ONGOING: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Missing, Presumed Crashed

By Airchive Staff / Published March 7, 2014
Last updated Tuesday, June 26 at 1241 EDT

Thursday, June 26:

The past several days have certainly had no shortage of developments in the months long search for MH370, though the jet remains missing without any physical trace.

Australian officials, on Thursday, said that they believed the airplane remained on autopilot until it crashed deep in the southern Indian Ocean due to fuel starvation.

mr052_MH370_SearchAreaMap“The new priority area is still focused on the seventh arc, where the aircraft last communicated with satellite. We are now shifting our attention to an area further south along the arc based on these calculations,” said Warren Truss, Deputy Prime Minister for Infrastructure in a statement on the Joint Agency Coordination Centre.

The news, along with earlier recalculations of satellite ping data, have led investigators further south. The new area encompasses some 23,000 square miles of remote ocean. The area is presently being mapped by survey ships ahead of the resumption of high-tech scanning set to resume in August. That search is expected to take one year.

The Australians believe the crew was unresponsive during the flight, mostly likely due to a lack of oxygen on board.
But not everyone thinks the airplane’s supposed track was an accident. Multiple stories have been published alleging that the flight’s captain, Captain Zaharie Shah, is a prime suspect in the criminal investigation. Reports cite that Captain Shah’s home flight simulator had records showing that he used it to practice landings on a remote island runway. While other bits of information appear to support suspicions, no hard evidence has been found.

Thursday, May 29:

Acoustic pings believed to have been emanating from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 jet were ruled out by authorities on Thursday.

The US Navy Bluefin 21 completed its 328 square mile (850 sqKM) search on Wednesday, ultimately finding no evidence of aircraft debris.

The Australian-based Joint Agency Coordination Center said via a statement that the “The search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections can now be considered complete and…the area can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370.” The search had been focused on a stretch of seabed in which search acoustic pings similar to that of black boxes had been found in early April.

With what had been the strongest lead all but dead, authorities expect to once again widen the search, but with far less resources on site. A search that earlier included dozens of ships from nearly one dozen nations has been reduced to a single Chinese survey vessel and a few support ships.  The boat will map the surface of roughly 21,000 square miles of ocean, based on the satellite data of the jet’s most likely path. Australia’s Ocean Shield, which had been operating the Bluefin device, left the region last night. The air search, which once included dozens of airplanes from multiple nations, was called off in late April.

The remaining three ships are expected to be joined in August by private contractors who will continue the search. The search of the area is expected to take up to one year.

Tuesday, May 27 @ 1022 EDT:

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

Malaysian authorities, in tandem with British satellite company Inmarsat, released raw communications data from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Tuesday.

The dense technical report, which can be found here via CNN, is so far still leading Australian investigators to conclude the aircraft ran out of fuel. In particular, officials point to the last known of the so-called “handshakes” between the aircraft and satellites. While all of the other six post-disappearance handshakes happened at a regular hourly interval, the final one did not. Australian authorities have concluded that the seventh and final handshake was likely the result of the Boeing 777-200′s communications equipment rebooting following an on-board power failure consistent with fuel starvation.

The report only includes the raw data, and not the methodology used by authorities to reach the location conclusion.

Authorities from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau added a small bit of new information: that the search area intersects with the only published “north-south air route” in the region, known as M641. The route connects Cocos Island to Perth via four waypoints. Whether the finding has any significance, or is merely a coincidence, is yet unknown.

The data was released after consistent protests from family members and experts not involved with the investigation. Both are hoping that independent third party reviews will reveal new information on where the jet may have ended up, though a full analysis could take some time.

In the meantime, the search for the jet has effectively been put on hold. Australia’s Ocean Shield, which had been supporting the Bluefin sonar robot to scour the ocean floor, is expected to wrap up its search this week. According to reports, that will leave only the Chinese survey ship, Zhu Kezhen. The ship arrived in the area on Saturday, and will attempt to map 60,000 square kilometers of ocean.

The search will eventually be continued by private contractors. A bidding process is expected to begin as early as next week, with an eye to resuming the search in the coming weeks.

The Boeing 777 was carrying 239 people when it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8th, nearly three months ago. An intensive search reaching as far north as the Bay of Bengal and the coast of Vietnam before settling off the coast of Australia has thus far yielded absolutely no trace of the jet. Likewise, investigations into the passengers on board have no also yielded no signs of foul play, despite the jet appearing to be deliberately sent thousands of miles off course.

