Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370
The missing airplane in 2011
Missing airplane summary
Date 8 March 2014 (2014-03-08)
Summary Missing, flaperon found
Place Unknown (believed Southern Indian Ocean)
Passengers 227 (probably)
Crew 12 (probably)
Fatalities 239 (all, probably)
Survivors 0 (none, probably)
Aircraft type Boeing 777-200ER
Airline/user Malaysia Airlines
Registration 9M-MRO
Flew from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Flying to Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing, China

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (M

H370, also named under a codeshare agreement as China Southern Airlines Flight CZ748)[1] is a missing Malaysia Airlines international passenger flight.[2] The aircraft had 227 passengers and twelve crew members on board.[3]

History[change | change source]

Flight 370 left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at 00:41 on 8 March 2014 (MST; UTC+8) for a scheduled six-hour flight to Beijing, China. Subang Air Traffic Control Centre lost contact with the plane at about 01:22, while over the Gulf of Thailand. It was reported missing at 02:40.[4]

On 9 March, the Chief General of the Royal Malaysian Air Force announced that Malaysia was analysing military radar recordings and that there was a "possibility"[5] that Flight 370 had turned around and travelled over the Andaman Sea.[5][6][7] The search radius was increased from the original 20 nmi (37 km; 23 mi) from its last known position,[8] south of Thổ Chu Island, to 100 nmi (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.[5][9][10]

Numerous sightings of possible debris were made, but no debris from Flight 370 was discovered.[11] Offshore oil slicks near Vietnam on 9 and 10 March later tested negative for aviation fuel.[11][12] Satellite images taken on 9 March and posted on a Chinese website showed 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 2014), but a search of the area did not find the objects;[13][14] Vietnamese officials said the area had been "searched thoroughly".[15][16] By the end of 9 March, 40 aircraft and more than two dozen vessels from several nations were involved in the search.[17]

The Royal Malaysian Air Force confirmed on 10 March that Flight 370 made a "turn back".[18] The following day, China activated the International Charter Space and Major Disasters to aggregate satellite data to aid the search.[19][20] On 12 March, Malaysian officials announced that an unidentified aircraft, possibly Flight 370, was last located by military radar at 2:15 in the Andaman Sea, 320 kilometres (200 mi) northwest of Penang Island and near the limits of the military radar's coverage.[21] The focus of the search shifted to the Andaman Sea and the Malaysian government requested help from India to search in the area.[22]

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.[23][24] Within two days, the countries had already dispatched more than 34 aircraft and 40 ships to the area.[5][9][25]

On 11 March, the China Meteorological Administration[26] 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",[27] 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.[28]

Another 11 countries joined the search efforts by 17 March after more assistance was requested by Malaysia.[29] 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, and Vietnam.[30][31] While not participating in the search itself, Sri Lanka gave permission for search aircraft to use its airspace.[32] Malaysia deployed military fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and ships.[33][34][35] A co-ordination centre at the National Disaster Control Centre (NDCC) in Pulau Meranti, Cyberjaya, was established.[36]

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.[37] The United Kingdom provided technical assistance and specialist capabilities from the Ministry of Defence, the UK Hydrographic Office, Department for Transport and the Met Office.[38] 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.[39]

In the wake of the 15 March press conference, the focus of the search shifted to the southern part of the Indian Ocean, west of Australia.[40]: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 found.[41]

On 17 March, Australia agreed to lead the search in the southern locus from Sumatra to the southern Indian Ocean.[42][43] 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.[44] This remote area, which Australian Prime Minister 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.[45][46] On 18 March, the search of the area began with a single Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion aeroplane.[47] On 19 March, the search capacity was ramped up to three aircraft and three merchant ships;[48] 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.[49]

Crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon manning terminals while searching for surface debris and locator beacons from Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean.

Search efforts intensified on 20 March, after large pieces of possible debris had been photographed in this area four days earlier by a satellite.[50][51][52][53][54] Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea assigned military and civilian ships and aircraft to the search.[55][56] 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.[57][58][59] The same day, HMAS Success became the first naval vessel to reach the search area.[60] On 26 March, images from French satellites indicated 122 floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean.[61][62] Thai satellite images published on 27 March showed about 300 floating objects about 200 km (120 mi) from the French satellites' target area.[63] The abundant finds, none confirmed to be from the flight, brought the realisation of the prior lack of surveillance over the area, and the vast amounts of marine debris littering the oceans.[64][65]

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,[66][67] to a new search area of 319,000 square kilometres (123,000 sq mi), roughly 1,850 kilometres (1,150 mi) west of Perth.[68][69][70][71] This search area had more hospitable weather conditions.[58]

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.[72] On 2 April, Royal Navy survey vessel HMS Echo and submarine HMS Tireless arrived in the area,[73] with HMS Echo starting immediately to search for the aircraft's underwater locator beacons (ULBs) fitted to the "black box" flight recorders,[74] whose batteries were expected to expire around 7 April.[75][76] On 4 April, the search area was shifted further north.[77][78]

By 28 April, the drifted search area (outlined in grey) was over 2,500 km (1,600 mi) wide. The dots indicate the probable locations of debris on 28 April, based on a splash point in zones A-B (outlined in blue).

