Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

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For the aircraft shot down over Ukraine, see Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Photograph of the missing aircraft taking off at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport (LFPG) in France, 2011
The missing aircraft, 9M-MRO in 2011
Incident summary
Date 8 March 2014
Summary Missing
Site Unknown
Passengers 227
Crew 12
Missing 239 (all)
Aircraft type Boeing 777-200ER
Operator Malaysia Airlines
Registration 9M-MRO
Flight origin Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Destination Beijing Capital International Airport

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. Air traffic control received the aircraft's last message at 01:20 MYT (17:20 UTC, 7 March)[b] when it was over the South China Sea, less than an hour after takeoff.[3] It was last plotted by military radar at 02:15 over the Andaman Sea, 320 kilometres (200 mi) northwest of Penang state in northwestern Malaysia.[4] At 07:24, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) reported the flight missing.[5] The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, was carrying 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 15 nations.[6]

A multinational search effort, which became the largest and most expensive in history,[7][8] 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[9][10] extended to the Strait of Malacca and Andaman Sea.[11][12][13] On 15 March, based on military radar data and transmissions between the aircraft and an Inmarsat satellite, investigators concluded that the aircraft had diverted from its intended course and headed west across the Malay Peninsula, then continued on a northern or southern track for around seven hours.[14][15][16][17]

The focus of the search shifted to the southern part of the Indian Ocean, west of Australia.[18]:1 In the first two weeks of April, aircraft and ships deployed equipment to listen for signals from the underwater locator beacons attached to the aircraft's "black boxes". Four unconfirmed signals were detected between 6 and 8 April near the time the beacons' batteries were likely to have been exhausted. A robotic submarine searched the seabed near the detected pings until 28 May, with no debris being found.[19] An analysis of possible flight paths was conducted, identifying a 60,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi) search area, approximately 2,000 km (1,200 mi) west of Perth, Western Australia.[20] The underwater search of this area began on October 5, 2014 and will last up to 12 months at a cost of A$60 million (approximately US$56 million or €41 million).[21][22]

There has been no confirmation of any flight debris,[23][24][25][26][27] and no crash site has been found,[28] resulting in many unofficial theories about its disappearance. The only evidence of the plane's flight path after it disappeared from military radar over the Andaman Sea are communications between the aircraft and a satellite over the Indian Ocean. Analysis of these communications by multiple agencies has concluded that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean.[29][30][31] 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."[29][30][31][32]

At the time of its disappearance, and if the presumption of a loss of all lives aboard can be verified, Flight 370 would have been 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 crash of another Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, Flight 17, that was shot down over Ukraine on 17 July 2014, killing all 298 people aboard.[33]

Disappearance[edit]

Regional map depicting origin & destination of flight, known path from radar, and initial search areas in South China Sea, Malaya Peninsula, and Strait of Malacca.
Route: Kuala Lumpur – Beijing. Insert: initial search areas and known path through waypoints IGARI, VAMPI, and IGREX. Small red squares: radar contacts. Small circles: claimed spotting of debris.
External media
Images
Transcript of ATC conversations with Flight 370 A transcript of conversations between ATC and Flight 370 from pre-departure to final contact (12:25-1:19 MYT).
Video
ATC conversations with Flight 370 Audio recordings of conversations between ATC and Flight 370 from pre-departure to final contact (12:25-1:19 MYT).

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+8:00) and arrive at 06:30 local time (CST; also UTC+8:00).[34][35]

At 00:41 MYT, Flight 370 took off from runway 32R.[36] Less than a minute after take off, Flight 370 was cleared by air traffic control (ATC) to climb to flight level 180[c]—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.[37] Lumpur Radar cleared Flight 370 to flight level 350[c]—35,000 ft (10,700 m) based on atmospheric pressure. At 1:01, Flight 370's crew reported to Lumpur Radar that they had reached flight level 350, which they confirmed again at 1:08.[36]

Communication lost[edit]

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.[18]:2[38][39]:36 The final verbal contact with air traffic control occurred at 1:19 MYT, when one of the aircraft's pilots acknowledged a send-off by Lumpur Radar to Ho Chi Minh ACC:[d][40][36]

[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.[41][42] The captain of another aircraft attempted to reach the crew of Flight 370 "just after 1:30 am" 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.[43] 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]:18[39]:40

Radar[edit]

At 1:21:04, Flight 370 was observed on radar at the Kuala Lumpur ACC as it passed the navigational waypoint IGARI in the Gulf of Thailand. At 1:21:13, 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.[36] Air traffic control uses secondary radar, which relies on a signal emitted by a transponder on aircraft; therefore, after 1:21 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[c] and was travelling at 471 knots (872 km/h; 542 mph) true airspeed.[44]

The aircraft made a sharp turn westwards and headed towards a waypoint called VAMPI in the Strait of Malacca.[45] 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.[4][46] A source close to the investigation told media that the aircraft descended as low as 12,000 feet (3,700 m).[47] From there, the aircraft flew towards a waypoint called GIVAL, arriving at 2:15 MYT, thereafter to the Southern Thailand Islands (Andaman Coast) of Phuket, and was last plotted heading northwest towards India's Andaman Islands and another waypoint called IGREX, along route P628.[4][48] The last known location, from and near the limits of Malaysian military radar, was 200 mi (320 km) northwest of Penang at an altitude of 29,500 ft (9,000 m).[4][48]

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.[49] Despite possibly flying near or over the northern tip of Sumatra,[36] Indonesia—which has an early warning radar system—has publicly denied sighting Flight 370 on radar.[49] 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.[50]

Satellite communication resumes[edit]

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]:18[39] 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.[18][39][51][52]

Response by air traffic control[edit]

At 1:30, 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.[43] At 1:38, 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.[36][53]

At 2:03, 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.[36] At 2:15, 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.[53] 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.[36] Kuala Lumpur ACC contacted Malaysia Airlines' operations centre at 2:34, 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.[36][53] 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.[36]

At 3:30, 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."[36] Over the next hour, Kuala Lumpur ACC contacted Ho Chi Minh ACC asking whether they had contacted Chinese air traffic control. At 5:09, Singapore ACC was queried for information about Flight 370. At 5:20, 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."[36]

The watch supervisor at Kuala Lumpur ACC activated the Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) at 5:30, over four hours after communication was lost with Flight 370.[53][53] 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[edit]

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.[5] Malaysia Airlines stated that the government had initiated search and rescue operations.[2] 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.[54]

Timeline of disappearance[edit]

