Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
This article documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses, and initial news reports may be unreliable. The last updates to this article may not reflect the most current information. (March 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The aircraft (9M-MRO) at Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2011
|Date||8 March 2014|
Since 02:40 MST (UTC+8)
on 8 March 2014.
|Aircraft type||Boeing 777-200ER|
|Flight origin||Kuala Lumpur International Airport|
|Destination||Beijing Capital International Airport|
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370' (MH370/MAS370) – also known as China Southern Airlines Flight 748 (CZ748) under codeshare – is a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China. On 8 March 2014, the Boeing 777 operating the flight disappeared en route with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board. The cause remains unknown.
The aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur for the scheduled six-hour flight at 00:41 on 8 March local time (UTC+8).[a] Air Traffic Control lost contact with the aircraft at about 01:22 while it was over the Gulf of Thailand, and reported it missing at 02:40. An ongoing joint search-and-rescue effort, focusing on the Gulf of Thailand, Straits of Malacca, and the South China Sea, is being conducted by co-operating agencies of numerous national governments.
Two passengers of unknown nationality boarded the aircraft using stolen passports (one Italian and one Austrian). The head of Malaysia's Civil Aviation Authority said officials had not ruled out hijacking as a cause of the aircraft's disappearance, adding that all reported sightings of debris in the seas south of Vietnam were unconfirmed as to their being from the missing aircraft. The stolen passports are not necessarily related to the disappearance of the aircraft; a European diplomat in Kuala Lumpur has cited illegal immigration as an explanation for passengers using false identities.
The flight departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport on 8 March at 00:41 local time (7 March, 16:41 UTC) and was scheduled to land at Beijing Capital International Airport at 06:30 (7 March, 22:30 UTC). The aircraft ceased all communications and the transponder signal was lost just before it was to be passed off to the Ho Chi Minh Area Control Center. The aircraft's last known position before disappearing from ATC radar was .
Malaysia Airlines issued a media statement at 07:24 confirming that contact had been lost at 02:40 and that search and rescue operations had begun. The plane relayed no distress signal, indications of bad weather, or technical problems before vanishing from radar screens. When radar contact with the aircraft was lost, it was carrying enough fuel for about an additional 7 1⁄2 hours of flying time. Relevant authorities in China and Thailand informed their Malaysian counterparts that the aircraft had not entered their airspace.
The Aviation Herald website reported that Subang Air Traffic Control lost radar and radio contact with the aircraft at 01:22 and officially advised Malaysia Airlines at 02:40 that the aircraft was missing. However, a Malaysia Airlines spokesperson said that the last conversation between the flight crew and air traffic control in Malaysia had been around 01:30, and stated that the plane had not disappeared from air traffic control systems in Subang until 02:40, which is long enough for the plane to have been flying across Vietnam. ATC requested another Malaysia Airlines flight, this one en route to Japan and about half an hour ahead of MH370, to try to contact the unresponsive 777. The captain reported establishing contact with the crew of MH370 just after 01:30, but could only hear "mumbling".
According to Admiral Ngo Van Phat of the Vietnamese Navy, military radar lost the plane "some 153 nautical miles (300 km)" south of Thổ Chu in the Gulf of Thailand. The Vietnamese government initially reported that the aircraft had crashed at sea in the Gulf of Thailand, although the airline denied this claim, and the claim about the known location of the aircraft by the Vietnamese Navy was rejected by the Malaysian Minister of Transport, Hishammuddin Hussein. The Vietnamese Navy later clarified that the admiral had actually been referring to the location where contact was last made, rather than indicating a crash site.
The search for the missing jetliner located oil slicks in the Gulf of Thailand on 8 March, about 50 nautical miles (93 km) south of Vietnam's Thổ Chu Island. During the search, the Vietnamese Navy reported spotting at least one oil slick, between 10 and 20 km (6–12 mi) long, which was believed to be that of the missing aircraft. Vietnamese Civil Aviation Department aircraft also reported they spotted two large oil slicks that authorities suspect are from the MAS jetliner. The slicks, each between 10 and 15 km (6–9 mi) long, and 500 metres (550 yd) apart, were spotted 140 nautical miles (260 km; 160 mi) south of Thổ Chu Island off southern Vietnam, and were consistent with the kind that would be caused by fuel from a crashed jetliner. Another report that an oil leak about 80 kilometres (50 mi) long was clearly seen from a Vietnamese search and rescue AN-26 aircraft at 08:35 on 9 March, approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) away from Cape Cà Mau. Officials investigated the possibility of mid-air disintegration. However, after tests on 10 March, it was found that oil samples from the slicks were not from an aircraft.
