from the aircraft was made over the Southern Indian Ocean, west of Australia. The surface search in the southern Indian Ocean between 18 March and 28 April searched over 4,600,000 square kilometres (1,800,000 sq mi) and involved 19 vessels and 345 search sorties by military aircraft. The current phase of the search is a bathymetric survey and sonar search of the seafloor, about 1,800 kilometres (1,100 mi) southwest of Perth, Australia. As of 3 December 2014, the bathymetric survey has charted over 185,000 square kilometres (71,000 sq mi) of seafloor and over 8,000 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi) of seafloor has been searched.
The search for Flight 370 is the most expensive search operation in aviation history, but has failed to locate any physical debris from the aircraft. In June 2014, Time estimated that the total search effort to that point had cost approximately US$70 million. The tender for the underwater search is AU$52 million (US$43 million or €35 million)—shared by Australia & Malaysia—for 12 months, but would differ if found in more or less time.
Since 30 March 2014, the search has been coordinated by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), an Australian government agency established specifically to coordinate the search effort to locate and recover Flight 370, which primarily involves the Malaysian, Chinese, & Australian governments.
The Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) was activated at 05:30—four hours after communication was lost with Flight 370—to coordinate search and rescue efforts. Search efforts began in the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea. On the second day of the search, Malaysian officials revealed that radar recordings indicated Flight 370 may have turned around; the search zone was expanded to include part of the Strait of Malacca. On 12 March, the chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force announced that an unidentified aircraft—believed to be Flight 370—had travelled across the Malay peninsula and was last sighted on military radar 370 km (200 nmi; 230 mi) northwest of Penang Island; search efforts were subsequently increased in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.
Records of signals sent between the aircraft and a communications satellite over the Indian Ocean revealed that the plane had continued flying for almost six hours after its final sighting on Malaysian military radar. Initial analysis of these communications determined that Flight 370 was along one of two arcs—equidistant from the satellite—when its last signal was sent; the same day this analysis was publicly disclosed, 15 March, authorities announced they would abandon search efforts in the South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand, and Strait of Malacca to focus their efforts on the two corridors. The northern arc—from northern Thailand to Kazakhstan—was soon discounted as the aircraft would have to pass through heavily militarized airspace and those countries claimed their military radar would have detected an unidentified aircraft entering their airspace.
Southern Indian Ocean
The focus of the search shifted to the Southern Indian Ocean west of Australia and within Australia's concurrent aeronautical and maritime Search and Rescue regions that extend to 75°E longitude. Accordingly, on 17 March, Australia agreed to lead the search in the southern locus from Sumatra to the southern Indian Ocean.
From 18-27 March, the search effort focused on a 305,000 km2 (118,000 sq mi) area about 2,600 km (1,600 mi) south-west of Perth that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said is "as close to nowhere as it's possible to be" and which is renowned for its strong winds, inhospitable climate, hostile seas, and deep ocean floors. Satellite imagery of the region was analyzed; several objects of interest and two possible debris fields were identified on images captured between 16-26 March. However, none of these possible objects were found by aircraft or ships.
Revised estimates of the radar track and the aircraft's remaining fuel led to a move of the search 1,100 kilometres (680 mi) north-east of the previous area on 28 March which was followed by another shift on April 4. An intense effort began to locate the underwater locator beacons (ULBs; informally known as "pingers") attached to the aircraft's blackboxes, whose batteries were expected to expire around 7 April Two ships equipped with towed pinger locators (TPLs) and a submarine equipped with a "similar device", began searching for pings along a 240-kilometre (150 mi) seabed line believed to be the Flight 370 impact area. Operators considered it a shot in the dark, when comparing the vast search area with the fact that a TPL could only search up to 130 square kilometres (50 sq mi) per day. Between 4-8 April several acoustic detections were made that were close to the frequency and rhythm of the sound emitted by the blackboxes' ULBs; analysis of the acoustic detections determined that, although unlikely, the detections could have come from a damaged ULB (more details in the "Analysis of hydroacoustic data/Underwater locator beacons" section).:13 A sonar search of the seafloor near the detections was carried out between 14 April and 28 May without any sign of Flight 370.:14
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In late June, details of the next phase of the search were announced; officials have called this phase the "underwater search", despite the previous seafloor sonar survey. Continued refinement of analysis of Flight 370's satellite communications identified a "wide area search" along the arc where Flight 370 was located when it last communicated with the satellite. The priority search area within the wide area search is in its southern extent. Some of the equipment to be used for the underwater search operates best when towed 200 m (650 ft) above the seafloor and is towed at the end of a 10 km (6 mi) cable. Available bathymetric data for this region was of poor resolution, thus necessitating a bathymetric survey of the search area before the underwater phase began.
The underwater phase of the search, which began on 6 October 2014, uses three vessels equipped with towed deep water vehicles, which use side-scan sonar, multi-beam echo sounders, and video cameras to locate and identify aircraft debris. As of 17 December 2014, over 11,000 km2 (4,200 sq mi) of seafloor has been searched and the bathymetric survey has mapped over 200,000 km2 (77,000 sq mi) of seafloor. Without significant delays, the priority underwater search area will be completed around May 2015.
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Flight 370 was operated with a Boeing 777-2H6ER,[d] serial number 28420, registration 9M-MRO. The 404th Boeing 777 produced, it first flew on 14 May 2002, and was delivered new to Malaysia Airlines on 31 May 2002. The aircraft was powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 892 engines, and configured to carry 282 passengers. 9M-MRO had accumulated 53,460 hours and 7,525 cycles in service, and had not previously been involved in any major incidents, though a minor incident while taxiing at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in August 2012 resulted in a broken wingtip. Its last maintenance 'A' check was carried out on 23 February 2014. The ADS-B on 9M-MRO was replaced with ADS-C In November 2013 to comply with FANS 1/A certification.
The Boeing 777, introduced in 1994, is generally regarded by aviation experts as having a safety record that is one of the best of any commercial aircraft. Since its first commercial flight in June 1995, there have been only four other serious accidents involving hull-loss: British Airways Flight 38 in 2008; a cockpit fire in a parked EgyptAir 777-200 at Cairo International Airport in 2011; Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in 2013, in which three people died, and Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 which was shot down over Ukraine with 298 people aboard in July 2014.
Passengers and crew
Malaysia Airlines released the names and nationalities of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members, based on the flight manifest, later modified to include two Iranian passengers travelling on stolen passports.
All 12 crew members were Malaysian citizens. Two pilots were among the crew:
- The captain was 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah from Penang; he joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had 18,365 hours of flying experience. Zaharie was also an examiner qualified to conduct simulator tests for pilots.