UPDATE Wednesday, April 30:

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

Twenty days since our last update, little has changed in the search for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight 370, which went missing nearly two months ago. Indeed, the only substantial changes involved the suspension of the aerial search earlier this week, with authorities admitting that, by now, “it is highly unlikely…that we will find any debris on the ocean surface.”

Going forward, the search will focus on scouring the sea floor with highly sophisticated unmanned robotic submarines.

These are the same submarines, namely the US Navy’s Bluefin 21, that were dispatched to investigate the mysterious pings emanating from the seafloor three weeks ago. The underwater search in the neighborhood of the pings ultimately yielded nothing.

The new direction, which will include private contractors, appears to thus far be disregarding a claim from Australian geophysical survey company GeoResonance, which says it has found an anomaly on the ocean floor in the Bay of Bengal. The company says it found a number of metals and materials underwater that fit the profile of the missing Boeing 777 about 100 miles off the coast of Bangladesh. The company specializes in locating materials, everything from specific metals to nuclear weapons materials, underwater and underground.

Search officials have been skeptical of the claim, noting that the location is very far outside the current search area. Authorities were led to the southern Indian Ocean, off the coast of Australia, based on satellite data that is believed to have tracked the jet to the area. Should the satellite data be errant, the jet had more than enough fuel to have made it to the location in question. GeoReconosance stopped short of saying they believe it is the jet, only that it should be checked out.

With no other leads and still no physical trace of the jet whatsoever, it could be years before the airplane is located, if ever. Authorities remain dedicated to continuing the search, however long it is.

The only modern day comparison would be the search for Air France 447, which took two years to locate even with a pretty solid idea of where it went down.

UPDATE 1015 EDT, Wednesday April 9:

mr_014-1Australia confirmed that it had relocated two pings late Tuesday night that were last heard on Sunday. The news has enabled rescue crews to narrow the search field further, and buoyed hopes that the jet could be found shortly.

The most recent discovery yielded a weak signal that last for roughly seven minutes, located off the western coast of

Yet while the pings are confirmed to be consistent with that of a black box, they have not been confirmed to be from Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

Several signals have been located, though none confirmed, in the past week. The location of the various ping sites, one from Australia and another from China, have been up to hundreds of miles apart, meaning at least one of the two returns is not from the jet.

The multiple evidences around the Australian site has caused searchers to focus more exclusively on it. The current search size remains roughly the dimensions of South Carolina. Nothing new has been heard about the Chinese discovery since it was first reported last week.

Should investigators and search crews continue to turn up new pings the search is likely to move underwater with mini subs. The small underwater ships will scour the area with sonar to attempt to locate any wreckage. The crafts move very slowly, however. Even with a good idea of where MH370 may have gone down, it could still take days, weeks, or longer before anything turns up.

UPDATE 0950 EDT, Monday April 7:

An Australian ship has detected strong electronic signals in the search area for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which has now been missing for more than one month.

The signals were picked up by the Ocean Shield on Sunday using high-tech equipment provided by the US Navy. Though the signals are NOT confirmed to be from the downed airplane’s black boxes, the pulses match the frequency such a device would edit. The crew picked up the sounds twice on separate passes, the first of which lasted well over two hours.

It is the latest in a string of leads surrounding signals that developed over the past few days. A Chinese ship picked up two signals on Friday, 1.4 miles apart. The pings match the frequency that a black box could be expected to emit, much like the sounds picked up by the Australian search team.

The separate search areas, however, are 300 miles apart. A British Nay ship, the H.M.S Echo is en route with additional equipment to help with the search, expected to arrive  in the area of the Chinese discovery some time on Monday.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders, both exceptionally hardened to survive a crash, typically have battery lives of thirty to forty-five days. As the jet passes more than one month since going missing, time is quickly running out.