Debris was also reportedly found on 9 March about 80 kilometres (50 mi) south of Thổ Chu Island. The debris, which was claimed to include a composite inner door and a piece of the aircraft's tail, was located at a point along the planned flight path of MH370. The following day, however, Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation reported these claims were untrue.
The Royal Thai Navy shifted its focus in the search away from the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea due to the request of its Malaysian counterpart, which is investigating the possibility the aircraft turned around and could have gone down in the Andaman Sea, near Thailand's border. 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. The search radius has been increased from the original 50 nautical miles from its last known position to 100 nautical miles, and the area now covers the seas to the Straits of Malacca along the west coast of the Malay Peninsula; with both waters to the east of Malaysia in the South China Sea, and in the Straits of Malacca along Malaysia's west coast, are being searched. The Indonesian Navy has focused the search around the island of Penang in the Straits of Malacca, while the Royal New Zealand Air Force maritime surveillance aircraft were heading to the Butterworth Air Base in Penang to join the mission.
In response to the incident, the Malaysian government mobilised the Civil Aviation department, air force, navy, Maritime Enforcement Agency, and requested international assistance from Integrated Area Defence System (IADS) and neighbouring states. Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, and the United States set aside territorial disputes to mount a search and rescue mission in the region's waters. The countries have despatched a total of 34 aircraft and 40 ships to the area. The French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA) and India offered their services to help with rescue and investigation.
- The Royal Malaysian Air Force dispatched a CASA/IPTN CN-235 transport aircraft, a Beechcraft Super King Air B200T aircraft, four Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft, two Bombardier Global Express aircraft, two Agusta A109 helicopters, and four Eurocopter EC725 long-range tactical transport helicopters. Six Royal Malaysian Navy vessels have also been dispatched, in addition to three Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency vessels to search the waters off its east coast in the South China Sea. Malaysia Airlines has also sent a team of caregivers and volunteers dubbed GoTeam to provide assistance towards family members of the passengers. Malaysia has also established a co-ordination centre at the National Disaster Control Centre (NDCC) in Pulau Meranti, Cyberjaya, to monitor the development of the situation.
- On 9 March, the Malaysian transport minister said that the Malaysian intelligence agencies have been activated, while counter terrorism units in all relevant countries have been informed, adding that he has met with officers from the FBI in Malaysia.
- The Australian government provided two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Lockheed AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft to join the search and rescue operation. The first RAAF P-3C long-range maritime surveillance aircraft departed for the search from Darwin on 9 March.
- Two Chinese warships, Jinggang Shan and Mianyang, were dispatched to assist in the search. Jinggang Shan has two helicopters, 30 medical personnel, ten divers, and 52 marines, as well as life-saving and underwater detection equipment. On the afternoon of 9 March, another two Chinese warships, Kunlun Shan and Haikou, were dispatched to the suspected site of the missing plane. On 10 March, China adjusted the operations of orbiting satellites to help in the search of the missing flight.
- The Embassy of Indonesia in Kuala Lumpur announced the country would send five ships to help Malaysian authorities in the search and rescue mission. The country has deployed its first two PC-40 fast patrol vessels, the KRI Matocra and KRI Krait, as well a IPTN NC-212 maritime patrol aircraft. Currently, Indonesia has deployed one corvette, and four rapid patrol vessels, which was on patrol around the island of Penang in the Straits of Malacca.
- New Zealand
- The New Zealand Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3K2 Orion to help with the search. The aircraft departed Auckland on 10 March, and is based at Butterworth Air Base in Penang along with the two Australian P-3 aircraft.
- The Philippine AFP Western Command has sent BRP Gregorio del Pilar, BRP Emilio Jacinto, BRP Apolinario Mabini and a search-and-rescue aircraft to the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea to help in the search efforts.
- Within a day of the 777 going missing the Republic of Singapore Air Force assisted with a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Subsequently, two other C-130 Hercules were dispatched, with the Republic of Singapore Navy sending its Formidable-class frigate RSS Steadfast, with a Sikorsky S-70B Naval helicopter on board; and a submarine rescue ship (MV Swift Rescue) with divers on board; as well as the Victory-class corvette RSS Vigour.
- The Royal Thai Navy has also prepared to send three vessels and one aircraft to join the search and rescue mission. The Royal Thai Navy has dispatched a Super Lynx helicopter and a patrol ship to the Andaman Sea, west of Thailand, to help in the search. It has also put two other ships on standby in the Gulf of Thailand, awaiting a request for assistance from Malaysia.
- United States
- The United States sent a P-3C Orion aircraft from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and diverted a guided missile destroyer USS Pinckney carrying two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters which can be equipped for search and rescue. USNS John Ericsson is en route to the scene to provide fuel and logistics replenishment. The US also dispatched a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) team in advance, ready to start work immediately should the aircraft wreckage be discovered. The US Navy also ordered a second destroyer, the USS Kidd, to the scene.