- The first officer was 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid, an employee of Malaysia Airlines since 2007, with 2,763 flying hours. This was Fariq's first flight as a fully qualified Boeing 777 first officer following the completion of his supervised transition to that type of aircraft.
Of the 227 passengers, 152 were Chinese citizens, including a group of 19 artists with six family members and four staff returning from a calligraphy exhibition of their work in Kuala Lumpur; 38 passengers were Malaysian. The remaining passengers were from 13 different countries. Twenty passengers—12 of whom were from Malaysia and 8 from China—were employees of Freescale Semiconductor.
Under a 2007 agreement with Malaysia Airlines, Tzu Chi – an international Buddhist organisation – immediately sent specially trained teams to Beijing and Malaysia to give emotional support to passengers' families. The airline also sent its own team of caregivers and volunteers and agreed to bear the expenses of bringing family members of the passengers to Kuala Lumpur and providing them with accommodation, medical care, and counselling. Altogether, 115 family members of the Chinese passengers flew to Kuala Lumpur. Some other family members chose to remain in China, fearing they would feel too isolated in Malaysia.
Malaysia set up a Joint Investigation Team, composed of specialists from Malaysia, Australia, China, the UK, the US, and France,:1 being led according to the ICAO standards by "an independent investigator in charge". The team consists of an airworthiness group, an operations group, and a medical and human factors group. The airworthiness group will examine issues related to maintenance records, structures, and systems of the aircraft. The operations group will review flight recorders, operations, and meteorology. The medical and human factors group will investigate psychological, pathological, and survival factors.
Malaysia also announced, on 6 April, that it had set up three ministerial committees—a Next of Kin Committee, a committee to organize the formation of the Joint Investigation Team, and a committee responsible for Malaysian assets deployed in the search effort.
On 17 March, Australia took control for coordinating search, rescue, and recovery operations. For the following six weeks, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) worked to determine the search area, correlating information with the JIT and other government and academic sources, while the Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC) coordinated the search efforts. Following the fourth phase of the search, the ATSB took responsibility for defining the search area. In May, the search strategy working group was established by the ATSB to determine the most likely position on the aircraft at the 00:19 UTC satellite transmission. The group included aircraft and satellite experts from: Air Accidents Investigation Branch (UK), Boeing (US), Defence Science and Technology Organisation (Australia), Department of Civil Aviation (Malaysia), Inmarsat (UK), National Transportation Safety Board (US), and Thales (UK). :1
Analysis of satellite communication
The datalink for Malaysia Airline's avionics communications at the time of the incident was supplied by SITA, which contracted with Inmarsat to provide a satellite communication link using Inmarsat's Classic Aero service. Aeronautical satellite communication (SATCOM) systems are used to transmit messages from the aircraft cockpit as well as automated messages from on-board systems using the ACARS communications protocol, but may also be used to transmit FANS & ATN messages and provide voice, fax and data links using other protocols. An appropriate comparison of ACARS' relationship to the SATCOM system is that of a messaging application to a smartphone; the smartphone functions and will remain registered on a mobile phone network even if the messaging application is closed. The data/messages from the aircraft ("mobile terminal", with respect to the network) are transmitted by the aircraft's Satellite Data Unit (SDU) and relayed via satellite to a ground station, where they are routed to other communication networks to reach their destination.:17 Messages may also be sent to the aircraft, in reverse order. The ground station keeps a log of transmissions and some data about them.:17–18
When the terminal tries to connect with the Inmarsat network, it will transmit a log-on request, which the ground station acknowledges.:17 This is, in part, to determine that the SDU belongs to an active service subscriber and also used to determine which satellite should be used to transmit messages to the SDU. After connecting, if a ground station hasn't received any contact from a terminal for one hour,[h] the ground station will transmit a "log-on interrogation" message—informally referred to as a "ping";:18 an active terminal automatically responds. The entire process of interrogating the terminal is referred to as a 'handshake'.
Communications from 02:25-08:19 MYT
Although the ACARS system on Flight 370 was disabled at 01:21 MYT (17:21 UTC, 7 March), the SDU remained operable. After last contact by primary radar west of Malaysia, the following records were recorded in the log of Inmarsat's ground station at Perth, Western Australia::18[i]
- 18:25:27 UTC – 1st handshake (initiated by aircraft)
- 18:39:52 UTC – Ground to aircraft telephone call, acknowledged by SDU, unanswered
- 19:41:00 UTC – 2nd handshake (initiated by ground station)
- 20:41:02 UTC – 3rd handshake (initiated by ground station)
- 21:41:24 UTC – 4th handshake (initiated by ground station)
- 22:41:19 UTC – 5th handshake (initiated by ground station)
- 23:13:58 UTC – Ground to aircraft telephone call, acknowledged by SDU, unanswered
- 00:10:58 UTC – 6th handshake (initiated by ground station)
- 00:19:29 UTC – 7th handshake (initiated by aircraft; widely reported as a 'partial handshake'), consisting of two transmissions:
- 00:19:29.416 UTC – 'log-on request' message transmitted by aircraft (7th 'partial' handshake)
- 00:19:37.443 UTC – 'log-on acknowledge' message transmitted by aircraft, last transmission received from Flight 370
On 8 March, Inmarsat provided basic flight data relating to Flight 370 to SITA, which relayed information to Malaysia Airlines and investigators. On 9–10 March, Inmarsat engineers noted that the ground station log recorded pings from the aircraft for several hours after contact was lost with air traffic control. An analysis of the time difference between the transmission of the ping and the aircraft's response allowed Inmarsat to determine the aircraft's distance from the satellite resulted in the plotting of two arcs—referred to as the "northern corridor" and "southern corridor" where the aircraft may have been located at the time of its last complete handshake at 00:11 UTC.
Inmarsat conducted further analysis on the signals received during the handshakes, focusing on the frequency shift of the signal emitted from the aircraft compared with the actual frequency received, known as the burst frequency offset, using a baseline of earlier system data for the aircraft, satellite, and ground station. The burst frequency offset, caused by the Doppler effect, varies based on the aircraft's speed and whether it is moving towards or away from the satellite. Using an "innovative technique" that has "never before [been] used in an investigation of this sort", the team determined it could also use the burst frequency offset to determine the aircraft's speed and position along the identified arcs. Inmarsat cross-checked its methodology to known flight data from six Boeing 777 aircraft flying in various directions on the same day, and found a good match. Applying the technique to the handshake signals from Flight 370 gave results that correlated strongly with the expected and actual measurements of a southern trajectory over the Indian Ocean, but poorly with a northern trajectory. Further revised calculations to account for movements of the satellite relative to the earth allowed the northern corridor to be ruled out completely. This analysis was passed on to Malaysian authorities on 23 March. At 22:00 local time the next day, Prime Minister Najib cited this development to conclude that "Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."