UPDATE 0815 EDT Saturday:

The Chinese state news agency Xinhua is reporting that a Chinese patrol ship in the Southern Indian Ocean has picked up a pulse signal at 37.5 kHZ, which is the standard beacon frequency for the black boxes: the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. Though not confirmed if it is in fact from the missing Malaysia Airlines 777-200, it comes at a critical time in the search a month after the plane went missing. The batteries on the locator beacon have a life-span of about 30 days and are expected to expire at anytime. The Chinese news agency said the detector onboard the ship, Haixun 01, picked up the signal at coordinates of 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east latitude. The search continues for the pincers and wreckage in depths of 6,500 feet to 13,000 feet deep which makes wreckage and the black boxes recoverable at such depths if located. The black boxes are required to be sustain hydrostatic pressure at depths of up to 20,000 feet. Experts caution that this could be a false alarm as it was on Thursday when the HMS Echo reported a pulse. False alerts can come from animals such as whales or from ship. Friday’s search had 14 planes and 9 ships hunting across 84,000 square miles of the Southern Indian Ocean, some 1,100 miles northwest of Perth, Australia. Later on Saturday, Australian officials announced a field of white objects were spotted floating within 50 miles of the pings but could not confirm whether these were related to the plane.

Location of 37.5 kHZ pinger frequency detected by Chinese patrol ship.  Image: Google Maps

Location of 37.5 kHZ pinger frequency detected by Chinese patrol ship.
Image: Google Maps

On the same day, the much criticized Malaysian government said three committees would be formed to confront the Malaysia flight 370. One team will be overseeing the investigation into what occurred, led by an independent investigator. Factors examined will include maintenance records, flight recorders, and human factors. Representative from other countries such as China, the US, UK, and France will be part of the committee. The second will committee will cover the deployment of assets used in the investigation while the third will look after the families of the passenger and crew onboard the ill-fated jet.

UPDATE 2215EDT Thursday March 28:
march28-malaysia-searchThe Australian Maritime Safety Authority is shifting its search 1,100 kilometers northeast as refined satellite data and a lead from a search aircraft prompted yet another change.

Refinement of satellite and radar data indicated the aircraft was traveling faster than previously estimated. The increase in speed led investigators to conclude it would have run out of fuel faster than previously thought.

UPDATE 1110EDT Thursday:

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

Poor weather continues to hamper the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Crews have been called off from the area repeatedly through the week, including once nearly an entire day. The current search area remains transfixed on a swatch of ocean located roughly 1,500 miles to the southwest of Perth.

Several leads on debris that have been described as “credible” have so far turned up empty, just like all the others that have gone before them. The two most notable leads involve satellite photos from French and Thai authorities, both of which show debris fields containing hundreds of items.

French satellite discovery. Images rendered by MRSA.

French satellite discovery. Images rendered by MRSA.

The French satellite, operated by Airbus, spotted 122 objects floating in the water on Wednesday. They ranged in size from three to seventy-five feet. The photos were taken on Sunday. Nearly one dozen aircraft and half of one dozen ships, led by Australia, have been traversing the area. So far they have not found anything.

Officials in Bangkok, Thailand, meanwhile, passed along satellite images to Malaysian authorities on Thursday. The Thai images showed a debris field consisting of 300 objects that varied in size. The images were taken on Monday, and positioned roughly 125 miles away from the French position.

Hopes had been high earlier in the search when Chinese satellites and search planes turned up two or three objects each that were never found or turned up to unrelated to the airplane. Even the new, large suspected debris fields have high odds of turning out to be nothing but ocean trash. Still, the leads are certainly the most promising thus far.

UPDATE 1126EDT Monday:
Originally posted 1020EDT

The Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak concluded that Malaysia Airlines flight 370 crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, with no survivors. The message was conveyed early Monday morning in the US. The aircraft, in part or in whole, still has not been located.

 

The announcement was based on refined data analysis of the jet’s satellite pings to British telecoms company Inmarsat. The data initially suggested two divergent flight tracks after the jet lost contact with radar off the western coast of Malaysia, one heading north into central Asia, the other south into the Indian Ocean. The new analysis, which Razak said used a “type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort”  has ruled out the northern track.

With only the southern track of the jet now in play, the last known position places the airplane and its passengers deep into the remote Indian Ocean.

The lack of viable airfields in which to land the jet in the suspected southern track region led the airline to conclude it was lost without hope. A press conference with further details will take place at an undetermined time tomorrow.

Family members of the passengers and crew on board were notified prior to Razak’s conference. Reports from a hotel in Beijing where many had been staying since the jet went missing two weeks ago have painted a sad, desperate scene as the news sunk in. During his statement, Razak requested “the media to respect their privacy, and to allow them the space they need at this difficult time.”

