Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Difference between revisions

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'''Malaysia Airlines Flight 370''' (MH370/MAS370){{efn|MH is the [[IATA airline designator|IATA designator]] and MAS is the [[ICAO airline designator|ICAO designator]]. The flight was also marketed as [[China Southern Airlines]] Flight 748 (CZ748) through a [[codeshare agreement|codeshare]].<ref>{{cite news|last=MacLeod|first=Calum|title=Beijing-bound flight from Malaysia missing|url=http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/03/07/malaysia-airlines-beijing-flight-missing/6187779/|accessdate=16 March 2014|newspaper=USA Today|date=8 March 2014|author2=Winter, Michael|author3=Gray, Allison}}</ref>}} was a scheduled [[International flight|international passenger flight]] that disappeared on 8 March 2014 en route from [[Kuala Lumpur International Airport]] to [[Beijing Capital International Airport]]. The aircraft operating the service, a [[Boeing 777|Boeing 777-200ER]], last made contact with [[air traffic control]] less than an hour after take-off. The aircraft was operated by [[Malaysia Airlines]] and was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers from 15 nations and regions. The majority of passengers on board were Chinese citizens.
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'''Malaysia Airlines Flight 370''' (MH370/MAS370){{efn|MH is the [[IATA airline designator|IATA designator]] and MAS is the [[ICAO airline designator|ICAO designator]]. The flight was also marketed as [[China Southern Airlines]] Flight 749 (CZ748) through a [[codeshare agreement|codeshare]].<ref>{{cite news|last=MacLeod|first=Calum|title=Beijing-bound flight from Malaysia missing|url=http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/03/07/malaysia-airlines-beijing-flight-missing/6187779/|accessdate=16 March 2014|newspaper=USA Today|date=8 March 2014|author2=Winter, Michael|author3=Gray, Allison}}</ref>}} was a scheduled [[International flight|international passenger flight]] that disappeared on 8 March 2014 en route from [[Kuala Lumpur International Airport]] to [[Beijing Capital International Airport]]. The aircraft operating the service, a [[Boeing 777|Boeing 777-200ER]], last made contact with [[air traffic control]] less than an hour after take-off. The aircraft was operated by [[Malaysia Airlines]] and was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers from 15 nations and regions. The majority of passengers on board were Chinese citizens.
   
 
On the same day, a joint [[search and rescue]] effort, reportedly the largest in history,<ref>{{cite web|last=Neuman|first=Scott|title=Search For Flight MH370 Reportedly Largest in History|url=http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/03/17/290890377/search-for-flight-mh370-reportedly-largest-in-history|publisher=The Two-way|accessdate=19 March 2014}}</ref> in the [[Gulf of Thailand]] and the [[South China Sea]] was initiated.<ref>{{cite web|url=http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26541057 |title=Malaysia Airlines MH370: Last communication revealed |publisher=BBC |date=12 March 2014 |accessdate=13 March 2014}}</ref><ref name=20140310cbcnews/> On 11 March, the search area was extended to the [[Strait of Malacca]]. On 12 March, authorities also began to search the [[Andaman Sea]], northwest of the Strait of Malacca.<ref name=20140310indie/><ref name=Reuters>{{cite web|last=Grudgings|first=Stuart|title=Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in South China Sea with 239 people aboard: report|url=http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/08/us-malaysiaairlines-flight-idUSBREA2701720140308|accessdate=8 March 2014}}</ref><ref name="id">{{cite web|url=http://www.nst.com.my/latest/font-color-red-missing-mh370-font-indonesia-helps-in-search-for-airliner-1.504168|title=MISSING MH370: Indonesia helps in search for airliner|work=[[New Straits Times]]|date=9 March 2014|accessdate=9 March 2014|author=Tasnim Lokman}}</ref><ref>{{cite news|last=Grudgings|first=Stewart|title=Confusion as search for Malaysian jet spreads across SE Asia|url=http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/12/us-malaysiaairlines-flight-idUSBREA2701720140312|accessdate=12 March 2014|agency=Reuters}}</ref> Subsequently, new information led to the search area being expanded to include the Indian Ocean south of [[Sumatra]], as well as significant tracts of land.
 
