Fact File: What we know so far about missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370
Malaysia missing flight timeline (CTV News)
Published Tuesday, March 11, 2014 7:15PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 15, 2014 6:11PM EDT
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 goes missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
The Boeing 777 is carrying 239 people: 227 passengers (including 2 Canadians) and 12 crew.
The plane leaves Kuala Lumpur (on the western coast of Malaysia) at 12:41 a.m. local time and is due in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. local time Saturday.
Radar at a military base detects the airliner at 2:40 a.m. local time -- near Pulau Perak at the northern approach to a strait separating the western coast of Malaysia and Indonesia's Sumatra island. But after that, the plane loses contact with Subang air traffic control.
There is no distress signal or radio communication about any change of course, according to the airline.
Location of the last contact with air traffic control was 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bhar.
Malaysian officials said on March 15 that the plane was deliberately diverted and continued flying for more than six hours after severing contact with the ground.
Officials confirmed that the last confirmed signal between the plane and a satellite came at 8:11 a.m. -- 7 hours and 31 minutes after takeoff.
Airline officials have said the plane had enough fuel to fly for up to about eight hours.
The pilot is Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a 53-year-old Malaysian who has been with the airline since 1981. He’s logged 18,365 flying hours.
The First Officer is Fariq Ab, a 27-year-old Malaysian who has been with the airline since 2007. He’s logged 2,763 hours.
Malaysian police have said they are looking at the psychological state, family life and connections of the pilots. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men.
The plane’s registration number is 9M-MRO
Aviation experts are flummoxed over the flight's sudden disappearance.
Malaysian air force defence radar picked up traces of the plane turning back westward, crossing over Peninsular Malaysia into the northern stretches of the Strait of Malacca.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on March 15 that the planes movements are "consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane."
Although the aircraft was flying virtually blind to air traffic controllers, onboard equipment continued to send "pings" to satellites.
Aviation analyst Marc-Antoine Plourde said the fact the plane may have veered so far off course “tells us that somebody was in control of this aircraft.”
“To be clear, airplanes follow a very clear, pre-determined path. We don’t just change course and don’t advise anybody with the amount of communication tools that we have on board,” Plourde told CTV News Channel. “So somebody knows what’s going on here, is my belief.”
Pilots regularly shut off the transponder that sends signals to ground stations, such as when the aircraft is sitting on a runway and the plane does not need to be showing up on air traffic control radar, Plourde said.
The fact that the transponder signal went dead before the flight veered off course “tells us it was voluntarily turned off,” he said.
Search & Rescue
Fourteen countries are involved in the search for the plane, using 43 ships and 58 aircraft.
A U.S. P-8A Poseidon, the most advanced long-range anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft in the world, was to arrive over the weekend and sweep parts of the Indian Ocean, the U.S. Defence Department said in a statement.
The Indian navy's co-ordinated search has as of Saturday covered more than 250,000 square kilometres, but has yet to find and evidence of the missing jet.
Malaysia's prime minister confirmed Saturday, days after mounting speculation, that the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to Beijing was not accidental, which has refocused investigation into the flight's 12-person crew and 227 passengers.
Investigators now have a high degree of certainty that one of the plane's communications systems -- the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) -- was disabled before the aircraft reached the east coast of Malaysia. Shortly afterward, someone on board switched off the aircraft's transponder, which communicates with civilian air traffic controllers.
Malaysian authorities suggested Friday a new search area of 9,000 square kilometres to India along the Chennai coast in the Bay of Bengal, India's Defence Ministry said.
Satellite images posted on a Chinese government website on Wednesday show suspected debris from the missing jetliner floating off the southern tip of Vietnam, near the plane's original flight path, according to China's Xinhua News Agency. But those turned out to be false leads, after search planes found nothing.
Vietnamese authorities spot an oil slick off the southern tip of Vietnam -- each between 10 and 15 kilometres long -- late Saturday, March 8. But authorities find that samples from the slick, as well as an orange object spotted floating in the ocean, have nothing to do with the plane wreckage.
Officials confirm March 8 that the names of two European nationals listed on the manifest match names on two passports reported stolen in Thailand.
Neither European was on the plane. They are identified as:
- Luigi Maraldi, an Italian living in Phuket who was recently given a new passport to replace the one stolen about a year-and-a-half ago while travelling in Thailand.
- Christian Kozel, an Austrian who had his passport stolen two years ago while travelling in Thailand.
The stolen passports raise fears that terrorists may have used them to gain access to the plane. It also exposed a gaping loophole in international aviation security.
According to Interpol, no country checked the Interpol database that held information about the stolen passports.
Who are the 2 men?
On March 11, Interpol releases an image of two men who used valid Iranian passports to get into Malaysia, before they then allegedly stole European documents to board flight MH370.
An image from Interpol shows the two men boarding a plane at the same time.
Malaysian police identify one man as:
- Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, 19. Police say he used an Austrian passport to board the plane, and that he aimed to migrate to Germany. Authorities say he was likely trying to get into Germany to seek asylum, citing a phone conversation he had with his mother, and that he’s not likely a member of any terrorist group.
Interpol identifies the second man as:
- Seyed Mohammed Reza Delavar, 29. Police say he used an Italian passport to board the plane.
The search for the missing jet has yet to produce answers to what happened.
While terrorism has not yet been ruled out as a factor, authorities say there have not yet been any credible claims of responsibility from terrorist groups. The head of Interpol says on March 11 that he did not believe the plane disappeared because of a terrorist incident.
Aviation website Leeham news lists some possible causes that will be investigated in an incident like this. While they stress these are not specific to this case, the causes could include:
• Catastrophic structural failure
• Dual engine flame-out
• Clear air turbulence
• Human intervention, including someone penetrating the cockpit, or a bomb
• Pilot suicide
“It could mean that it fell below the radar coverage altitude and landed on an island. It’s possible that it’s somewhere, though unlikely,” Plourde said. “Or that it got destroyed and that’s why we lost the radar coverage.”