Map via Google Maps

Map via Google Maps

Meanwhile the search continues in the Indian Ocean as crews follow-up on several debris leads. Australia has sent out ships to recover objects of interest located by search aircraft. A Chinese search plane also located a possible debris field, though US search planes going through the same area did not appear to see one. US officials also confirmed the Navy has sent a black-box locating device to the region.

Full statement from airline, posted 3/24/14 @ 2215MYT:

Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia’s Prime Minister, new analysis of satellite data suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean.

On behalf of all of us at Malaysia Airlines and all Malaysians, our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time.

We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain. We will continue to provide assistance and support to you, as we have done since MH370 first disappeared in the early hours of 8 March, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The ongoing multinational search operation will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain. Alongside the search for MH370, there is an intensive investigation, which we hope will also provide answers.

We would like to assure you that Malaysia Airlines will continue to give you our full support throughout the difficult weeks and months ahead.

Once again, we humbly offer our sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy.

And the full statement from Razak:

This evening I was briefed by representatives from the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). They informed me that Inmarsat, the UK company that provided the satellite data which indicated the northern and southern corridors, has been performing further calculations on the data. Using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort, they have been able to shed more light on MH370’s flight path.

Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth.

This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

We will be holding a press conference tomorrow with further details. In the meantime, we wanted to inform you of this new development at the earliest opportunity. We share this information out of a commitment to openness and respect for the families, two principles which have guided this investigation.

Malaysia Airlines have already spoken to the families of the passengers and crew to inform them of this development. For them, the past few weeks have been heartbreaking; I know this news must be harder still. I urge the media to respect their privacy, and to allow them the space they need at this difficult time.

 

Family members of those on board who have been staying in Beijing released a biting statement, condemning both the airline and the national government of Malaysia’s response:

“At 10pm on March 25, the Malaysian prime minister sent a statement to the families of MH370 passengers without any direct evidence that MH370 crashed in the south Indian ocean and no people survived.

“From March 8 when they announced that MH370 lost contact to today, 18 days have passed during which the Malaysian government and military constantly tried to delay, deceive the passengers’ families and cheat the whole world.

“This shameless behaviour not only fooled and hurt the families of the 154 passengers but also misguided and delayed rescue actions, wasting a large quantity of human resources and materials and lost valuable time for the rescue effort.

“If the 154 passengers did lose their lives, Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and military are the real executioners who killed them. We the families of those on board submit our strongest protest against them.

“We will take every possible means to pursue the unforgivable crimes and responsibility of all three.”

Update 0800EDT Saturday:

China has announced that one of their satellites have found an object that is suspected to be from Malaysia Flight 370. The image shows an object, object, measuring 22.5 meters long and 13 meters wide, in an area arcing south from northern Indonesia deep into the southern Indian Ocean.

China is expected to announce more details about the images in a few hours, according to the Malaysian government.

However, it’s not clear if the object is the same the Australian government spotted on Thursday.

Currently, Australian crews are still looking for the possible debris they spotted via satellite imagery. However, they have no luck, but they are continuing to search.

UPDATE 0922EDT Thursday:

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the search for two objects of interest 1,500 miles off the coast of Australia has ended for the night without finding anything. The search will resume later this morning.

Further, it was reported that the images were taken last Sunday. The Australians pointed to the incredibly large amount of data needed to be searched.

BjN1CisCAAAhsqQ.jpg-large

UPDATE 0120EDT Thursday:

Australia has claimed early this morning that it found two objects of interest in the Indian Ocean. Located in a satellite search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370, it is hoped that the objects will turn up to be from the missing jet.

Authorities from the Australian government said four search planes have been dispatched to the location, roughly 2500km southwest of Perth. The first of the aircraft are expected to reach the site in the next few hours.

It is worth remembering that all such leads so far have, obviously, turned up empty. China mistakenly released satellite images of suspected debris last week that turned out to be unrelated (and almost certainly far too big). Vietnam and Singapore also located false positives as well, claiming to have possibly found a door and a life jacket, respectively.

AUS Media Release

UPDATE 1130EDT Wednesday:

Twelve days have passed since Malaysia Airlines flight 370 vanished from all radar somewhere over the Strait of Malacca, a body of water west of Malaysia. And still no trace of the jet has been found.