On the same day, a joint [[search and rescue]] effort, reportedly the largest in history,<ref>{{cite web|last=Neuman|first=Scott|title=Search For Flight MH370 Reportedly Largest in History|url=http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/03/17/290890377/search-for-flight-mh370-reportedly-largest-in-history|publisher=The Two-way|accessdate=19 March 2014}}</ref> in the [[Gulf of Thailand]] and the [[South China Sea]] was initiated.<ref>{{cite web|url=http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26541057 |title=Malaysia Airlines MH370: Last communication revealed |publisher=BBC |date=12 March 2014 |accessdate=13 March 2014}}</ref><ref name=20140310cbcnews/> On 11 March, the search area was extended to the [[Strait of Malacca]]. On 12 March, authorities also began to search the [[Andaman Sea]], northwest of the Strait of Malacca.<ref name=20140310indie/><ref name=Reuters>{{cite web|last=Grudgings|first=Stuart|title=Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in South China Sea with 239 people aboard: report|url=http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/08/us-malaysiaairlines-flight-idUSBREA2701720140308|accessdate=8 March 2014}}</ref><ref name="id">{{cite web|url=http://www.nst.com.my/latest/font-color-red-missing-mh370-font-indonesia-helps-in-search-for-airliner-1.504168|title=MISSING MH370: Indonesia helps in search for airliner|work=[[New Straits Times]]|date=9 March 2014|accessdate=9 March 2014|author=Tasnim Lokman}}</ref><ref>{{cite news|last=Grudgings|first=Stewart|title=Confusion as search for Malaysian jet spreads across SE Asia|url=http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/12/us-malaysiaairlines-flight-idUSBREA2701720140312|accessdate=12 March 2014|agency=Reuters}}</ref> Subsequently, new information led to the search area being expanded to include the Indian Ocean south of [[Sumatra]], as well as significant tracts of land.

Revision as of 22:44, 20 March 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Boeing 777-2H6-ER, Malaysia Airlines AN2067998.jpg
9M-MRO, pictured in 2012
Missing aeroplane summary
Date 8 March 2014 (2014-03-08)
Summary Missing
Passengers 227
Crew 12
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 8 March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport. The aircraft operating the service, a Boeing 777-200ER, last made contact with air traffic control less than an hour after take-off. The aircraft was operated by Malaysia Airlines and was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers from 15 nations and regions. The majority of passengers on board were Chinese citizens.

On the same day, a joint search and rescue effort, reportedly the largest in history,[2] in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea was initiated.[3][4] On 11 March, the search area was extended to the Strait of Malacca. On 12 March, authorities also began to search the Andaman Sea, northwest of the Strait of Malacca.[5][6][7][8] Subsequently, new information led to the search area being expanded to include the Indian Ocean south of Sumatra, as well as significant tracts of land.

On 15 March, in the wake of media reports that US investigators believed that the aircraft had headed west back across the Malay Peninsula after air traffic control lost contact and that a satellite had continued to receive "pings" from the aircraft for several hours,[9][10][11][12] Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that satellite-related data showed that the aircraft's ACARS and transponder had been switched off and that radar data indicated that the aircraft's "movements are consistent with the deliberate action of someone on the plane."[13][14] As of 18 March, there were 26 countries participating in the revised search, focusing on a northern locus from the Kazakh–Turkmen border to northern Thailand, as well as a southern locus from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.[15]

Disappearance

The flight departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport on 8 March at 00:41 local time (16:41 UTC, 7 March) and was scheduled to land at Beijing Capital International Airport at 06:30 local time (22:30 UTC, 7 March). It climbed to its assigned cruise altitude of 35,000 feet (10,700 m) and was travelling at 471 knots (542 mph; 872 km/h) true airspeed when it ceased all communications and the transponder signal was lost. The aircraft's last known position on 8 March at 01:21 local time (17:21 UTC, 7 March) was 6°55′15″N 103°34′43″E / 6.92083°N 103.57861°E / 6.92083; 103.57861, corresponding to the navigational waypoint IGARI, at which the aircraft was due to alter its course slightly eastward.