Elapsed (HH:MM) Time Event
MYT UTC
00:00 8 March 7 March Take-off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport
00:41 16:41
00:20 01:01 17:01 Crew confirms altitude of 35,000 feet (11,000 m)[40]
00:26 01:07 17:07 Last ACARS data transmission received;[38][39]:36 crew confirms altitude of 35,000 feet, a second time[40]
00:26–1:22 01:07–2:03 17:07–18:03 Satellite communication link lost sometime during this period.[39]:36
00:38 01:19 17:19 Last Malaysian ATC voice contact[55]
00:40 01:21 17:21 Last secondary radar (transponder) contact at 6°55′15″N 103°34′43″E / 6.92083°N 103.57861°E / 6.92083; 103.57861 (Last secondary radar (transponder) contact, 8 March)[56][57]
00:41 01:22 17:22 Transponder and ADS-B no longer operating.
00:44 01:25 17:25 Aircraft deviated from planned route[18]: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[43]
00:56 01:37 17:37 Missed expected half-hourly ACARS data transmission[38]
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 reponded that Flight 370 did not return to their frequency after passing waypoint IGARI.[36]
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.[36]
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.[36]
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.[58] 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.[39]: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.[36]
01:34 02:15 18:15 Last primary radar contact by Malaysian military, 200 miles (320 km) NW of Penang, 6°49′38″N 97°43′15″E / 6.82722°N 97.72083°E / 6.82722; 97.72083 (Last primary radar contact, 8 March) (Occurred at 02:22, per ATSB)[18]:3
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.[36]
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.[36]
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]:18[39]:39 Sometimes referred to as the first hourly 'handshake' after disappearing from radar.[51][59]
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 sucessful or not.[36]
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 14°54′00″N 109°15′00″E / 14.90000°N 109.25000°E / 14.90000; 109.25000 (Northern Vietnam) at 18:33 UTC. KL ACC relays this information to HCM ACC.[36]
01:58 02:39 18:39 Ground-to-aircraft telephone call, via the aircraft's satellite link, went unanswered.[18]:18[39]: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 3:30-4:25, KL & HCM ACCs query Chinese air traffic control.[36]
04:28 05:09 21:09 Singapore ACC queried for information about Flight 370.[36]
04:49 05:30 21:30 Kuala Lumpur Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) is activated.[36]
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,[58] via the aircraft's satellite link, went unanswered.[18]:18[39]:40
06:43 07:24 23:24 Malaysia Airlines pronounces flight missing in statement released to media[5]
07:30 08:11 8 March Sixth and last successful automated hourly handshake with Inmarsat-3 F1[51][60]
00:11
07:38 08:19:29 00:19:29 Unexplained 'log-on request' sent by aircraft to satellite.[18]:18[39]:41 Sometimes referred to as a 'partial handshake' transmitted by aircraft.[61][62]
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 MH370.[18]:18[39]:41
08:34 09:15 01:15 Aircraft did not respond to a scheduled, hourly handshake attempt by Inmarsat.[39]:41[51]

Presumed loss[edit]

Handwritten notes of support and prayer for the flight on display
Messages of hope and prayer for MH370 at a bookstore in Malaysia

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.[32][e]

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.[29][30][31]

On 29 March, the Government of Malaysia and the AAIB stated that, in accordance with the protocols detailed in International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 13 concerning aircraft accident investigation, they would set up an international team to investigate the loss of the flight.[65][66] On 30 March, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the appointment of retired Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston to head the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) to co-ordinate the search effort and closely co-operate with Malaysia, the responsible state under international law.[67][68]

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.[33] It would also be the second-deadliest incident in the Indian Ocean, behind Iran Air Flight 655;[69] the 17th-deadliest incident worldwide; and the deadliest incident since the February 2003 crash of an Iranian military aircraft.

Search[edit]

Hypothesised routes[edit]

refer to caption
Search for aircraft. Pink circle: Range of aircraft based on fuel (5,300 kilometres (3,300 mi)). Ping corridors: possible locations (in red) of aircraft at last ping to Inmarsat and possible last location (lighter red) based on residual fuel. Search areas: 1) 8–20 March, 2) 20–27 March, 3) 28 March.

On 11 March, it was reported that military radar indicated the aircraft turned west away from the intended flight path and continued flying for 70 minutes before disappearing from Malaysian radar near Pulau Perak.[70][71] It was also reported that it had been tracked flying at a lower altitude across Malaysia to the Malacca Strait, approximately 500 kilometres (310 mi) from its last contact with civilian radar.[72] The next day, the Royal Malaysian Air Force chief denied the report.[73][74] A few hours later however, the Vietnamese transport minister claimed that Malaysia had been informed on 8 March by Vietnamese air traffic control personnel, that they had "noticed the flight turned back west".[75][f]

Although Bloomberg News said that analysis of the last satellite "ping" received suggested a last known location approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) west of Perth, Western Australia,[79] the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on 15 March that the last signal, received at 08:11 Malaysian time, might have originated from as far north as Kazakhstan.[80] Najib explained that the signals could not be more precisely located than to one of two possible loci: a northern locus stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern locus stretching from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.[81] Many of the countries on a possible northerly flight route – China, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and India – denied the aircraft could have entered their country's airspace, because military radar would have detected it.[82]

It was later confirmed that the last ACARS transmission showed nothing unusual and a normal routing all the way to Beijing,[83] The New York Times reported "senior American officials" saying on 17 March that the scheduled flight path was reprogrammed to unspecified western coordinates through the flight management system before the ACARS stopped functioning,[84] and a new waypoint "far off the path to Beijing" was added.[84] Such a reprogramming would have resulted in a banked turn at a comfortable angle of around 20 degrees that would not have caused undue concern for passengers. The sudden cessation of all on-board communication led to speculation that the aircraft's disappearance may have been due to foul play.[84]

Satellite pings[edit]

On 11 March, New Scientist reported that, prior to the aircraft's disappearance, two Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) reports had been automatically issued to engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce's monitoring centre in the United Kingdom;[85] and The Wall Street Journal, citing sources in the US government, asserted that Rolls-Royce had received an aircraft health report every thirty minutes for five hours, implying that the aircraft had remained aloft for four hours after its transponder went offline.[86][87][88]

The following day, Hishammuddin Hussein, the acting Malaysian Minister of Transport, refuted the details of The Wall Street Journal report stating that the final engine transmission was received at 01:07 MYT, prior to the flight's disappearance from secondary radar.[88] The WSJ later amended its report and stated simply that the belief of continued flight was "based on analysis of signals sent by the Boeing 777's satellite-communication link... the link operated in a kind of standby mode and sought to establish contact with a satellite or satellites. These transmissions did not include data..."[77][89]

Inmarsat said that "routine, automated signals were registered" on its network,[90] and that analysis of "keep-alive message[s]" that continued to be sent after air traffic control first lost contact could help pinpoint the aircraft's location,[91] which led The Independent to comment on 14 March that the aircraft could not have met with a sudden catastrophic event, or all signals would have stopped simultaneously.[45]

On 25 March, Hishammuddin revealed that Inmarsat had found evidence that the aircraft had attempted an unscheduled, seventh handshake with the satellite at 00:19 UTC, eight minutes after the last hourly report.

Phases[edit]

As the available data analyses of the flight were refined, the foci of search operations changed to different areas in several distinct phases.

First phase[edit]

refer to caption
A MH-60R Sea Hawk lands aboard USS Pinckney during a crew swap before returning to the search and rescue on 10 March 2014.