The log-on message sent from the aircraft at 00:19:29 UTC was not immediately well understood. The 18:25 UTC handshake was also initiated by the aircraft.:22 There are only a few reasons the SDU would transmit a log-on message, such as a power interruption, software failure, loss of critical systems providing input to the SDU, or a loss of the link due to aircraft attitude.:22 Investigators consider the most likely reason to be that they were sent during power-up after an electrical outage.:33 At 00:19, the aircraft had been airborne for 7 h 38 min; the typical Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight is 51⁄2 hours and fuel exhaustion was likely.:33:33 In the event of fuel exhaustion and engine flame-out, the aircraft's ram air turbine would deploy, providing power to various instruments and flight controls, including the SDU.:33 Approximately 90 seconds after the 18:25 UTC handshake, communications from the aircraft's inflight entertainment system were recorded in the ground station log.:22 Similar messages would be expected following the 00:19 UTC handshake but none were received, supporting the fuel starvation scenario.:22
Since the aircraft did not respond to a ping at 01:15 UTC, it was concluded that at some point between 00:11 UTC and 01:15 UTC, the aircraft lost the ability to communicate with the ground station, which Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation noted was "consistent with the maximum endurance of the aircraft". The ATSB is "confident the seventh handshake represents the area where the aircraft ran out of fuel before entering the ocean."
Malaysian investigators set up an international working group, consisting of various agencies with experience in aircraft performance and satellite communications, to further analyse the signals between Flight 370 and the ground station, especially the signal at 00:19 UTC. These included representatives from the UK's Inmarsat, AAIB and Rolls-Royce; China's Civil Aviation Administration and Aircraft Accident Investigation Department; the US NTSB and FAA, and Malaysian authorities.
In an article published on 8 May several satellite experts questioned the analysis of satellite pings made by Inmarsat staff because the Doppler frequency shifts measured were apparently not properly corrected against the satellite's own drift (a periodic North-South oscillation of 3° every 24 hours). Without any additional data being released, the implication of this new analysis was that the northern portion of the Inmarsat satellite pings arc could not be ruled out. The Malaysian government released the satellite data three weeks later.
A peer-reviewed paper by Inmarsat scientists published in the Journal of Navigation in October 2014 provides a comprehensive account of the analysis applied to the satellite communications from Flight 370. Details of the methodology used to analyze the satellite communications were provided in the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's report MH370 – Definition of Underwater Search Areas, published in June, and a supplement released in October.
Analysis of hydroacoustic data
A source of evidence to assist in locating the final resting place of the aircraft is analysis of underwater sound recordings. If the aircraft hit the ocean hard, hydroacoustic recordings could have potentially recorded an impact event. Furthermore, the aircraft's flight data recorders were fitted with underwater 'pingers', which emit a detectable, pulsating acoustic signal that could have potentially led searchers to their locations.
If Flight 370 had impacted the ocean hard, resulting underwater sounds could have been detected by hydrophones, given favourable circumstances.:40 Sound waves can travel long distances in the ocean, but sounds that travel best are those that are reflected into the 'deep sound channel' usually found between 600–1200 m beneath the surface. Most of the sound generated by an aircraft impacting the ocean would travel straight down to the seabed, making it unlikely that any of these sounds would be reflected into the deep sound channel unless the seabed sloped. Sounds from pieces of the aircraft imploding at depth would be more likely to travel in the deep sound channel. "The combination of circumstances necessary to allow [detection of an ocean impact] would have to be very particular," according to Mark Prior, a seismic-acoustic specialist at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, who also explains that "given the continuing uncertainty regarding the fate of MH370, underwater acoustic data still has the possibility of adding something to the search." When an Airbus A330 hit the Atlantic Ocean at speed of 152 kn (282 km/h; 175 mph), no data relating to the impact was detected in hydroacoustic recordings, even when analysed after the location of that aircraft was known. As with the analysis of the Inmarsat satellite data, the hydroacoustic analysis uses the data in a way very different from that originally intended.
Audio recording of the suspect acoustic detection, sped up by a factor of 10 to be discernible.
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The Australian Transport Safety Bureau requested the Curtin University Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) analyse these signals.:40 Scientists from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization & Geoscience Australia have also been involved with the analysis. Available sources of hydroacoustic data were::40,47
- The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which operates a system of sensors to detect nuclear tests as part of their mission to ensure compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Data was analyzed from CTBTO hydrophones located south-west of Cape Leeuwin, Western Australia (HA01) and in the northern Indian Ocean. These stations have two hydrophones each, separated by several kilometers, allowing a bearing to be calculated for the source of noise to within 0.5°.
- Australia's Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS). Data from an acoustic observatory (RCS) 40 km west of Rottnest Island, Western Australia, near the Perth Canyon. IMOS stations have just one hydrophone each and therefore cannot provide a bearing on the source of the noise. Several IMOS recorders deployed in the Indian Ocean off northwestern Australia by CMST may have recorded data related to Flight 370. These recorders were not recovered as part of the investigation. These sensors record only five minutes out of every fifteen and are likely to be contaminated by noise from seismic surveys. CMST originally planned to recover the sensors in September or October, but now plan to make the trip in August.
- It is unclear what other sources of hydroacoustic data are available in the region. India & Pakistan operate submarine fleets, but the JACC claims they aren't aware of any hydrophones operated by those countries. The US Navy operated a vast array of hydrophones—the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS)—during the Cold War to track submarines, which is believed to remain in operation. Asked if any SOSUS sensors are located in the Indian Ocean, a spokesman for the US Navy declined comment on the subject, noting that such information is classified.
Scientists from the CTBTO analysed their recordings soon after Flight 370 disappeared, finding nothing of interest. However, after the search for the flight shifted to the Indian Ocean, CMST collected recordings from the IMOS and found a clear acoustic signature just after 01:30 UTC on 8 March. This signature was also found, but difficult to discern from background noise, in the CTBTO recordings from HA01, likely because HA01 receives a lot of noise from the Southern Ocean & Antarctic coastline.