In fact little in the way of concrete new information has appeared since our last update on Sunday afternoon. Search crews continue to focus on two tracks, one of which extends south into the Indian Ocean and the other north into central Asia.

Leads continue to come and go, such as one that the airplane landed on the remote island of Diego Garcia, or another that residents of the Maldives spotted it flying low over the tiny nation. And speculation continues to run wild, ranging from terrorists who plan to use the jet as a weapon of mass destruction to on board fires that incapacitated the crew, secret landing in Iran to trailing a Singapore Airlines flight to avoid detection. (Feel free to indulge your speculative tooth with this list compiled by the BBC.)

There have been a handful of interesting informational tidbits, however.

First, authorities in Thailand admitted nine days in to possibly spotting the jet on their own radar not long after it went missing. Why was the information not shared earlier? No one asked for it. Whether the radar will contribute to the search is not yet clear, but it does underscore the disorganization of the efforts thus far along with the challenges of coordinating a multinational search effort with nations who are not accustomed to sharing such information.

Second, investigators are working to recover data deleted from Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s personal home flight simulator, according to reports. Investigators caution, however, that no link has been established and that none may exist. The pilots have come under increasing scrutiny as it appears that whoever took control of the jet was a skilled aviator.

Third, and partially related to number two, new reports via the New York Times have suggested that the path of the airplane was likely intentionally programed into the Boeing 777s flight management computer. The information came from US intelligence officials.

UPDATE 1500EDT Sunday:

Overnight, it was reported that the pilots homes were searched again. There was additional scrutiny placed on both flight crew Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27 as the last voice communication from the plane “all right, good night”, was made some 40 minutes after the transponder via Acars, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, had been turned off. Capt. Ahmad’s flight simulator was seized by government authorities who are piecing through its data for possible clues. First Officer Hamid had been reprimanded by the airline for reportedly allowing 2 female passengers in the flight deck in-flight. However Malaysian defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also acting minister of transportation said in a Sunday press conference that “the pilot and co-pilot did not ask to fly together” on the ill-fated flight. 

Recently, USA Today has reported that one of the pilots was a political activist. However his friends and family told USA Today that he was not a terrorist. He was just a strong supporter of the political opposition leader. Authorities continue to collect information about the other crew members onboard, ground crew, and passengers.

The location of of the missing jet 777 covers a massive area that includes both the Indian Ocean and rugged, remote terrain in Asia. Pakistani officials said that the aircraft did not show up on their radars.

UPDATE 1200EDT Saturday:

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak issued a statement  on the investigation into missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. We are printing this in its entirety below. Shortly after, Malaysia Airlines issues its own statement in response to that of the prime minister’s.

Malaysian Prime Minister’s Statement:

Seven days ago Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared. We realize this is an excruciating time for the families of those on board. No words can describe the pain they must be going through. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them.

I have been appraised of the ongoing search operation round the clock. At the beginning of the operation, I ordered the search area to be broadened; I instructed the Malaysian authorities to share all relevant information freel and transparently with the wider investigation team; and I requested that our friends and allies join the operation. As of today, 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft are involved in the search. I wish to thank all the governments for their help at such a crucial time.

Since day one, the Malaysian authorities have worked hand-in-hand with our international partners – including neighboring countries, the aviation authorities and a multinational search force – many of whom have been here on the ground since Sunday.

We have shared information in real time with authorities who have the necessary experience to interpret the data. We have been working nonstop to assist the investigation. And we have put our national security second to the search for the missing plane.

It is widely understood that this has been a situation without precedent.

We have conducted search operations over land, in the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean. At every stage, we acted on the basis of verified information, and we followed every credible lead. Sometimes these leads have led nowhere.

There has been intense speculation. We understand the desperate need for information on behalf of the families and those watching around the world. But we have a responsibility to the investigation and the families to only release information that has been corroborated. And our primary motivation has always been to find the plane.

In the first phase of the search operation, we searched near MH370’s last known position, in the South China Sea. At the same time, it was brought to our attention by the Royal Malaysian Air Force that, based on their primary radar, an aircraft – the identity of which could not be confirmed – made a turn back. The primary radar data showed the aircraft proceeding on a flight path which took it to an area north of the Straits of Malacca.

Given this credible data, which was subsequently corroborated with the relevant international authorities, we expanded the area of search to include the Straits of Malacca and, later, to the Andaman Sea.