An admiral of the Vietnamese navy reported that radar contact with the aircraft was last made over the Gulf of Thailand.[54][92] Oil slicks detected off the coast of Vietnam on 8 and 9 March later tested negative for aviation fuel.[93][94] Alleged discovery of debris about 140 km (87 mi) south-west of Phú Quốc Island and 80 km (50 mi) south of Thổ Chu Island on 9 March was also found to be not from an aircraft.[95] Searches following a Chinese website's satellite images, taken on 9 March, showing three floating objects measuring up to 24 × 22 metres (79 × 72 ft) at 6°42′N 105°38′E / 6.7°N 105.63°E / 6.7; 105.63 (Three floating objects, 9 March) also turned up blank;[96][97] Vietnamese officials said the area had been "searched thoroughly".[98][99]

The Royal Thai Navy shifted its focus in the search away from the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea at the request of its Malaysian counterpart, which was investigating the possibility that the aircraft had turned around and could have gone down in the Andaman Sea, near Thailand's border.[100] The chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, Rodzali Daud, claimed that military recordings of radar signals did not exclude the possibility of the aircraft turning back on its flight path.[101][102] The search radius was increased from the original 20 nautical miles (37 km; 23 mi) from its last known position,[103] south of Thổ Chu Island, to 100 nautical miles (190 km; 120 mi), and the area being examined then extended to the Strait of Malacca along the west coast of the Malay Peninsula, with waters both to the east of Malaysia in the Gulf of Thailand, and in the Strait of Malacca along Malaysia's west coast, being searched.[10][61][102]

On 12 March, authorities also began to search the Andaman Sea, northwest of the Strait of Malacca, and the Malaysian government requested help from India to search in the area.[104]

Second phase[edit]

refer to caption
Chinese PLAAF Ilyushin Il-76 arriving at RAAF Base Pearce in Perth, Australia on 21 March 2014.

On 13 March, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said "an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean based on some new information"[86][105] and a senior official at The Pentagon told ABC News: "We have an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean."[106] On 17 March, Australia agreed to lead the search in the southern locus from Sumatra to the southern Indian Ocean.[107][108] The search would be coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), with an area of 600,000 km2 (230,000 sq mi) between Australia and the Kerguelen Islands lying more than 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) Southwest of Perth, to be searched by ships and aircraft of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.[109] This area, which Australian PM Tony Abbott described as "as close to nowhere as it's possible to be", is renowned for its strong winds, inhospitable climate, hostile seas, and deep ocean floors.[110][111] On 18 March, the search of the area began with a single Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft.[112] On 19 March, the search capacity was ramped up to three aircraft and three merchant ships;[113] the revised search area of 305,000 square kilometres (118,000 sq mi) was about 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) south-west of Perth.[114]

Search efforts intensified on 20 March, after large pieces of possible debris had been photographed in this area four days earlier by a satellite.[115][116][117][118][119] Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea assigned military and civilian ships and aircraft to the search.[120][121] China published images from satellite Gaofen 1 on 22 March that showed large debris about 120 km (75 mi) south west of the previous sighting.[23][24][25] The Malaysian government announced on 24 March that independent analysis by the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and Inmarsat concluded that the flight had ended in the southern Indian Ocean.[29][30][31] On 26 March, images from French satellites indicated 122 floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean.[26][122] Thai satellite images published on 27 March showed about 300 floating objects about 200 km (120 mi) from the French satellites' target area.[123] The 300 pieces of debris seen on Thai satellites were never located by the aerial search planes and the search area was shifted the following day hundreds of miles northeast to the third phase of the search. Marine debris found in the water to the northeast of the Thai satellite area was not found to be linked to the plane, but brought the realisation of the prior lack of surveillance over the area, and the vast amounts of marine debris littering the oceans.[124][125]

Third phase[edit]

Diagram of location of ship, thermocline, towed pinger locater at end of tow cable, and blackbox pinger.
Deployment of a towed pinger locator for detecting an aircraft's underwater locator beacon

On 28 March, 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,[27][126] to a new search area of 319,000 square kilometres (123,000 sq mi), roughly 1,850 kilometres (1,150 mi) west of Perth.[127][128][129][130] This search area had more hospitable weather conditions.[24]

On 30 March, four large orange-coloured objects found by search aircraft, described by media as "the so far most promising lead", turned out to be fishing equipment.[131] On 2 April, the centre of the search area was shifted again 456 kilometres (283 mi) east, to a position 1,504 kilometres (935 mi) west of Perth.[132] The same day, Royal Navy survey vessel HMS Echo and submarine HMS Tireless arrived in the area,[133] with HMS Echo starting immediately to search for the aircraft's underwater locator beacons (ULBs) fitted to the "black box" flight recorders,[134] whose batteries were expected to expire around 7 April.[135][136]

Fourth phase[edit]

Plane flies over ship
Australian P-3 Orion flies over UK survey ship HMS Echo on 12 April

On 4 April, the search was refocused to three more northerly areas from 1,060 to 2,100 kilometres (660 to 1,300 mi) west of Learmonth, spanning over 217,000 square kilometres (84,000 sq mi).[137][138] ADV Ocean Shield, fitted with a TPL-25 towed pinger locator, together with HMS Echo – which carried a "similar device", began searching for pings along a 240-kilometre (150 mi) seabed line believed to be the Flight 370 impact area.[135][139][140] Operators considered it a shot in the dark,[141] when comparing the vast search area with the fact that TPL-25 could only search up to 130 square kilometres (50 sq mi) per day.[141]

On China's announcement of two unconfirmed acoustic events picked up by Haixun 01 through a handheld hydrophone on 4 and 5 April,[142][143][144][145][146] the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) ordered HMS Echo to the area, to attempt verification with more advanced equipment.[147]

On 6 April, JACC announced that Ocean Shield had also picked up a signal, about 300 nautical miles (560 km; 350 mi) from Haixun 01.[147][148] It was announced the next day that the TPL-25 pinger locator towed by Ocean Shield had picked up a signal twice on 6 April.[149][150] The first was on the morning of 6 April, at approximately 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) depth, and lasted two hours and 20 minutes. The second signal reception took place at approximately 300 metres (980 ft) depth and lasted 13 minutes. During the second episode, two distinct pinger returns were audible. Both episodes of recorded signals, which took place at roughly the same position though several kilometres apart, were considered to be consistent with signals expected from an aircraft's flight recorder ULB.[151] The signals received by Ocean Shield were recorded at the north of a newly calculated impact area, which was announced on 7 April, while the Haixun 01 signals had been recorded at its southern edge.[151][152][153] Ocean Shield detected two more signals on 8 April. The first was acquired at 16:27 AWST and held for 5 minutes, 32 seconds and the second was acquired at 22:17 AWST and held for around seven minutes.[28][154][155] Experts had determined that the earlier signals captured by Ocean Shield were "very stable, distinct, and clear ... at 33.331 kHz and ... consistently pulsed at a 1.106-second interval". These were said to be consistent with the flight recorder ULB.[28] but the frequency of the detections was well outside the manufacturer's specification of 37.5 +/- 1.[156] The later signals were at a frequency of 27 kHz, which raised doubts that they were from a black box.[157] On 10 April, a signal recorded by one of the sonobuoys deployed with a hydrophone at 300 metres depth[158][159] was found unlikely to have originated from Flight 370.[160]

Crane lowering the Bluefin 21 into the water.
Ocean Shield deploys Bluefin-21, 14 April 2014.