The CMST researchers believe that the most likely explanation of the hydroacoustic data is that they come from the same event, but unrelated to Flight 370.:47 They note that "the characteristics of the [event's acoustic signals] are not unusual, it is only their arrival time and to some extent the direction from which they came that make them of interest.":47 If the data relates to the same event, related to Flight 370, but the arc derived from analysis of the aircraft's satellite transmission is incorrect, then the most likely place to look for the aircraft would be along a line from HA01 at a bearing of 301.6° until that line reaches the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge (approximately 2.3°S, 73.7°E). In the latter possibility, if the acoustic recordings are from the impact of the aircraft with the ocean, they likely came from a location where water is less than 2000 m deep and the seabed slopes downwards towards the east or southeast; if they came from debris imploding at depth, the source location along this line is much less certain.:47 The lead researcher of the CMST team, Dr.Alec Duncan, believes there's a slim chance—perhaps as low as 10 percent—that the acoustic event is related to Flight 370.
Underwater locator beacons
The aircraft's flight recorders were fitted with Dukane DK100 underwater acoustic beacons—also known as "underwater locator beacons" (ULBs) or "pingers"—which are activated by immersion in salt water and thereafter emit a 10 millisecond pulse every second at frequency of 37.5±1 kHz. The beacons are limited by battery life, providing a minimum of 30 days and have an estimated maximum life of 40 days, according to their manufacturer. The nominal distance at which these beacons can be detected is 2000–3000 metres.:11 Because the flight recorders to which they are attached could provide valuable information in the investigation, an intense effort was made to detect the beacons' pings before their batteries expired.
The HMS Echo made one possible detection on 2 April—the same day the ship joined the search effort. The following day, following tests, the detection was dismissed as an artifact of the ship's sonar system.:11 On the afternoon of 5 April Perth time, HMS Echo detected a signal lasting approximately 90 seconds. The second detection was made within 2 km from the first detection.
MV Haixun 01, operated by the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration, detected a signal at 37.5kHz pulsing once per second on 4 April and again on 5 April at a position 3 km west of the first detection. The HMS Echo was sent to the location of the MV Haixun 01 detections and determined that the detections were unlikely to originate from ULBs attached to the plane's black boxes due to the depth of the seafloor, surface noise, and the equipment used. A submarine sent to the location made no acoustic detections.:13
ADV Ocean Shield was sent to the search area with two Phoenix International TPL-25 towed pinger locators (also known as "towfish"). Shortly after one of the towfish was deployed, while descending, an acoustic signal was detected at a frequency of 33kHz on 5 April. Further detections were made on 5 April and on 8 April, but none could be detected when the ship passed the same location on an opposing heading.:12
Independent analyses of the detections made by ADV Ocean Shield determined that the signals did not match the performance standards of the ULBs attached to the aircraft's black boxes. However, although unlikely, they noted that the signals could have originated from a damaged ULB.:13
Between 6-16 April, AP-3C Orion aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force deployed sonobuoys, which sank to a depth of 300m to detect the acoustic signature of the ULBs attached to the aircraft's black boxes. Sonobuoy drops were carried out at locations along the calculated arc of the final satellite communication with Flight 370 where seafloor depths were considered favourable, near the MV Haixun 01 detections, and along the bearing determined by the Curtin University research team of a possible impact event. One AP-3C Orion sortie was capable of searching an area of 3,000 square kilometres (1,200 sq mi). No acoustic detections related to the ULBs attached to the aircraft's black boxes were made by the sonobuoys.:13
Possible in-flight events
The SATCOM link functioned normally from pre-flight (beginning 16:00 UTC) until it responded to a ground-to-air ACARS message with an acknowledge message at 17:07 UTC. Ground-to-air ACARS messages continued to be transmitted to Flight 370 until Inmarsat's network sent multiple 'Request for Acknowledge' messages at 18:03 UTC, without a response from the aircraft. At some time between 17:07 & 18:03, power was lost to the SDU. At 18:25 UTC, the aircraft's SDU sent a 'log-on request'.:22:36–39 It is not common for a log-on request to be made in-flight, but it could occur for multiple reasons. An analysis of the characteristics and timing of these requests suggest a power interruption in-flight is the most likely culprit.:33 As the power interruption was not due to engine flame-out, per ATSB, it may have been the result of manual switching off the aircraft's electrical system.:33
An analysis by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau comparing the evidence available for Flight 370 with three categories of accidents—an in-flight upset (e.g. stall), a glide event (e.g. engine failure, fuel starvation), and an unresponsive crew/hypoxia event—concluded that an unresponsive crew or hypoxia event "best fit the available evidence":34 for the 5-hour period of the flight as it travelled south over the Indian Ocean without communication or significant deviations in its track,:34 likely on autopilot. There is, however, no consensus among investigators on the unresponsive crew/hypoxia theory.
Possible causes of disappearance
Two men identified on the passenger manifest, an Austrian and an Italian, had reported their passports stolen in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Interpol stated that both passports were listed on its database of lost and stolen passports, and that no check had been made against its database. Malaysia's Home Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, criticised his country's immigration officials for failing to stop the passengers travelling on the stolen European passports. The two one-way tickets purchased for the holders of the stolen passports were booked through China Southern Airlines. It was reported that an Iranian had ordered the cheapest tickets to Europe via telephone in Bangkok, Thailand. The tickets were paid for in cash. The two passengers were later identified as Iranian men, one aged 19 and the other 29, who had entered Malaysia on 28 February using valid Iranian passports. The head of Interpol said the organisation was "inclined to conclude that it was not a terrorist incident". The two men were believed to be asylum seekers.
United States and Malaysian officials were reviewing the backgrounds of every passenger named on the manifest. On 18 March the Chinese government announced that it had checked all of the Chinese citizens on the aircraft and ruled out the possibility that any were potential hijackers.
Police searched the homes of the pilot and co-pilot, on suspicion that those in the cockpit had been responsible for the aircraft's disappearance. The United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation reconstructed the deleted data from the pilot's home flight simulator and a Malaysian government spokesman indicated that "nothing sinister" had been found on it. On 2 April Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia's Police Inspector-General, said that as part of its ongoing criminal investigation, more than 170 interviews had been conducted, including with family members of the pilots and crew. Investigators seized financial records for all 12 crew members, including bank statements, credit card bills and mortgage documents.
Shortly after Flight 370's disappearance, media reports revealed that Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah's wife and three children moved out of his house the day before the disappearance and a friend claimed that Capt. Shah was seeing another woman and the relationship with that other woman was also in trouble. Claims of domestic problems have been denied by Capt. Shah's family. A fellow pilot and long-time associate of Capt. Shah stated the captain was "terribly upset" that his marriage was falling apart. Police were also investigating reports that Capt. Shah received a two-minute phone call prior to the flight's departure from an unidentified woman using a mobile phone number obtained with a false identity. Furthermore, Capt. Shah was also a supporter of Malaysian opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim, who was sentenced to jail on 7 March after an earlier acquittal on sodomy charges was overturned in a move viewed as politically motivated.