When the last contact was made over the Gulf of Thailand, the plane had enough fuel for 8 more hours of flight.[citation needed] The aircraft was also expected to contact air traffic control in Ho Chi Minh City as it passed into Vietnamese airspace just north of the point where contact was lost.[16][17] The captain of another aircraft had attempted to reach the pilots of MH370 "just after 1:30 am" to relay Vietnamese Air Traffic Control's request for MH370 to contact it; the captain said he was able to establish contact, but just heard "mumbling" and static.[18]

Malaysia Airlines issued a media statement at 07:24, one hour after the scheduled arrival of the flight in Beijing, stating that contact with the flight had been lost by Malaysian ATC at 02:40. Malaysia Airlines stated that the government had initiated search and rescue operations.[19] It later emerged that Subang Air Traffic Control had lost contact with the aircraft at 01:22 and notified Malaysia Airlines at 02:40. Neither the crew nor the aircraft's onboard communication systems relayed a distress signal, indications of bad weather, or technical problems before vanishing from radar screens.[13][20][21] The last words that Malaysian air traffic controllers heard, at 01:19, were those of the co-pilot saying "All right, good night".[22]

Timeline of tracking
Time into flight Event Time (MYT) (UTC+8) Time (UTC)
0:00 Takeoff from Kuala Lumpur 0:41 16:41
0:26 Last ACARS data transmission (next was due at 1:37 Malaysia time) 1:07 17:07
0:38 Last Malaysian ATC voice contact, "All right. Good night."[22] 1:19 17:19
0:40 Last secondary radar (transponder) contact at 6°55′15″N 103°34′43″E. 1:21 17:21
0:41 Transponder and ADS-B now off. 1:22 17:22
0:49 Unsuccessful voice contact from another aircraft, mumbling/static audible[18] 1:30 17:30
0:56 Missed expected half-hourly ACARS data transmission 1:37 17:37
1:34 Last primary radar contact by Malaysian military, 200 miles NW of Penang 2:15 18:15
5:49 Missed scheduled arrival in Beijing 6:30 22:30
7:30 Last automated hourly ACARS handshake with Inmarsat satellite[23] 8:11 00:11

Subsequent communication

New Scientist reported that, prior to the aircraft's disappearance, two ACARS reports had been automatically issued to engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce's monitoring centre in the United Kingdom;[24] 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.[25]

The following day, the acting Transport Minister of Malaysia announced that the details of The Wall Street Journal report were inaccurate, stating that the final engine transmission was received at 01:07, prior to the flight's disappearance from secondary radar.[25] Follow-up reporting by Reuters suggested that a cessation of engine reports did not necessarily mean there was no evidence of continued flight; the evidence may have taken the form of "pings" sent by the aircraft's communication systems. These merely indicated to the satellites that the aircraft was ready to communicate, although these transmissions were not telemetry reports.[26]

The Wall Street Journal later removed references to Rolls-Royce from its report and stated 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..."[10][11] On 13 March, the White House Press Secretary said "an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean based on some new information"[27] and a senior official at The Pentagon told ABC News: "We have an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean."[28] Inmarsat said that "routine, automated signals were registered" on its network,[29] although a company executive did add that "keep-alive message[s]" continued to be sent after air traffic control first lost contact and that these "ping signals" could be analysed to help estimate the aircraft's location.[30]

On 14 March, The Independent rebutted earlier versions from other media about mid-flight disintegration, stating that if the aircraft had disintegrated in mid-flight or had other sudden catastrophic occurrence, "all signals – the pings to the satellite, the data messages and the transponder – would be expected to stop at the same time".[31] A call for transponders to be automated and not arbitrarily controlled by humans gained momentum after the September 11 attacks in 2001, when three of the hijacked aircraft had their transponders switched off.[32] However, no changes were made as aviation experts opted for a flexible control, believing that transponders may need to be reset in case of a malfunction or an electrical emergency.[32]

Estimated route

Route: Kuala Lumpur – Beijing. Inserted: search areas and known path. Small red squares: radar contacts. Small circles: claimed spotting of debris.