On 14 April, due to the likelihood of the ULBs' acoustic pulses having ceased because their batteries would have run down, the Towed Pinger Locator search gave way to a sea-bed search using side-scan sonar installed in a Bluefin-21 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.[161] The first day's search was aborted because the sea bed was considerably deeper than the maximum operating depth of Bluefin. Scanning subsequently resumed[162] and after covering 42 square miles in its first four dives, the submersible was reprogrammed to allow it to dive 604 feet lower than its operational limit of 14,800 feet, when the risk of damage was assessed as "acceptable". By this time the search was believed to have cost $100 million (£72m) and had been labelled "the costliest in aviation history".[163]

Bluefin-21 required 16 missions to complete its search of the 314 square kilometre area around the detections made by the Towed Pinger Locator.[164][165] At a news conference in Canberra on 28 April, Tony Abbott said "It is now 52 days since Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared and I'm here to inform you that the search will be entering a new phase". Abbott also explained that "a much larger" area of the ocean floor would then be searched; it was "highly unlikely" that any surface wreckage would be found; and that the aerial searches had been suspended.[166][167][168] Mission 17 of Bluefin-21, covering the new, wider search area, was on 30 April.[165]

On 12 May, it was reported that the captain of Ocean Shield said there was increasing doubt that pings No. 3 and No. 4 detected on 8 April originated with MH370's black boxes because their frequency of about 27 kHz was too far below the pinger's design frequency of 37.5 kHz. Pings No. 1 and No. 2, detected on 5 April at 33 kHz, were still being considered by the search authorities.[169] On 13 May the search was interrupted due to problems with both the transponder mounted on Ocean Shield and that mounted on Bluefin-21.[170] By 22 May those problems had been resolved and the search was resumed, with Ocean Shield being joined by the Chinese survey ship Zhu Kezhen, which was to conduct a bathymetric survey of the area.[171]

On 29 May the Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, announced that no aircraft debris had been found in that part of the ocean where searchers previously had reported 'pings' from the black boxes. The announcement followed a statement by US Navy's Deputy Director of Ocean Engineering that all four pings were no longer believed to have come from the aircraft's flight recorders.[172] Truss informed parliament that, beginning in August, after a new commercial operator for the search effort had been selected, the search would move into a new phase "that could take twelve months".[173] Equipment envisaged to be used would include towed side-scan sonar.[174]

On 4 June 2014 Australian researchers released an audio recording of an underwater sound that they considered might be related to the final moments of the aircraft. The ATSB had first referenced these signals in a document posted on its website on 26 May.[175]

Fifth phase[edit]

Bathymetric map of part of the Indian Ocean, with Western Australia on the right. The map includes the 7th arc calculated from MH370's last satellite contact and three curved rectangles that are curved along their longest axis to match the 7th arc. The rectangles are coloured orange, blue, and grey according to their priority: orange is highest, blue is medium, and grey is lowest.
Map prepared for the fifth phase of the search by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The curved, rectangular orange region is the highest priority search area, with blue (medium priority) and grey (lowest priority) regions also part of the planned search area
Data obtained from the baseline bathymetric survey (coloured) contrasted with previously-available satellite data (grey). The substantially higher resolution was needed because the towed underwater vehicles used for the fifth phase of the search will need to operate 100 m above the sea floor.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) signed a contract with the Dutch deep sea survey company Fugro on 10 June to conduct a bathymetric survey of the seafloor in a new search area southwest of Australia (actual area wasn't publicly announced until 26 June, see below).[176] It was necessary for planning the fifth phase of the search and because equipment used for the underwater search in this area would need to operate close to the seafloor (about 100 m).[177] The bathymetric survey has been made at a resolution of 100 metres (330 ft) per pixel, which is substantially higher than previous measurements of the seafloor in this area made by satellites (see image at right) and a few passing ships which had their sonar turned on.[178][179] Fugro deployed their vessel MV Fugro Equator, which began the survey on 18 June.[180] The Chinese naval vessel Zhu Kezhen also assisted in the survey. As of October 5, the MV Fugro Equator had completed 110,000 square kilometres (42,000 sq mi) and was expected to continue working on the bathymetric survey until late October.[179][181]

On 26 June, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss announced that Australia, Malaysia, and China would shift search efforts to a new region of up to 60,000 square kilometres (23,000 sq mi) near Broken Ridge in the southern Indian Ocean based on a report by the ATSB.[182] The search was expected to begin in August and after the bathymetric survey was complete, but it was delayed until October with only part of the survey completed. Australia and Malaysia were working on a Memorandum of Understanding to cover financial and co-operation arrangements for search and recovery activities.[20]

Malaysia announced in July that they had contracted with state-run oil company Petronas to supply a team to participate in the search. Petronas, in turn, has contracted the vessel GO Phoenix—owned by Australian company GO Marine Group—and the marine exploration firm Phoenix International (or simply "Phoenix"), who will supply experts and equipment.[183][184] Phoenix recovered black boxes from several recent undersea aircraft wrecks: Air France Flight 447, Yemenia Flight 626, Adam Air Flight 574, & Tuninter Flight 1153. Phoenix will use the SLH ProSAS-60 towed synthetic aperture side scan sonar system (rated to 6000 m depth) to produce a high-resolution image of the ocean floor.[185] Also contracted for the Malaysian government's effort, Boustead Heavy Industries and iXBlue Australia will supply a remotely operated vehicle that can be used to identify any positive leads detected by the towed sonar vehicles, which will be deployed aboard the MV John Lethbridge.[186][187]

On 6 August, Australia, Malaysia, & China jointly announced that Fugro had been awarded a contract to conduct this latest phase of the search. Fugro will use the vessels Fugro Equator—already in the area to conduct the baseline bathymetric survey—and Fugro Discovery. These will be equipped with towed deep water vehicles and use side-scan sonar, multi-beam echo sounders, and video cameras to locate and identify aircraft debris. The towed vehicles are also equipped with instruments to detect jet fuel.[184] The Chinese naval vessel Zhu Kezhen—already assisting in the baseline bathymetric survey—will assist in the search through at least mid-September. Malaysia will contribute four vessels to the effort, including the naval survey ship KD Mutiara and naval vessel Bunga Mas,[188] and the GO Phoenix.