On 23 June, an official Malaysian police investigation into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 identified the captain as the prime suspect if it is proven human intervention was involved. Contradicting an earlier statement about data from Capt. Shah's flight simulator, The Sunday Times reported that among deleted flight paths performed on the flight simulator investigators found a flight path into the Southern Ocean where the plane landed on an island with a small runway. Investigators noted strange behaviour by Capt. Shah from conducting 170 interviews—namely, that the captain had made no social or professional plans for after 8 March, when Flight 370 disappeared. News reports about the captain's lack of social plans and flight simulator exercises cite results of the police enquiry into the pilots, which have been shared with some of the investigation team but haven't been released publicly.
Investigators believe someone in the cockpit of Flight 370 re-programmed the plane's autopilot before it traveled south across the Indian Ocean, raising further suspicion the disappearance was caused by the captain or copilot. A hijacking by a pilot would not be without precedent, as less than three weeks before Flight 370 disappeared—on 17 February 2014—Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702 was hijacked when the co-pilot locked the captain out of the cabin and diverted the aircraft to seek asylum in Switzerland.
On 17 March, MAS chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, indicated that the aircraft was carrying only three to four tonnes/tons of mangosteens and said that nothing it transported was dangerous. Three days later, he also confirmed that potentially flammable batteries, identified as lithium-ion, were on board, adding that all cargo was "packed as recommended by the ICAO", checked several times, and deemed to meet regulations. The cargo manifest released on 1 May had revealed two air waybills (AWBs) for lithium-ion batteries with a total consignment weight of 221 kg. Three other AWBs weighing 2,232 kg were declared as radio accessories and chargers, but an MAS representative said he was not permitted to provide additional information. Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia's Police Inspector-General, said that the provenance and destination of all cargo, including the mangosteens and in-flight meals, were being investigated to rule out sabotage as a cause.
Claims of responsibility
On 9 March 2014, members of the Chinese news media received an open letter that claimed to be from the leader of the Chinese Martyrs Brigade, a previously unknown group. The letter claimed that the loss of Flight 370 was in retaliation for the Chinese government's response to the knife attacks at Kunming railway station on 1 March 2014 and part of the wider separatist campaign against Chinese control over Xinjiang province. The letter also listed unspecified grievances against the Malaysian government. The letter's claim was dismissed as fraudulent based on its lack of detail regarding the fate of Flight 370 and the fact that the name "Chinese Martyrs Brigade" appeared inconsistent with Uyghur separatist groups which describe themselves as "East Turkestan" and "Islamic" rather than "Chinese".
Public communication from Malaysian officials regarding the loss of the flight was initially beset with confusion.[j] The New York Times wrote that the Malaysian government and the airline released imprecise, incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate information, with civilian officials sometimes contradicting military leaders. Malaysian officials were also criticised after the persistent release of contradictory information, most notably regarding the last point and time of contact with the aircraft.
Although Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also the country's Defence Minister, denied the existence of problems between the participating countries, academics said that because of regional conflicts, there were genuine trust issues involved in co-operation and sharing intelligence, and that these were hampering the search. International relations experts said entrenched rivalries over sovereignty, security, intelligence, and national interests made meaningful multilateral co-operation very difficult. A Chinese academic made the observation that the parties were searching independently, thus it was not a multilateral search effort. However, The Guardian noted the Vietnamese permission given for Chinese aircraft to overfly its airspace as a positive sign of co-operation. Vietnam temporarily scaled back its search operations after the country's Deputy Transport Minister cited a lack of communication from Malaysian officials despite requests for more information. China, through the official Xinhua News Agency, said that the Malaysian government ought to take charge and conduct the operation with greater transparency, a point echoed by the Chinese Foreign Ministry days later.
Malaysia had initially declined to release raw data from its military radar, deeming the information "too sensitive", but later acceded. Defence experts suggested that giving others access to radar information could be sensitive on a military level. As an example: "The rate at which they can take the picture can also reveal how good the radar system is." One suggested that some countries could already have had radar data on the aircraft but were reluctant to share any information that could potentially reveal their defence capabilities and compromise their own security. Similarly, submarines patrolling the South China Sea might have information in the event of a water impact, and sharing such information could reveal their locations and listening capabilities. This is quite plausible, given how quickly the US redirected USS Kidd to begin searching the Indian Ocean, even as other search assets were then still focused on searching previous search areas.
Criticism was also levelled at the delay of the search efforts. On 11 March, three days after the aircraft disappeared, British satellite company Inmarsat had provided officials (or its partner, SITA) with data suggesting the aircraft was nowhere near the areas in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea being searched at that time; and may have diverted its course through a southern or northern corridor. This information was only publicly acknowledged and released by Najib on 15 March in a press conference. Explaining why information about satellite signals had not been made available earlier, Malaysia Airlines said that the raw satellite signals needed to be verified and analysed "so that their significance could be properly understood" before it could publicly confirm their existence. Hishammuddin said Malaysian and US investigators had immediately discussed the Inmarsat data upon receiving them on 12 March, and on two occasions, both groups agreed that it needed further processing and sent the data to the US twice for this purpose. Data analysis was completed on 14 March: by then, the AAIB had independently arrived at the same conclusion.
A month after the disappearance, Malaysia Airlines' chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya acknowledged that ticket sales had declined but failed to provide specific details. This may partially result from the suspension of the airline's advertisement campaigns following the disappearance. Mr. Ahmad stated in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the airline's "primary focus...is that we do take care of the families in terms of their emotional needs and also their financial needs. It is important that we provide answers for them. It is important that the world has answers, as well." In further remarks, Mr. Ahmad said he wasn't sure when the airline could start repairing its image, but that the airline was adequately insured to cover the financial loss stemming from Flight 370's disappearance. In China, where the majority of passengers were from, bookings on Malaysia Airlines were down 60% in March.
Malaysia Airlines retired the Flight 370 (MH370) flight number and replaced it with Flight 318 (MH318) beginning 14 March. This follows a common practice among airlines to rename flights following notorious accidents. The flight—Malaysia Airline's second daily flight to Beijing—was later suspended beginning 2 May; according to insiders, this was due to lack of demand.
Malaysia Airlines was given US$110 million from insurers in March 2014 to cover initial payments to passengers' families and the search effort. In May, remarks from lead reinsurer of the flight, Allianz, indicated the insured market loss on Flight 370, including the search, was about US$350 million.