The surface search ended on April 28. In a press conference, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott noted that any debris would likely have become waterlogged and sunk and that the aircraft involved in the surface search were "operating at close to the limit of sensible and safe operation".[79] Abbott explained that it was "highly unlikely" that any surface wreckage would be found and, therefore, the aerial searches had been suspended.[79][80][81] The surface search in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean lasted 52 days, during 41 of which Australia coordinated the search. Over 4,500,000 km2 (1,700,000 sq mi) of ocean surface was searched. In the Southern Indian Ocean, 29 aircraft from seven countries conducted 334 search flights; 14 ships from several countries were also involved.[79][80][81]

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).[77][78] 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.[75][82][83] Operators considered it a shot in the dark, 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.[84]

The Chinese vessel Haixun 01 makes a possible ULB detection using a handheld hydrophone;[85][86][87][88][89] the following day, Haixun 01 makes another possible ULB detection about 3 km (1.9 mi) further west. HMS Echo and a submarine were later tasked to the location of the Haixun 01's detections, but unable to make any detections.[40]:11

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 ULB.

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.[90][91] 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.[92][93] 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.[94] 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.[94][95][96] 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.[97][98][99] 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.[97] but the frequency of the detections was well outside the manufacturer's specification of 37.5 +/- 1.[100] The later signals were at a frequency of 27 kHz, which raised doubts that they were from a black box.[101] On 10 April, a signal recorded by one of the sonobuoys deployed with a hydrophone at 300 metres depth[102][103] was found unlikely to have originated from Flight 370.[104]

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 seabed search using side-scan sonar installed in a Bluefin-21 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.[105] The first day's search was aborted because the sea bed was considerably deeper than the maximum operating depth of Bluefin. Scanning subsequently resumed[106] 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".[107]

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

Bluefin-21 required 16 missions to complete its search of the 314 square kilometre area around the detections made by the Towed Pinger Locator.[108][109] The seafloor sonar search was suspended on 2 May for the AVD Ocean Shield to return to port to replenish supplies and personnel.[110] Within two hours of its first deployment after returning to the search area on 13 May, Bluefin-21 developed a communications problem and was recovered.[111] Spare parts from the UK were required and the AVD Ocean Shield returned to port to collect the parts.[112][113] After Bluefin-21 was repaired, the seafloor sonar survey resumed on 22 May.[114][115]

The seafloor sonar survey was completed on 28 May. After 30 deployments of the Bluefin-21 to depths of 3,000–5,000 m (9,800–16,400 ft), which scanned 860 km2 (330 sq mi) of seabed, no objects associated with Flight 370 were found. The following day, after analysis of data from the last mission, the ATSB announced the search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections was complete and the area could be discounted as the final location of Flight 370.[116][117] The announcement followed a statement by U.S. Navy's Deputy Director of Ocean Engineering that all four pings were no longer believed to have come from the aircraft's flight recorders.[118] 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".[119] Equipment envisaged to be used would include towed side-scan sonar.[120]


The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating to see if terrorism is involved. Two passengers, one from Austria and another one from Italy, were named on the manifest. However, they were later discovered not to have been on board, their passports having been stolen.[121] Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities are also ruling the identity of two other passengers to be false.[122][123]

On 24 March 2014, officials with both Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government stated that while the aircraft's whereabouts were still not known, "unparalleled" analyses by the United Kingdom's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and UK satellite company Inmarsat indicated that it had crashed into the southern Indian Ocean. It was presumed by these officials that all 239 people aboard died.[124][125][126]

On 29 July 2015, a flaperon was found on a beach in Saint-André, on Réunion island. On 5 August, the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak announced that the found flaperon was confirmed to be from flight MH370's aircraft.[127]

On 17 January 2017, Malaysia, Australia and China officially announced the suspension of the underwater search, stating that "despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modeling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, ... the search has not been able to locate the aircraft".[128][129] The decision to suspend the search was in line with a July 2016 agreement between Australia, Malaysia, and China that the search would end upon completion of the search of the 120,000 km2 (46,000 sq mi) search area unless there was credible evidence leading to a specific area where the flight may have ended.[130][129][131]

The decision to suspend the search came a month after a December 2016 ATSB report concluded that searching an additional 25,000 km2 (9,700 sq mi) area on the northern edge of the 120,000 km2 (46,000 sq mi) search area "would exhaust all prospective areas for the presence of [Flight 370]."[132]:23 Extending the search to this additional area would have cost an estimated AU$40 million.[133] The support group for family members, Voice370, released a statement expressing their disappointment.[128][133]

In October 2017 the Malaysian government released a statement that they are in discussion with the American salvage company Ocean Infinity to make a further underwater search in the area to the north of the 2016 search. This would be on the basis of no fee if the wreckage were not found. [134]

Passengers and flight crew[change | change source]

In total, 239 people were on board the plane and were presumed dead.

People on board by nationality
Nationality Number
 Australia 6
 Belgium 4
 Canada 2
 China 153
 France 4
 Germany 4
 Hong Kong 1
 India 5
 Indonesia 7
 Iran 2
 Malaysia 50
 Netherlands 1
 New Zealand 2
 Philippines 3
 Russia 1
 Taiwan 1
 Ukraine 2
 United Kingdom 10
 United States 4
Total (15 nations and regions) 239

References[change | change source]

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