The underwater search began on 6 October with the vessel GO Phoenix, which departed Jakarta on 24 September and calibrated its instruments before arriving in the search zone on 5 October.[181] Fugro Discovery departed Perth on 18 October to join the search search.[189] They will be joined by MV Fugro Equator at the end of October, once it has completed the bathymetric survey.[179] Australia has earmarked A$60 million for the search—a figure which will be matched by the Malaysian government.[177]

International involvement[edit]

In response to the incident, the Malaysian government mobilised its civil aviation department, air force, navy, and Maritime Enforcement Agency; and requested international assistance under Five Power Defence Arrangements provisions and from neighbouring states. Various nations mounted a search and rescue mission in the region's waters.[190][191] Within two days, the countries had already dispatched more than 34 aircraft and 40 ships to the area.[10][11][102] The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission analysed information from its network of infrasound detection stations, but failed to find any sounds made by Flight 370.[192]

On 11 March, the China Meteorological Administration[193] activated the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, a 15 member organisation whose purpose is to "provide a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters,"[194] the first time the charitable and humanitarian redeployment of the assorted corporate, national space agency, and international satellite assets under its aegis had been used to search for an airliner.[195]

Another 11 countries joined the search efforts by 17 March after more assistance was requested by Malaysia.[14] At the peak of the search effort and before the search was moved to the south Indian Ocean, 26 countries were involved in the search, contributing in aggregate nearly 60 ships and 50 aircraft. In addition to the countries already named, these parties included Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam.[196][197] While not participating in the search itself, Sri Lanka gave permission for search aircraft to use its airspace.[198] Malaysia deployed military fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters,[199] and ships.[199][200][201] A co-ordination centre at the National Disaster Control Centre (NDCC) in Pulau Meranti, Cyberjaya was established.[202]

On 16 March, three staff members of the French government agency BEA flew to Kuala Lumpur to share with Malaysian authorities their experience in the organisation of undersea searches, acquired during the search for the wreckage of Air France Flight 447.[203]

The United Kingdom provided technical assistance and specialist capabilities from the Ministry of Defence, the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, Department for Transport and the Met Office.[204]

Ships and aircraft from Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States were involved in the search of the southern Indian Ocean.[136][205] Pilots and crew from the Royal Canadian Air Force and the British Royal Air Force serving on exchange with the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force participated in the search.[204]

Satellite imagery was also made available by Tomnod to the general public so they could help with the search through crowdsourcing efforts.[206]

Aircraft[edit]

refer to caption
Flightdeck of 9M-MRO in 2004.

Flight 370 was operated with a Boeing 777-2H6ER,[g] serial number 28420, registration 9M-MRO. The 404th Boeing 777 produced,[208] 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,[208] and configured to carry 282 passengers.[209] 9M-MRO had accumulated 53,460 hours and 7,525 cycles in service,[210] and had not previously been involved in any major incidents,[211] though a minor incident while taxiing at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in August 2012 resulted in a broken wingtip.[212][213] Its last maintenance 'A' check was carried out on 23 February 2014.[210] 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.[214][215] 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;[216][217] 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.[33][218]

Passengers and crew[edit]

People on board by nationality
Nationality No.
 Australia 6
 Canada 2
 China 152
 France 4
 Hong Kong[h] 1
 India[220] 5
 Indonesia 7
 Iran[i] 2
 Malaysia[j] 50
 Netherlands 1
 New Zealand 2
 Russia 1
 Taiwan 1
 Ukraine 2
 United States 3
Total 239

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.[222]

Crew[edit]

All 12 crew members were Malaysian citizens. Two pilots were among the crew:[223]

  • 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.[223] Zaharie was also an examiner qualified to conduct simulator tests for pilots.[224]
  • The first officer was 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid, an employee of Malaysia Airlines since 2007, with 2,763 flying hours.[225][226] 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.[226]

Passengers[edit]

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.[227] Twenty passengers—12 of whom were from Malaysia and 8 from China—were employees of Freescale Semiconductor.[228][229]

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.[230][231] The airline also sent its own team of caregivers and volunteers[202] 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.[103] Altogether, 115 family members of the Chinese passengers flew to Kuala Lumpur.[232] Some other family members chose to remain in China, fearing they would feel too isolated in Malaysia.[233]

Compensation[edit]

The airline's offer of an ex gratia condolence payment of US$5,000 to the family of each passenger was initially rejected;[234][235] the amounts were handed out to relatives on 12 March. It was also reported that Malaysian relatives only received $2,000.[236] On 12 June, Malaysia's deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainuddin said that families of seven passengers received $50,000 advance compensation from Malaysia Airlines,[237] but that full payout would come after the aircraft is found or officially declared lost.[238]

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.[239] 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.[239] 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.[240][241]

Investigation[edit]

International participation[edit]

Malaysia set up a Joint Investigation Team, composed of specialists from Malaysia, Australia, China, the UK, the US, and France,[18]:1[242] being led according to the ICAO standards by "an independent investigator in charge".[243] 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.[244]

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.[244]

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). The SSWG's efforts culminated in the formation of a new search area along the Broken Ridge and publication of a detailed report analysing factors bearing impact on the final location of the aircraft.[18]:1

The investigation was also assisted by Interpol and other relevant international law enforcement authorities according to the Malaysian government.[245][246]

Analysis of satellite communication[edit]

A depiction of a satellite in space.
A depiction of an Inmarsat-3 series satellite. Flight 370 was in contact with Inmarsat-3 F1 (also known as "IOR" for Indian Ocean Region).

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.[59][247] 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[248] using other protocols.[59][247][249] 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.[249] 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.[18]:17[51] Messages may also be sent to the aircraft, in reverse order. The ground station keeps a log of transmissions and some data about them.[18]:17–18[51]

When the terminal tries to connect with the Inmarsat network, it will transmit a log-on request, which the ground station acknowledges.[18]:17[249] 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.[249] After connecting, if a ground station hasn't received any contact from a terminal for one hour,[l] the ground station will transmit a "log-on interrogation" message—informally referred to as a "ping";[18]:18 an active terminal automatically responds. The entire process of interrogating the terminal is referred to as a 'handshake'.[51][250]

Although the ACARS system on MH370 was disabled at 01:21 MYT (17:21 UTC, 7 March), the SDU remained operable.[18][59] 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]:18[39][m]

  • 18:25:27 UTC – 1st handshake (initiated by MH370)
  • 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 MH370; widely reported as a 'partial handshake'), consisting of two transmissions:[39]
  • 00:19:29.416 UTC – 'log-on request' message transmitted by MH370 (7th 'partial' handshake)
  • 00:19:37.443 UTC – 'log-on acknowledge' message transmitted by MH370, last transmission received from MH370

On 8 March, Inmarsat provided basic flight data relating to Flight 370 to SITA, which relayed information to Malaysia Airlines and investigators.[52] 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.[52] 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,[51][250] using a baseline of earlier system data for the aircraft, satellite, and ground station.[250] 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"[250] that has "never before [been] used in an investigation of this sort",[32] 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.[51] 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.[51][250][251] 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.[59] 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."[59][252]

The log-on message sent from the aircraft at 00:19:29 UTC was not immediately well understood.[51][250] The 18:25 UTC handshake was also initiated by the aircraft.[18]: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.[18]:22 Investigators consider the most likely reason to be that they were sent during power-up after an electrical outage.[18]:33 At 00:19, the aircraft had been airborne for 7 h 38 min; the typical Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight is 512 hours and fuel exhaustion was likely.[18]:33[18]:33[253] 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.[18]: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.[18]:22 Similar messages would be expected following the 00:19 UTC handshake but none were received, supporting the fuel starvation scenario.[18]: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,[51][52][250] which Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation noted was "consistent with the maximum endurance of the aircraft".[250] The ATSB is "confident the seventh handshake represents the area where the aircraft ran out of fuel before entering the ocean."[254]

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.[250] 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.[255]

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.[256] The Malaysian government released the satellite data three weeks later.[257][258]

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.[259][260] 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,[18] and a supplement released in October.[261][262]

Analysis of hydroacoustic data[edit]

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. A further 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.