The airline was criticised on social media for gaffes made during advertisements. In September 2014, the airline launched a contest "My Ultimate Bucket List" in Australia and New Zealand. Since a bucket list is a list of goals to accomplish before you die, many found it very distasteful for an airline which lost 537 people killed & missing in the previous six months. In November 2014, the airline tweeted "Want to go somewhere, but don't know where? Our Year-End Specials might just help! #keepflying"; the airline removed it and tweeted an apology after the public drew parallels to Flight 370.
At the time of Flight 370's disappearance, Malaysia Airlines was struggling to cut costs to compete with a wave of new, low-cost carriers in the region. In the previous three years, Malaysia Airlines had booked losses of: RM1.17 billion (US$356 million) in 2013, RM433 million in 2012, and RM2.5 billion in 2011. Malaysia Airlines lost RM443.4 million (US$137.4 million) in the first quarter of 2014 (January–March). The second quarter—the first in the aftermath of Flight 370's disappearance—saw a loss of RM307.04 million (US$97.6 million), which represented a 75% increase over losses from the second-quarter of 2013. Industry analysts expect Malaysia Airlines to lose further market share and face a challenging environment to stand out from competitors while addressing their financial plight. The company's stock, down as much as 20% following the disappearance of Flight 370, had fallen 80% over the previous five years, which contrasts with a rise in the Malaysian stock market of about 80% over the same period.
Many analysts and the media suggested that Malaysia Airlines would need to rebrand and repair its image and/or require government assistance to return to profitability. The loss of Flight 17 in July greatly exacerbated Malaysia Airline's woes. The combined effect on consumer confidence of the loss of Flights 370 & 17 and the airline's poor financial performance led Khazanah Nasional—the majority shareholder (69.37%) and a Malaysian state-run investment arm—to announce on 8 August its plan to purchase the remainder of the airline, thereby renationalising it.
Compensation for passengers' kin
The airline's offer of an ex gratia condolence payment of US$5,000 to the family of each passenger was initially rejected; the amounts were handed out to relatives on 12 March. It was also reported that Malaysian relatives only received $2,000. On 12 June, Malaysia's deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainuddin said that families of seven passengers received $50,000 advance compensation from Malaysia Airlines, but that full payout would come after the aircraft is found or officially declared lost.
Lack of evidence in determining the cause of Flight 370's disappearance, indeed even physical evidence that the aircraft crashed, raises many issues regarding responsibility for the accident and payments made by insurance agencies. Under international aviation law, it is the carrier's responsibility to prove lack of fault in an accident. Under the Montreal Convention, each passenger's next-of-kin are automatically entitled, regardless of fault, to a payment of approximately US$175,000[k] from the airline's insurance company—a total of nearly US$40 million for the 227 passengers on board. Malaysia Airlines would still be vulnerable to civil lawsuits from passengers' families. Compensation awarded during or settled out-of-court during civil trials will likely vary widely among passengers based on country of the court. An American court could likely award upwards of US$8–10 million, while Chinese courts would likely award a small fraction of that.
Questions and criticisms were raised by air force experts and the Malaysian opposition about the current state of Malaysia's air force and radar capabilities. The failure of the Royal Malaysian Air Force to identify and respond to an unidentified aircraft (later determined to be Flight 370) flying through Malaysian airspace has been criticized by many. The Malaysian military only became aware of the unidentified flight after reviewing radar recordings several hours after Flight 370's disappearance. Not only was the failure to recognize and react to the unidentified aircraft a security blunder, it was also a missed opportunity to intercept Flight 370 and prevent the time-consuming and expensive search operation.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak responded to criticism of his government in an opinion piece published in the The Wall Street Journal:
Without physical evidence, or a clear explanation for why this happened, peoples' attention has naturally focused on the authorities—and Malaysia has borne the brunt of the criticism. In the passage of time, I believe Malaysia will be credited for doing its best under near-impossible circumstances. It is no small feat for a country the size of ours to overcome diplomatic and military sensitivities and bring 26 different countries together to conduct one of the world's largest peacetime search operations.
But we didn't get everything right...the response time should and will be investigated...I pledge that Malaysia will keep searching for the plane for as long as it takes.
In the opinion piece, Najib goes on to emphasize the need for the aviation industry to "not only learn the lessons of MH370 but implement them," saying in closing that "the world learned from [Air France Flight 447] but didn't act. The same mistake must not be made again."
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim strongly criticised the Malaysian government regarding their response to Flight 370's disappearance and the military's response when Flight 370 turned back over the Malay Peninsula; he has called for an international committee to take charge of the investigation "to save the image of the country and to save the country." Malaysian authorities have accused Mr. Anwar—who was jailed on contentious charges the day before Flight 370 disappeared—of politicising the crisis. Flight 370's captain was a supporter of Mr. Anwar and the two knew each other.
Malaysia's Defense and Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein—a central figure in the search an investigation of Flight 370 and active on Twitter—was criticised for responding/retweeting a tweet by a Malaysian journalist: "Right u are:) @IsmailAmsyar: #MH370 is a blessing in disguise 4 all of us. I understand now d beauty of unity & sweetness of having each other." The remarks were viewed as insensitive to the victims' families. Both tweets were removed. Questioned why Malaysia did not scramble fighter jets to intercept the plane as it tracked back across the Malay Peninsula, he noted that it was deemed a commercial aircraft and wasn't hostile, remarking: "If you're not going to shoot it down, what's the point of sending [a fighter jet] up?"
The poor response to the crisis and lack of transparency in the response has brought attention to the state of media in Malaysia. After decades of having tight control of media, during which government officials were accustomed to passing over issues without scrutiny or accountability, Malaysia was suddenly thrust to the forefront of global media and unable to adjust to demands for transparency. Confronted by a foreign journalist about the slow response and conflicting information, Defense and Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein responded that he's received "a lot of feedback saying we’ve been very responsible in our actions...it’s very irresponsible of you to say that."
On 24 March, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng reacted sceptically to the conclusion by the Malaysian government that the aircraft had gone down with no survivors. Xie demanded "all the relevant information and evidence about the satellite data analysis", and said that the Malaysian government must "finish all the work including search and rescue."
On 25 March, Chinese president Xi Jinping said he was sending a special envoy to Kuala Lumpur to consult with the Malaysian government over the missing aircraft. The same day, around two hundred family members of the Chinese passengers protested outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing. Relatives who had arrived in Kuala Lumpur after the announcement continued with their protest, accusing Malaysia of hiding the truth and harbouring the murderer. They also wanted an apology for the Malaysian government's poor initial handling of the disaster and its "premature" conclusion of loss, drawn without physical evidence. An op-ed for China Daily said that Malaysia was not wholly to be blamed for its poor handling of such a "bizarre and unprecedented crisis", and appealed to Chinese people not to allow emotions to prevail over evidence and rationality. The Chinese ambassador to Malaysia rebuked the "radical and irresponsible opinions" of the Chinese relatives, and said that they "[did] not represent the views of Chinese people and the Chinese government". The ambassador also strongly criticised Western media for having "published false news, stoked conflict and even spread rumours" to the detriment of relatives and of Sino–Malaysian relations. On the other hand, a US Department of Defense official criticized China for what he perceived as providing apparently false leads that detracted from the search effort and wasted time and resources.