On 11 March, it was reported that military radar indicated the aircraft had turned west and continued flying for 70 minutes before disappearing off the Malaysian radar near Pulau Perak,[33][34] and that it was tracked flying at a lower altitude across Malaysia to the Malacca Strait. This location was approximately 500 kilometres (310 mi) from its last contact with civilian radar.[35] The next day, the Royal Malaysian Air Force chief distanced himself from the report saying it should not be misinterpreted.[36][37] According to the Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Transport, Pham Quy Tieu, "We informed Malaysia on the day we lost contact with the flight that we noticed the flight turned back west but Malaysia did not respond."[38]

US experts, assigned to assist with the investigation while maintaining a low profile that did not upstage Malaysian authorities,[39] analysed the radar data and subsequently reported that the radar data did indeed indicate that the aircraft had headed west back across the Malay Peninsula, with Reuters and The New York Times saying that the route changes suggested that the aircraft remained under a trained pilot's control.[9][11][40] The New York Times also said the aircraft experienced significant changes in altitude.[9]

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, Australia,[41] the Malaysian Prime Minister on 15 March said that the last signal, which was received at 08:11 Malaysian time, might have originated from as far north as Kazakhstan.[42] Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak 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.[43]

On 17 March, The New York Times, citing "senior American officials", suggested that the scheduled flight path was premeditatedly altered to the unspecified western direction through the flight management system before the ACARS stopped functioning.[44] Citing the investigators, The New York Times suggested that a new waypoint "far off the path to Beijing" was added.[44] With such a reprogramming the aircraft would make a banked turn at a comfortable angle of around 20 degrees and the passengers would not feel anything unusual.[44]

Search

Location

File:MH370 last ping corridors.jpg
Possible last known locations of MH370 in red, based on final satellite ping at 08:11 Malaysia time.

Early search efforts generated multiple false leads. An admiral of the Vietnamese Navy reported that radar contact with the aircraft was last made over the Gulf of Thailand.[13][45] Oil slicks detected off the coast of Vietnam on 8 and 9 March later tested negative for aviation fuel.[46][47] Alleged discovery of debris about 80 km (50 mi) south of Thổ Chu Island on 9 March was also found to be not from an aircraft.[48] Searches following a Chinese website's satellite images showing three floating objects measuring up to 24 by 22 metres (79 ft × 72 ft) at 6°42′N 105°38′E / 6.7°N 105.63°E / 6.7; 105.63 also turned up blank;[49][50][51][52] Vietnamese officials said the area had been "searched thoroughly".[53][54]

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.[55] 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.[56][57] The search radius was increased from the original 20 nautical miles (37 km; 23 mi) from its last known position,[58] 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.[4][59][60]

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.[61] On 17 March, Australia agreed to lead the search in the southern locus from Sumatra to the southern Indian Ocean.[62][63] The search would be coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, 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) from Perth to be searched by ships and aircraft of Australia, New Zealand and the United States.[64]

Also on 17 March, it was said that the timing of ACARS deactivation was unclear. The last ACARS message at 01:07 was not necessarily the point at which the system was turned off.[21] This was later clarified at the daily media conference, when it was stated that ACARS had been switched off sometime between 01:07 and the next scheduled ACARS contact, due at 01:37[65]

On 20 March, the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, announced in parliament that two objects that might be related to the aircraft, one of them 24 m (79 ft) long, had been spotted by a satellite in the Indian Ocean 2,500 km (1,600 mi) south-west of Perth.[66][67][68][69] An Australian AP-3C Orion arrived in the area at 02:50 UTC. Another AP-3C, a United States Navy P-8 Poseidon, a New Zealand P-3K; an Australian ship, HMAS Success, and a C-130 Hercules were also tasked to the area.[70] A Norwegian merchant ship, Höegh St. Petersburg, also diverted to the area.[70][71][72]

International participation

Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft of five nations including Australia are participating in the search
RSS Steadfast from Singapore is one of the naval vessels deployed in the search

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.[73][74] Within two days, the countries had already dispatched more than 34 aircraft and 40 ships to the area.[4][5][60] 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.[75]

Another 11 countries joined the search efforts by 17 March, after more assistance was requested by Malaysia, bringing the total to 26.[15] While not participating in the search itself, Sri Lanka gave permission for search aircraft to use its airspace.[76] Assets deployed by Malaysia included military fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.[77] and vessels from the navy and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.[77][78][79] A co-ordination centre at the National Disaster Control Centre (NDCC) in Pulau Meranti, Cyberjaya was established.[80] The country of destination, China, deployed numerous vessels, helicopters, personnel and life-saving and underwater detection equipment.[81][82] Furthermore, several of its military satellites were retasked.[83] Other nations provided the following asset types:

Cooperation

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.[138][139] International relations experts said entrenched rivalries over sovereignty, security, intelligence, and national interests made meaningful multilateral co-operation very difficult.[138][139] A Chinese academic made the observation that the parties were searching independently, thus it was not a multilateral search effort.[139]