Ping detections[edit]

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.[18]: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. Details concerning the timeline and vessels used in the search for the ULBs is found in the "Fourth phase" section above.

HMS Echo[edit]

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.[18]:11[134] 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.[263]

Haixun 01[edit]

Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 detected a ping on 5 April 2014. The ping was detected on 37.5KHz, a frequency consistent with that of aircraft black box locating beacons.[148]

Impact event[edit]

If Flight 370 had impacted the ocean hard, resulting underwater sounds could have been detected by hydrophones, given favourable circumstances.[18]:40[264][265] 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."[265] 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.[265][266] As with the analysis of the Inmarsat satellite data, the hydroacoustic analysis uses the data in a way very different from that originally intended.[266]

External media
Images
Graphics produced by the Curtin University research team
Audio
Audio recording of the suspect acoustic signature

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau requested the Curtin University Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) analyse these signals.[18]: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:[18]:40,47[264][265][266]

  • 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 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.[264] 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.[264]

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.[18]: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."[18]: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.[18]: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.[267]

Possible in-flight events[edit]

Power interruption[edit]

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 MH370 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'.[18]:22[39]:36–39 It is not common for a log-on request to be made in-flight, which 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.[18]:33[268] 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.[18]:33

Unresponsive crew/hypoxia[edit]

An analysis by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau comparing the evidence available for MH370 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"[18]: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,[18]:34 likely on autopilot.[21][22][269] There is, however, no consensus among investigators on the unresponsive crew/hypoxia theory.[269]

Possible causes of disappearance[edit]

Passenger involvement[edit]

Two men identified on the passenger manifest, an Austrian and an Italian, had reported their passports stolen in 2012 and 2013, respectively.[54][270] 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.[271][272] 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.[272] The two one-way tickets purchased for the holders of the stolen passports were booked through China Southern Airlines.[273] 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.[274][275] 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".[221] The two men were believed to be asylum seekers.[276][277]

United States and Malaysian officials were reviewing the backgrounds of every passenger named on the manifest.[227] 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.[278]

One passenger who worked as a flight engineer for a Swiss jet charter company was briefly suspected as potential hijacker because he was thought to have the relevant skill set.[279]

Crew involvement[edit]

Police searched the homes of the pilot and co-pilot,[280] on suspicion that those in the cockpit had been responsible for the aircraft's disappearance.[281] 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.[282][283] 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.[284][285] Investigators seized financial records for all 12 crew members, including bank statements, credit card bills and mortgage documents.[286]

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.[286][287][288] Claims of domestic problems have been denied by Capt. Shah's family.[289] A fellow pilot and long-time associate of Capt. Shah stated the captain was "terribly upset"[290] that his marriage was falling apart.[287][288] 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.[286] 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.[291]

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.[292] 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.[289][293][294] 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.[294] 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.[294]

Investigators believe someone in the cockpit of MH370 turned on the plane's autopilot before it traveled south across the Indian Ocean, raising further suspicion the disappearance was a mass atrocity committed by the captain or copilot.[295] 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.[296][297]

Cargo[edit]

On 17 March, MAS chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, indicated only that the aircraft was carrying three to four tonnes/tons of mangosteens and said that nothing it transported was dangerous.[298][299][300] Three days later, he also confirmed that potentially flammable batteries, identified as lithium-ion,[301] were on board, adding that all cargo was "packed as recommended by the ICAO", checked several times, and deemed to meet regulations.[302][303][304] The cargo manifest released on 1 May[305] 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.[306] 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.[307]

Claims of responsibility[edit]

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 MH370 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 MH370 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".[308][309]

Criticism and response[edit]

Information sharing[edit]

Public communication from Malaysian officials regarding the loss of the flight was initially beset with confusion.[n] 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.[321] 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.[322]

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.[323][324] International relations experts said entrenched rivalries over sovereignty, security, intelligence, and national interests made meaningful multilateral co-operation very difficult.[323][324] A Chinese academic made the observation that the parties were searching independently, thus it was not a multilateral search effort.[324] However, The Guardian noted the Vietnamese permission given for Chinese aircraft to overfly its airspace as a positive sign of co-operation.[324] 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.[325] 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.[323][326]

Malaysia had initially declined to release raw data from its military radar, deeming the information "too sensitive", but later acceded.[323][324] 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."[323] 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.[323] 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.[327] 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.[106]

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.[59][328] 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.[329] 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.[330]

Criticism of Malaysian government[edit]

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.[331][332][333] Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said it was impossible and unacceptable that the country's advanced British radar system and military readiness had not been triggered by such a diverted flight.[334]

Malaysia Airlines[edit]

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."[335] 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.[335][336] In China, where the majority of passengers were from, bookings on Malaysia Airlines were down 60% in March.[337]

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.[338][339] 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.[35][340]

Malaysia Airlines was given US$110 million from insurers in March 2014 to cover initial payments to passengers' families and the search effort.[341] 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.[342][343]

Financial troubles[edit]

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.[335] Malaysia Airlines lost RM443.4 million (US$137.4 million) in the first quarter of 2014 (January–March).[336] 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.[344] 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.[335] 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.[337]

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.[345][346][347][348][349] 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%)[350] and a Malaysian state-run investment arm—to announce on 8 August its plan to purchase the remainder of the airline, thereby renationalising it.[351][352][353]

China[edit]

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."[62][354]

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.[355] The same day, around two hundred family members of the Chinese passengers protested outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.[356][357] 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.[358] 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.[359] 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".[360] 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.[307] 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.[361][362]

Boycotts[edit]

Chinese have boycotted most things Malaysian, including vacations and singers, in protest of Malaysia's handling of the Flight 370 investigation.[363][364] Bookings on Malaysia Airlines from China, where the majority of passengers were from, were down 60% in March .[337] In late March, several major Chinese ticketing agencies—ELong, LY.com, Qunar and Mango—banned sale of airline tickets to Malaysia[363][365] and several large Chinese travel agencies reported a 50% drop in tourists compared to the same period the year before.[340] China is the third largest source of visitors for Malaysia, accounting for 1.79 million tourists.[340] 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).[340][366]

The boycotts have largely been led or supported by celebrities.[340][367] 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."[340] The post was shared over 70,000 times and drew over 30,000 comments.[340] 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."[340]