Some Chinese have boycotted most things Malaysian, including vacations and singers, in protest of Malaysia's handling of the Flight 370 investigation. Bookings on Malaysia Airlines from China, where the majority of passengers were from, were down 60% in March . In late March, several major Chinese ticketing agencies—ELong, LY.com, Qunar and Mango—banned sale of airline tickets to Malaysia and several large Chinese travel agencies reported a 50% drop in tourists compared to the same period the year before. China is the third largest source of visitors for Malaysia, accounting for 1.79 million tourists. One market analyst predicted a 20-40% drop in Chinese tourists to Malaysia, resulting in a loss of 4-8 billion yuan (RM2.1-4.2 billion; US$650 million-1.3 billion).
The boycotts have largely been led or supported by celebrities. Film star Chen Kun posted a message to Weibo—where he has 70 million followers—stating: "I...will start a boycott from my inner heart on any commercials and travel relating to Malaysia. This will last...until the Malaysian government takes down their clown-like mask and tells the truth." The post was shared over 70,000 times and drew over 30,000 comments. Over 337,000 people retweeted a tweet from TV host Meng Fei, which said "I’ve never been to Malaysia and I do not plan to go there in the future. If you feel the same, please retweet this message."
The fact that, in a digitally-connected world, a modern aircraft could simply disappear has been met with surprise and disbelief by the public; and while changes in the aviation industry often take years to be implemented, airlines and air transport authorities have responded swiftly to take action on several measures to prevent a similar incident from occurring.
The International Air Transport Association—an industry trade organization representing over 240 airlines (representing 84% of global air traffic)—and the United Nation's civil aviation body—the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)—are working on implementing new measures to track aircraft in flight in real time. The IATA created a taskforce (which includes several outside stakeholders) to define a minimum set of requirements that any tracking system must meet, allowing airlines to decide the best solution to track their aircraft. The IATA's taskforce plans to come up with several short-, medium-, and long-term solutions to ensure that information is provided in a timely manner to support search, rescue, and recovery activities in the wake of an aircraft accident. They were expected to provide a report to the ICAO on 30 September 2014, but on that day said that the report would be delayed citing the need for further clarification on some issues.
In May 2014, Inmarsat said it would offer its tracking service for free to all aircraft equipped with an Inmarsat satellite connection (which amounts to nearly all commercial airliners).
There was a call for automated transponders after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks; no changes were made as aviation experts preferred flexible control, in case of malfunctions or electrical emergencies. In the wake of Flight 370, there is still a large amount of inertia in the air transport industry against any changes, which would likely entail significant costs. Pilots have also been vocal critics of changes, citing the need to cut power to equipment in the event of a fire. Nonetheless, new types of tamper-proof circuit breakers are being considered.
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The European Aviation Safety Agency said its new regulations say that the transmitting time of underwater locating devices fitted to aircraft must range from 30–90 days. The agency proposed a new underwater locating device with a larger transmitting range to be fitted to aircraft flying over oceans.
Inmarsat has changed the time period for handshakes with their terminals from one hour to 15 minutes.:2
Timeline of events
- 8 March
- Flight 370 disappears after departing Kuala Lumpur at 00:41 MYT (16:41 UTC, 7 March). A search and rescue effort is launched in the South China Sea & Gulf of Thailand.
- 10 March
- Malaysia's military announces that Flight 370 may have turned back and flew west towards Malaysia. The search is expanded to include the Strait of Malacca.
- 12 March
- Malaysia announces that Flight 370 crossed the Malay Peninsula and was last spotted on military radar 200 nmi (370 km; 230 mi) northwest of Penang on Malaysia's west coast. The focus of the search is shifted to the Andaman Sea and Strait of Malacca.
- 15 March
- Officials announce that communications between Flight 370 and a communications satellite operated by Inmarsat indicate it continued to fly for several more hours and was along one of two corridors at the time of its last communication.
- 18 March—28 April
- Aerial search of the southern Indian Ocean, west of Australia, is conducted.
- 24 March
- Prime Minister of Malaysia announces that Flight 370 is presumed to have gone down in the southern Indian Ocean; Malaysia Airlines states to families that it assumes "beyond reasonable doubt" there are no survivors. The northern search corridor (northwest of Malaysia) and the northern half of the southern search corridor (the waters between Indonesia and Australia) are definitively ruled out.
- 30 March
- The Joint Agency Coordination Centre is created to coordinate the multinational search effort.
- 2−14 April
- An intense effort by several vessels and aircraft-deployed sonobuoys is made to detect underwater acoustic signals made by underwater locator beacons attached to the aircraft's data recorders. Several acoustic detections are made between 4-8 April.
- 14 April−28 May
- A sonar survey of 860 km2 (330 sq mi) of seafloor near the 4-8 April acoustic detections is conducted, yielding nil debris.
- 1 May
- A preliminary report from Malaysia to the ICAO (dated 9 April 2014) is publicly released along with: copies of cargo manifest documents; audio recordings (and transcript) of communications between air traffic control and Flight 370; a log of actions taken by air traffic control (Kuala Lumpur ACC) in the hours after Flight 370 disappeared from their radar (01:38-06:14 MYT).
- 27 May
- The data logs of satellite communications between Flight 370 and Inmarsat are released, following criticism over the way this data had been analyzed and skepticism of whether Flight 370 really ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
- A bathymetric survey is conducted in the region to be searched.
- 26 June
- Plans for the next phase of the search (the "underwater search") are announced to the public in-depth for the first time and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau releases a report detailing the previous search efforts, analysis of satellite communications, methodology used to determine the new search area.
- The underwater search begins 6 October and is expected to last up to 12 months. The search is conducted in areas where the bathymetric survey has been completed.
- 8 October
- Officials announce that the priority area to be searched is further south of the area identified in the June ATSB report. The ATSB releases a report (a supplement to the June report) that details the methodology behind refinements to the analysis of satellite communications.
In popular culture
Several documentaries have been produced about the flight. The Smithsonian Channel aired a one-hour documentary about the flight on 6 April 2014, titled Malaysia 370: The Plane That Vanished. The Discovery Channel broadcast a one-hour documentary about Flight 370 on 16 April 2014 titled Flight 370: The Missing Links.