Malaysia had initially declined to release raw data from its military radar, deeming the information "too sensitive", but later acceded.[138][139] Defence experts say that giving others access to radar information may be sensitive on a military level. As an example: "The rate at which they can take the picture can also reveal how good the radar system is". One suggested that some countries may already have had radar data on the aircraft and were reluctant to share any information that could potentially reveal their defence capabilities and compromise their own security.[138] Similarly, submarines patrolling the South China Sea might have information in the event of a water impact, and sharing such information could reveal the subs' locations and listening capabilities. However, The Guardian noted the Vietnamese permission given for Chinese aircraft to overfly its airspace as a positive sign of co-operation.[139]

Aircraft

The flight deck of 9M-MRO in 2004

Flight 370 was operated with a Boeing 777-2H6ER,[b] serial number 28420, registration 9M-MRO. The 404th Boeing 777 produced,[141] it first flew on 14 May 2002, and was delivered new to Malaysia Airlines on 31 May 2002. The aircraft is powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 892 engines,[141] and is configured to carry 282 passengers – 35 in business class and 247 in economy.[142] 9M-MRO had accumulated 53,460 hours and 7,525 cycles in service,[143] and had not previously been involved in any major incidents,[144] though a minor incident while taxiing at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in August 2012 resulted in a broken wingtip.[145] Its last maintenance 'A' check was carried out on 23 February 2014.[143]

The Boeing 777 is generally regarded by aviation experts as having an "almost flawless" safety record,[146] one of the best of any commercial aircraft.[147] Since its first commercial flight in June 1995, there have been only two serious accidents. In January 2008, 47 passengers were injured when ice crystals in the fuel system of British Airways Flight 38 caused it to lose power and crash-land just short of the runway at London Heathrow Airport. In July 2013, three passengers died and 181 were injured when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed on final approach to San Francisco International Airport after descending below the approach path.[148] Both aircraft were damaged beyond repair.

Passengers and crew

Nationalities of people on board Flight 370
Nationality Template:Discreet abbreviation Crew Total
 Australia 6 6
 Canada 2 2
 China 152 152
 France 4 4
 Hong Kong[149][150] 1 1
 India 5 5
 Indonesia 7 7
 Iran[c] 2 2
 Malaysia 38 12 50
 Netherlands 1 1
 New Zealand 2 2
 Russia 1 1
 Taiwan 1 1
 Ukraine 2 2
 United States 3 3
Total (15 nationalities) 227 12 239

Malaysia Airlines released the names and nationalities of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members, based on the flight manifest.[152]

Passengers

Two-thirds of the 227 passengers are Chinese citizens, including a group of 19 artists with 6 family members and 4 staff returning from a calligraphy exhibition of their work in Kuala Lumpur; 38 passengers are Malaysian. The remaining passengers come from 13 different countries.[153] Of the total, 20 are employees of Freescale Semiconductor, a company based in Austin, Texas – 12 are from Malaysia and 8 from China.[154][155]

Malaysia Airlines sent a team of carers and volunteers to provide assistance to family members of the passengers.[156] In its press releases, the carrier stated that it would bear the expenses of bringing family members of the passengers to Kuala Lumpur and providing them with accommodation, medical care, and counselling.[157] Altogether, 115 family members of the Chinese passengers flew to Kuala Lumpur.[158] Other family members chose to remain in China, fearing they would feel too isolated in Malaysia.[159] The airline offered an ex gratia condolence payment of US$5,000 to the family of each passenger,[160] but relatives considered the conditions unacceptable and asked the airline to review them.[161]

Crew

All the crew members were Malaysian citizens. The flight's captain was 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah of Penang; he joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had 18,365 hours of flying experience.[162] Zaharie was also an examiner qualified to conduct simulator tests for pilots.[163]

The first officer was 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid, an employee of Malaysia Airlines since 2007, with 2,763 flying hours.[164][165] Fariq was transitioning to the Boeing 777-200 after having completed his simulator training.[165]

