Aviation experts can recall only one major incident similar to the mysterious disappearance of a Malaysian Airlines jetliner over the weekend.

Air France Flight 447 was flying over a large body of deep water when it suddenly went missing in 2009. Search-and-rescue operations found debris and some of the bodies in the weeks following the crash, but it took almost two years to find the main wreckage and the black boxes, deep in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The final report into the disaster, which killed all 288 people on board, said the flight from Brazil to Paris was doomed by a combination of ice buildup, mechanical failure and pilot error. The plane had run into bad thunderstorms and stalled, and the pilots were insufficiently trained to fly manually during a high-altitude stall.

According to the 2009 report, the pilots were "completely surprised" by the technical problems, and appeared unaware they were going to crash until the final few seconds.


Timing: The planes vanished from radar and were still missing three days after disappearance.

Circumstances: Both planes went missing over large bodies of water

Cruising Altitude: Both planes were at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, where aviation experts have said that catastrophic accidents are rare.

Planes: Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200 and Air France Airbus A330 have good safety records.

Warnings: No emergency signals or distress messages were received, indicating a catastrophic failure during flight.


Weather: No storms were reported in flight MH370’s path on Saturday.

Location: The Air France jet crashed farther away from land. The Malaysian Airlines jet appears to have disappeared closer to land.

Warning: Radar indicates the Malaysian Airlines flight may have turned back from its scheduled route to Beijing before disappearing. That indicates the crew had an indication of trouble.

Other theories: The news that some of the Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing passengers were travelling on false passports has raised the suspicion of terrorism. Investigators are also looking at the possibility that the plane disintegrated in mid-flight.