An episode of the television documentary series Horizon entitled Where is Flight MH370? was broadcast on 17 June 2014 on BBC Two. The programme, narrated by Amanda Drew, documents how the aircraft disappeared, what experts believe happened to it, and how the search has unfolded. The program also examines such new technologies as black box streaming and ADSB, which may help prevent similar disappearances in the future. It concludes by noting that Ocean Shield had spent two months searching 850 square kilometres (330 sq mi) of ocean, but that it had searched far to the north of the Inmarsat "hotspot" on the final arc, at approximately 28 degrees south, where the aircraft was most likely to have crashed. On 8 October 2014, a modified version of the Horizon program was broadcast in the US by PBS as an episode of Nova, entitled Why Planes Vanish and with different narrator.
The first fictional account of the mystery was Scott Maka's MH370: A Novella, published on the three-month anniversary of the aircraft's disappearance.
- List of aerial disappearances
- List of airline flights that required gliding
- List of unrecovered flight recorders
- MH is the IATA designator and MAS is the ICAO airline designator. The flight is also marketed as China Southern Airlines Flight 748 (CZ748) through a codeshare.
- Aircraft altitude is given in feet above sea level and measured, at higher altitudes, by air pressure, which declines linearly as altitude above sea level increases. Using a standard sea level pressure and formula, the nominal altitude of a given air pressure can be determined—referred to as the "pressure altitude". A flight level is the pressure altitude in 100s of feet. For example, flight level 350 corresponds to an altitude where air pressure is 179 mmHg (23.9 kPa), which is nominally 35,000 ft (10,700 m) but does not indicate the true altitude.
- Responsibility for air traffic control is geographically partitioned, through international agreements, into flight information regions (FIRs). Although the airspace at the point where Flight 370 was lost is part of the Singapore FIR, the Kuala Lumpur ACC had been delegated responsibility to provide air traffic control services to aircraft in that part of their FIR.:13
- The aircraft is a Boeing 777-200ER (for Extended Range) model; Boeing assigns a unique customer code for each company that buys one of its aircraft, which is applied as an infix in the model number at the time the aircraft is built. The code for Malaysia Airlines is "H6", hence "777-2H6ER".
- One passenger boarded with a Hong Kong passport.
- The manifest initially released by Malaysia Airlines listed an Austrian and an Italian. These were subsequently identified as two Iranian nationals who boarded Flight 370 using stolen passports.
- 38 passengers and 12 crew.
- The timing of the log-on interrogation message is determined by an inactivity timer, which was set to one hour at the time Flight 370 disappeared (it was later reduced to 15 minutes).:18
- Information released & reported publicly about SATCOM transmissions from Flight 370 have been inconsistent, especially the use of the terms 'ping' and 'handshake'. It was initially reported as 6 'handshakes'/'pings' with one 'partial handshake/ping' sent at 00:19 UTC by Flight 370, unprovoked by the ground station. The events listed may consist of several 'transmissions' between the aircraft and ground station over the course of a few seconds. A readable copy of the ground station log of transmissions to/from Flight 370 is available here.
* Malaysia Airlines' chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, initially said air traffic control was in contact with the aircraft two hours into the flight when in fact the last contact with air traffic control was less than an hour after takeoff.
* Malaysian authorities initially reported that four passengers used stolen passports to board the aircraft before settling on two: one Italian and one Austrian.
* Malaysia abruptly widened the search area to the west on 9 March, and only later explained that military radar had detected the aircraft turning back. This was later formally denied by Rodzali Daud.
* Malaysian authorities visited the homes of pilot Zaharie and co-pilot Fariq on 15 March, during which they took away a flight simulator belonging to Zaharie. Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said this was the first police visit to those homes. On 17 March, the government contradicted this by saying police first visited the pilots' homes on the day following the flight's disappearance, although this had been previously denied.
* On 16 March, Malaysia's acting transport minister contradicted the prime minister's account on the timing of the final data and communications received. Najib Razak had said that the ACARS system was switched off at 01:07. On 17 March, Malaysian officials said that the system was switched off sometime between 01:07, time of the last ACARS transmission, and 01:37, time of the next expected transmission.
* Three days after saying that the aircraft was not transporting anything hazardous, Malaysia Airlines' chief executive Ahmad said that potentially dangerous lithium batteries were on board.
* MAS chief executive initially claimed that the last voice communication from the aircraft was, "all right, good night", with the lack of a call sign fuelling speculation that the flight may have been hijacked. Three weeks later Malaysian authorities published the transcript that indicated the last words were "Good night Malaysian three seven zero".
- The exact amount of this compensation is 113,100 XDR. Using the official exchange rates on 16 July 2014, this is worth approximately: RM557,000; ¥1,073,000; US$174,000; €129,000; or ₤102,000.
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The search for the missing airliner is already among most expensive in aviation history.
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There is still not a single trace of the wreckage, even after the most expensive and widespread airplane recovery mission ever launched.
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The only significant cut MAS implemented in 2Q2014 was on the Beijing route, which is now served with one daily flight. (MH370 was one of two daily flights MAS had operated to Beijing.)
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Timing of ACARS deactivation unclear. Last ACARS message at 01:07 was not necessarily point at which system was turned off
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Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty has been identified as both the lead insurer and the lead reinsurer. An Allianz spokesperson in London confirmed that it is officially the latter.
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The insured market loss on the aeroplane is about $350m, which include the costs for searching.
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FOR BBC Where is Flight MH370?
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Find more about
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
at Wikipedia's sister projects
|Media from Commons|
|News stories from Wikinews|
|Quotations from Wikiquote|
- Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC)
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
- ATSB investigation of Flight 370 - Webpage of Australian Transport Safety Bureau's investigation (Investigation number: AE-2014-054; Investigation title: "Technical assistance to the Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia in support of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on 7 March 2014 UTC")
- MH 370 Preliminary Report – Preliminary report issued by the Malaysia Ministry of Transport. Dated 9 April 2014 and released publicly on 1 May 2014.
- MH370 – Definition of Underwater Search Areas – Report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, released 26 June 2014, and the most comprehensive report on Flight 370 publicly released at that time. The report focuses on defining the search area for the fifth phase, but in doing so provides a comprehensive overview/examination of satellite data, the failed searches, and possible "end-of-flight scenarios".
Press releases / Media
- Australian Maritime Safety Authority
- Australian Transport Safety Bureau
- Malaysia Airlines
- Malaysian Ministry of Transport
- US Department of Defense