Investigation

International participants

On 8 March, Boeing announced that it was assembling a team of experts to provide technical assistance to investigators,[166] in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) protocols. In addition, the United States National Transportation Safety Board announced in a press release on the same day that a team of investigators had been sent along with technical advisers from the Federal Aviation Administration to offer assistance in the investigation.[135] The country that would lead the investigation would not be determined until the missing aircraft was found.[167] Because a formal (ICAO-sanctioned) investigation had not yet started, cooperation and coordination between involved parties could suffer, there being "a risk that crucial early detective work could be hampered, and potential clues and records lost", according to experts.[168]

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had already deployed technical experts and agents to investigate the disappearance.[169] A senior US law enforcement official clarified that FBI agents had not been sent to Malaysia.[170] By 17 March the investigation was also being assisted by Interpol and other relevant international law enforcement authorities according to the Malaysian government.[171][172] United States and Malaysian officials were reviewing every passenger named on the manifest in addition to the two passengers who were confirmed as possessing stolen passports.[173] On 18 March the Chinese government announced that it had checked all of the Chinese citizens on the plane and ruled out the possibility that any were potential hijackers.[174]


Stolen passports

Two men identified on the manifest, a 61-year-old Austrian and a 37-year-old Italian, had reported their passports stolen in 2012 and 2013, respectively.[13][175] 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.[176][177] 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.[177]

The two one-way tickets purchased for the holders of the stolen passports were booked through China Southern Airlines.[178] 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.[179][180][181] 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 they were "inclined to conclude that it was not a terrorist incident".[151][182][183][184] The two men were believed to be asylum seekers.[185][186]

The China Daily reported that there was also a passenger on the boarding list provided by Malaysian Airlines whose name did not match the passport owner's name and passport number.[187]

The crew

Police also searched the homes of the pilot and co-pilot. [188] CNN reported that police investigated a flight simulator in the pilot's home and that US Intelligence officials were leaning to the view that those in the cockpit were behind the disappearance. [189]

Information flow

Public communication from Malaysian officials regarding the loss of the flight has been beset with confusion.

  • Malaysian authorities initially reported that four passengers used stolen passports to board the aircraft before settling on two – one Italian and one Austrian.[190]
  • 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.[190] This was later formally denied by Rodzali Daud.[37]
  • Malaysian authorities paid a visit to 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 the day following the flight's disappearance,[191] although this had been previously denied.[192]
  • 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 said that the ACARS system was switched off at 01:07, while Hishammuddin said that the last ACARS transmission was received at 01:07, and the transmission expected at 01:37 ACARS was missed.[193]

The New York Times noted that the Malaysian government and the airline released imprecise, incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate information, with civilian officials sometimes contradicting military leaders.[194] 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.[195]

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.[196] China, through the official Xinhua News Agency, said that the Malaysian government ought to take charge and conduct the operation with greater transparency,[138] a point echoed by the Chinese Foreign Ministry days later: "Help all sides in the search to make their search more effective and accurately targeted".[197] 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.[198][199][200] The Washington Post reported that Malaysia Airlines had also declined an upgrade for a system called Swift that would have provided critical information about the aircraft even after the ACARS system and the transponder went dead, a key element that helped significantly during the search for Air France 447 previously.[201]

Criticism was also levelled at the delay of search efforts. A report in the Wall Street Journal suggested that British satellite company Inmarsat had provided officials with data on 11 March, three days after the aircraft disappeared, suggesting the plane was nowhere near search areas at the time in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea and may have diverted its course through a southern or northern corridor, information only publicly acknowledged and released by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on 15 March in a press conference.[202] Responding to criticisms that information about satellite signals had not been made available earlier, Malaysia Airlines said that it was critical that the raw satellite signals were verified and analysed "so that their significance could be properly understood". While this was being done, the airline was unable to publicly confirm their existence.[203]

Flight number

On 14 March 2014, Malaysia Airlines retired the MH370 and MH371 flight number pair for the Kuala Lumpur–Beijing–Kuala Lumpur route, replacing them with MH318 and MH319 respectively.[204]

Notes

  1. ^ MH is the IATA designator and MAS is the ICAO designator. The flight was also marketed as China Southern Airlines Flight 749 (CZ748) through a codeshare.[1]
  2. ^ 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 a suffix to the model number at the time the aircraft is built. The code for Malaysia Airlines is "H6", hence "777-2H6ER".[140]
  3. ^ The manifest released by Malaysia Airlines lists an Austrian and an Italian. These have since been identified as two Iranian nationals who boarded Flight 370 using stolen passports.[151]

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External links