- The Vietnamese participated with three Antonov An-26s, two CASA C-212, one DHC-6 Twin Otter, two Mil Mi-171 and seven ships from the Navy (HQ-954, HQ-627), Coast Guard (CSB-2001, CSB-2003), Fisheries Control (KN-774) and Maritime Search & Rescue Coordination Centre (SAR 413).
The Boeing 777 is generally regarded by aviation experts as having an "almost flawless" safety record, one of the best of any commercial aircraft. Since its first commercial flight in June 1995, there have only been two previous 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, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed on final approach to San Francisco International Airport. Three passengers died and 181 were injured as a result of that accident. Both aircraft were damaged beyond repair.
The aircraft was a Boeing 777-2H6ER,[b] serial number 28420, registration 9M-MRO. The 404th Boeing 777 produced, it first flew on 14 May 2002, and was delivered new to Malaysia Airlines on 31 May 2002. The aircraft was powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 892 engines. According to the airline, it had accumulated at least 20,243 hours and 3,023 cycles in service. 9M-MRO had not previously been involved in any major incidents, however, a minor incident while taxiing at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in August 2012 resulted in significant damage to one of its wingtips, which broke off after striking the tail of another plane. Its last maintenance check was in February 2014.
Passengers and crew
All crew onboard were Malaysian. The captain was 53-year-old Zaharie bin Ahmad Shah from Penang, who joined Malaysian Airlines in 1981 and had 18,365 hours flying experience. Zaharie was also an examiner qualified to conduct simulator tests for pilots. The first officer was 27-year-old Fariq bin Ab Hamid, an employee of Malaysia Airlines since 2007, with 2,763 flying hours. Fariq recently switched to flying Boeing 777-200 aircraft after completing his simulator training.
Chinese police in Fuzhou, Fujian, have located a man whose Chinese passport number corresponds to one on the published passenger list. He was not on board and the name on the list next to the number was completely different. However, he had not lost his passport and police suspect the wrong number was published.
The Chinese passengers included a group of 19 artists with six family members and four staff, returning from a calligraphy exhibition of their work in Kuala Lumpur.
Passengers using false identities
At least two of the passengers were travelling with passports stolen from citizens of European countries. An Austrian listed in the manifest had reported his passport stolen in 2012 and an Italian listed in the manifest had reported his passport stolen in August 2013; both were stolen in Phuket, Thailand, a popular tourist destination. This came to light when attempts were made to locate their next of kin; both men have been confirmed safe.
The tickets purchased for the holders of those stolen passports were booked through China Southern Airlines, which had a code share agreement to sell tickets for flight 370. The two one-way tickets were bought at the same time and issued by a travel agent in Pattaya, Thailand, two days before the flight. The two itineraries began in Kuala Lumpur and continued via Beijing to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam, the itinerary for the Italian passport holder ended at Copenhagen and that of the Austrian passport holder continued to Frankfurt. It was reported that an Iranian man—Kazem Ali—had purchased the tickets via telephone for friends he said wanted to return home to Europe and someone paid for the tickets in cash. Ali had only asked for the cheapest route to Europe when booking and did not mention specifically the Kuala Lumpur–Beijing route.
Malaysia's Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi criticised Malaysian immigration officials for failing to stop the passengers travelling on the stolen European passports. Interpol stated that both passports were listed on its database of lost and stolen passports, but that no check had been made against its database, noting that very few countries consistently use the database.
On 10 March, Malaysia's Civil Aviation chief Azaharuddin Abdul Rahman reported that investigators had identified one of the people travelling with a stolen passport, but did not disclose any details about the person's nationality or identity, except that they were not Malaysian. He also indicated that one of the men was black and retracted an earlier statement that they were Asian. No connection between the stolen passports and the aircraft's disappearance has yet been reported.
Boeing has announced that it is assembling a team of experts to provide technical assistance to investigators, in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organization protocols. In addition, the United States National Transportation Safety Board announced in an 8 March press release that a team of investigators had been sent along with technical advisers from the Federal Aviation Administration to offer assistance in the investigation. The country that will lead the investigation will not be determined until the missing aircraft is found.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has deployed technical experts and agents to investigate the disappearance. However, a senior US law enforcement official clarified that FBI agents were not sent to Malaysia. United States and Malaysian officials are reviewing the entire passenger manifest in addition to the two passengers who were confirmed as possessing stolen passports.
- All times are in Malasyia Standard Time (UTC+8) unless otherwise stated.
- The aircraft was a Boeing 777-200ER (for Extended Range) model; Boeing assigns a unique alphanumeric 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".
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