Ironically, China & Malaysia had dubbed 2014 to be the "Malaysia-China Friendship Year" to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.[365]

Air transport authorities[edit]

In June 2014 the International Air Transport Association said it was working on implementing new measures to track aircraft in flight in real time. A special panel was considering a range of options including the production of equipment especially designed to ensure real time tracking. There was a call for automated transponders after the attacks of 11 September 2001; no changes were made as aviation experts preferred flexible control, in case of malfunctions or electrical emergencies.[368] It was expected to provide a report to the International Civil Aviation Organization on 30 September 2014, but on that day said that the report would be delayed citing the need for further clarification on some issues.[369][370]

In May 2014, Inmarsat said it would offer its tracking service for free to all aircraft equipped with an Inmarsat satellite connection and announced a service that will allow the transmitting of black box data to expert when an aircrat goes missing.[371] Inmarsat has also changed the time period for handshakes with their terminals from one hour to 15 minutes.[259]:2

In August 2014, Deutsche Welle questioned various aviation safety organisations on measures they are hoping to implement to avoid another aircraft loss such as that of MH370. 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.[372]

Timeline of events[edit]

Date (UTC) Category Event
7 March Media Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines confirm Subang Air Traffic Control outside Kuala Lumpur lost contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on 8 March 2014 at 02:40 local time (on 7 March 2014 at 18:40 UTC), later corrected to 01:30 local time (17:30 UTC) located at 6°33′05″N 103°20′39″E / 6.55139°N 103.34417°E / 6.55139; 103.34417 (ATC Subang lost contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370, 8 March 2014)[373]
Search Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities jointly searching in the Gulf of Thailand area; China dispatches two maritime rescue ships to the South China Sea.[374]
8 March Search An international search and rescue mission mobilised, focusing on Gulf of Thailand. Natuna Islands archipelago and South China Sea. Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Singapore and Indonesia.
Media Malaysia Airlines releases passenger manifest of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.[375]
Two men from Austria and Italy, listed among the passengers on Flight 370, are not in fact on board. Officials in both countries say that each had his passport stolen.[376]
9 March Search The search zone expanded, to include areas in the Strait of Malacca as military radar tracking indicates aircraft might have turned west from its flight plan and flight path.[377]
Investigation INTERPOL confirms that at least two passengers are found to have been travelling on stolen passports registered in its databases.[378]
10 March Search Ten Chinese satellites deployed in the search. Oil slicks on the surface of the South China Sea test negative for jet fuel.
Media Malaysia Airlines announces it will give US$5,000 to the relatives of each passenger.
11 March Investigation INTERPOL says that two false identities are not linked to the disappearance.[221]
Media China activates the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters.
12 March Search Chinese satellite images of possible debris from Flight 370 in the South China Sea at 6°42′N 105°38′E / 6.7°N 105.63°E / 6.7; 105.63 (Possible debris, 12 March) released, but surface search finds no wreckage.[97] Malaysian government receives Inmarsat info that Flight 370 pinged for hours after ACARS went off-line.
Media Chinese government criticises Malaysia for inadequate answers regarding Flight 370.
Investigation Royal Malaysian Air Force chief says that an aircraft plotted on military radar crossed the Malay Peninsula after changing course, towards a waypoint called GIVAL at 2:15 local time (18:15 UTC, 7 March), 200 miles (320 km) northwest of Penang Island off Malaysia's west coast. It followed standard aviation corridors. Search and rescue efforts being stepped up in Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.[48][379]
14 March Investigation Investigation concludes that Flight 370 was still under human control after it lost ground control contact.
Media MAS retires the MH370/MH371 flight number pair.[380]
15 March Search New phase of multi-national search and rescue operations within two areas in the northern and southern "corridors". Twenty-six countries involved, among the northern corridor countries are Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, China, Thailand, including South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand. The southern corridor covers Indonesia, Australia, and the Indian Ocean.[381][382]
India continues search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; Malaysia ends hunt in South China Sea.[17]
Investigation Malaysian police search the homes of both of the aircraft's pilots.
16 March Search Twenty-five countries are involved in the search. India ends its search in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.[383]
17 March Search Search area reported by Malaysian authorities to be 2,000,000 square miles (5,200,000 km2), as a belt beneath the last possible arc position stretching from Kazakhstan over Indonesia to the southern part of the Indian Ocean.[381] Australia pledges to lead a search from Sumatra to the southern Indian Ocean.[384]
18 March Search China starts a search operation in its own territory. Australia conducts an aerial search through waters West and North of Cocos Islands and Christmas Island (close to Indonesia). Australia also conducts its first aerial search of the southern Indian Ocean,[112] roughly 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) southwest of Perth.[111]
19 March Search Australia searches the southern Indian Ocean with three aircraft and three merchant ships,[113] transiting through a slightly revised search area of 305,000 square kilometres (118,000 sq mi) about 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) southwest of Perth.[114]
20 March Media Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, told parliament that the "new and credible information" had emerged from expert analysis of satellite imagery.[385]
Search Five aircraft and a fourth (merchant) ship are dispatched to 44°03′02″S 91°13′27″E / 44.05056°S 91.22417°E / -44.05056; 91.22417 (Two objects investigated, 16 March).[115]
22 March Search Chinese satellite image taken on 18 March shows a possible object measuring 22.5 by 13 metres (74 by 43 ft) at 44°57′30″S 90°13′40″E / 44.95833°S 90.22778°E / -44.95833; 90.22778 (Possible object, 18 March), approximately 3,170 kilometres (1,970 mi) west of Perth and 120 kilometres (75 mi) from the earlier sighting, but did not confirm the object's nature.
24 March Media Prime Minister of Malaysia announces that Flight 370 is assumed to have gone down in the southern Indian Ocean; Malaysia Airlines states to families that it assumes "beyond reasonable doubt" there are no survivors.[386]
Search Search area narrowed to the southern part of the Indian Ocean west and southwest of Australia. 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. An Australian search aircraft spots two objects at sea, 1,550 miles (2,490 km) southwest of Perth.[387]
26 March Search French satellite images captured on 23 March show 122 possible pieces of debris[26] at 44°41′24″S 90°25′19.20″E / 44.69000°S 90.4220000°E / -44.69000; 90.4220000 (Debris field 1, 23 March), 44°41′38.45″S 90°29′31.20″E / 44.6940139°S 90.4920000°E / -44.6940139; 90.4920000 (Debris field 2, 23 March) and 44°40′10.20″S 90°36′25.20″E / 44.6695000°S 90.6070000°E / -44.6695000; 90.6070000 (Debris field 3, 23 March).[388]
Media UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) heads a team of investigators from other states as part of an international effort supporting the Malaysian authorities in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) code.[389][390]
27 March Search The search area narrows to roughly 76,000 square kilometres (29,000 sq mi). Thai satellite images, captured 24–26 March show floating objects 200 kilometres (120 mi) south of the French observations.[123] Five ships from Australia and China are engaged.
28 March Search Search shifts to a new 319,000-square-kilometre (123,000 sq mi) area 1,100 kilometres (680 mi) northeast of the previous search area.[127][128]
29 March Media Malaysia announces that an international panel will be formed under United Nations protocols to investigate the Flight 370 incident.[391]
30 March Media Prime Minister of Australia announces newly formed Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) headed by Angus Houston.[392] Military air crew from Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States are actively engaged.[393]
5 April Search Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 detects a pulse signal at 25°S 101°E / 25°S 101°E / -25; 101 (Pulse signal, 5 April).[143][144][145][394] Ocean Shield also picks up two longer lasting signals.[28][149]
8 April Search Ocean Shield picks up two further signals 3,500 metres deep, close to those of 5 April.[28][155]
10 April Search Another signal is acquired by a sonobuoy deployed near the Ocean Shield signal acquisitions.[395] JACC declares the contact unlikely to be related to Flight 370.[160] Hydrographic survey ship HMS Echo arrives on scene to provide advanced computer analysis of Ocean Shield collected sonar data and to measure the thermoclines in the area to predict the trajectory of the detected pings.
14 April Search An oil slick is found 5.5 km from the estimated location of the pings by Ocean Shield.[396] Ocean Shield ceases towed passive sonar operations; the AUV Bluefin-21 is deployed with side-scan sonar to search for wreckage on the ocean floor,[397] but its mission is automatically aborted on reaching its maximum operating depth.[162]
15 April Search Bluefin-21 resumes scanning after its abortive initial mission.[162]
18 April Search The oil slick discovered four days earlier is determined by an Australian laboratory analysis not to be related to Flight 370.[398]
24 April Search Debris consisting of riveted metal sheets washes up on the Western Australian coast. This is later confirmed to be unrelated to Flight 370.[399]
28 April Search PM Abbott and Angus Houston of JACC announce that a larger area of the ocean floor would now be searched and there would be a suspension of the aerial search due to the likelihood that any wreckage would have sunk.[166][167][168]
5 May Search The US Navy extends contract for Bluefin-21 by four weeks.[400]
12 May Search Searchers say two of the four 'pings' they thought were from flight recorder ULBs may not have been from the flight recorder.[401]
22 May Search Bluefin-21 resumes search after repair.[402]
27 May Media Inmarsat satellite data released.[403]
28 May Search Final Bluefin mission completed with nothing found in the area of the supposed pings heard on 5 April; a day later Australian Transport Safety Bureau rules out area as final resting place of MH370.[404]
4 June Search Australian researchers release recording of an underwater sound that could have been that of MH370 hitting the water.[175]
12 June Media A Malaysian minister announces that families of the missing passengers will receive $50,000 per person as an interim compensation.[405]
17 June Search Inmarsat states that it has pinpointed the most likely end of MH370 in an unsearched area of the Southern Indian Ocean.[406]
20 June Search Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) announces that a new search will concentrate on the area identified by Inmarsat, south of the previous search site.[407]
24 June Media British director of commercial operations for Malaysia Airlines, Hugh Dunleavy says that he believes MH370 ended somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean but warns that the search operation could take decades.[408]
26 June Search Australia announced a new search area of up to 60,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi) in the southern Indian Ocean, based on a report by the ATSB. A bathymetric survey, already underway, of the region will take around three months to complete; the new underwater search is expected to begin in August. Australia & Malaysia are working on a Memorandum of Understanding to cover financial and co-operation arrangements for search and recovery activities.[20]
Investigation Among other details, the ATSB report concluded that an unresponsive crew or hypoxia event "best fit the available evidence"[18]:34 for the 5-hour period of the flight as it travelled south over the Indian Ocean,[18]:34 likely on autopilot.[21][22][269][409]
6 July Search Malaysian Defense minister Hishammuddin Hussein announces that Malaysia will be deploying more ships and equipment to assist in the search.[410]
17 July Search Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashes in Ukraine. A Malaysian minister says this will not affect the search for MH370.[411]
21 July Search The head of the JACC, who is co-ordinating the search effort for MH370, is sent to Ukraine to oversee the recovery of the remains of the passengers of MH17.[412]
6 August Search Australia awards Fugro a AU$50 million contract to conduct a search of 60,000 km2 of seafloor near Broken Ridge starting in September. They will be assisted by one Chinese & four Malaysian vessels.[413][414]
6 October Search The fifth phase of the search begins. GO Phoenix, which left port at Jakarta on 24 September, begins work about 1800 km west of Western Australia.[415] After returning to port to resupply, Fugro Equator returned to the search area on 24 September and continues work on the bathymetric survey; it is expected to join the search at the end of October.[179][416]
18 October Search Fugro Discovery departs Perth to join the search.[189]

In popular culture[edit]

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.[417][418] The Discovery Channel broadcast a one-hour documentary about MH370 on 16 April 2014 titled Flight 370: The Missing Links.[419][420]

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.[421] 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.[422][423][424]

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.[425]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ MH is the IATA designator and MAS is the ICAO airline designator.[1] The flight is also marketed as China Southern Airlines Flight 748 (CZ748) through a codeshare.[1]
  2. ^ Initial reports on 8 March stated that contact had been lost at 02:40. This was changed to 01:30 by the Media Statement at 02:00 on 9 March[2] and then to 01:20 by the Malaysian Director General of Civil Aviation without comment or explanation.
  3. ^ a b c 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.
  4. ^ 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.[37]:13
  5. ^ Inmarsat stated that its conclusion had been based on a further analysis of the measurements of the Doppler shift of the "ping" transmissions.[63] Although the company did not elaborate, notably, the Inmarsat-3 F1 satellite's orbit is inclined by 1.67 degrees, causing it to cross the equator twice a day.[64] This motion could cause a difference between the Doppler shifts of northbound and southbound transmitters.
  6. ^ A US radar expert analysing the radar data reported that they did indeed indicate that the aircraft had headed west across the Malay Peninsula.[76] The New York Times reported that the aircraft experienced significant changes in altitude.[77][78]
  7. ^ 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".[207]
  8. ^ One passenger boarded with a Hong Kong passport.[219]
  9. ^ 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.[221]
  10. ^ 38 passengers and 12 crew.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ The timing of the log-on interrogation message is determined by an inactivity timer, which was set to one hour at the time MH370 disappeared.[18]:18
  13. ^ Information released & reported publicly about SATCOM transmissions from MH370 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 MH370, 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 MH370 is available here [1].
  14. ^ Examples:
    * 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.[310]
    * Malaysian authorities initially reported that four passengers used stolen passports to board the aircraft before settling on two: one Italian and one Austrian.[311]
    * 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.[311] This was later formally denied by Rodzali Daud.[74]
    * 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,[312] although this had been previously denied.[313]
    * 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.[314][315]
    * 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.[299][301]
    * 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.[55][316][317] Three weeks later Malaysian authorities published the transcript that indicated the last words were "Good night Malaysian three seven zero".[40][318][319][320]

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External links[edit]

  • Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  • 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 MH370 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".
  • 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")

Press releases[edit]