Early this morning I was briefed by the investigation team – which includes the F.A.A., N.T.S.B., the A.A.I.B., the Malaysian authorities and the acting minister of transport – on new information that sheds further light on what happened to MH370.

Based on new satellite information, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled just before the aircraft reached the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Shortly afterwards, near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.

From this point onwards, the Royal Malaysian Air Force primary radar showed that an aircraft which was believed – but not confirmed – to be MH370 did indeed turn back. It then flew in a westerly direction back over Peninsular Malaysia before turning northwest. Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.

Today, based on raw satellite data that was obtained from the satellite data service provider, we can confirm that the aircraft shown in the primary radar data was flight MH370. After much forensic work and deliberation, the F.A.A., N.T.S.B., A.A.I.B. and the Malaysian authorities, working separately on the same data, concur.

According to the new data, the last confirmed communication between the plane and the satellite was at 8:11 a.m. Malaysian time on Saturday 8th March. The investigations team is making further calculations which will indicate how far the aircraft may have flown after this last point of contact. This will help us to refine the search.

Due to the type of satellite data, we are unable to confirm the precise location of the plane when it last made contact with the satellite.

However, based on this new data, the aviation authorities of Malaysia and their international counterparts have determined that the plane’s last communication with the satellite was in one of two possible corridors: a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean. The investigation team is working to further refine the information.

In view of this latest development the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board. Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear: we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path.

This new satellite information has a significant impact on the nature and scope of the search operation. We are ending our operations in the South China Sea and reassessing the redeployment of our assets. We are working with the relevant countries to request all information relevant to the search, including radar data.

As the two new corridors involve many countries, the relevant foreign embassies have been invited to a briefing on the new information today by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry and the technical experts. I have also instructed the Foreign Ministry to provide a full briefing to foreign governments which had passengers on the plane. This morning, Malaysia Airlines has been informing the families of the passengers and crew of these new developments.

Clearly, the search for MH370 has entered a new phase. Over the last seven days, we have followed every lead and looked into every possibility. For the families and friends of those involved, we hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane.

Latest Press Release at 5:45 MYT from Malaysia Airlines in response to Prime Minister’s Statement

Further to the statement by the Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak earlier today into the ongoing search for Flight MH370, Malaysia Airlines has shared all available information with the relevant authorities since the moment we learned that the aircraft had disappeared, in the early hours of Saturday 8th March. This includes the very first indications that MH370 may have remained airborne for several hours after contact was lost, which the Prime Minister referred to today.

This is truly an unprecedented situation, for Malaysia Airlines and for the entire aviation industry. There has never been a case in which information gleaned from satellite signals alone could potentially be used to identify the location of a missing commercial airliner. Given the nature of the situation and its extreme sensitivity, it was critical that the raw satellite signals were verified and analysed by the relevant authorities so that their significance could be properly understood. This naturally took some time, during which we were unable to publicly confirm their existence.

We were well aware of the ongoing media speculation during this period, and its effect on the families of those on board. Their anguish and distress increases with each passing day, with each fresh rumour, and with each false or misleading media report. Our absolute priority at all times has been to support the authorities leading the multinational search for MH370, so that we can finally provide the answers which the families and the wider community are waiting for.

We remain absolutely committed to sharing confirmed information with family members and the wider public in a fully open and transparent manner. However given the nature of the situation, the importance of validating new information before it is released into the public domain is paramount.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the 227 passengers and our 12 Malaysia Airlines colleagues and friends on board flight MH370. They will remain at the centre of every action we take as a company, as they have been since MH370 first disappeared.

UPDATE 0330EDT Saturday:

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak held a very short press conference on Malaysia Airlines flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur roughly early Saturday morning (US time), stating that he believed “deliberate action” was taken by someone aboard the aircraft after it went missing.

Still, Razak would neither confirm nor deny earlier reports (see below) that the aircraft was hijacked; stating only that it was being explored along with other possibilities.

He confirmed that the jet was tracked by Malaysian military radar installations north through the Strait of Malacca and into the Andaman Sea. Investigators, Razak said, have determined with a high degree of certainty that Saturday at 8:11AM local time (Malaysian) was the last time the aircraft communicated with satellites.

The location of the last communication, however, is not clear. One track suggests it was last seen near the border between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The other places it due south into the Indian Ocean. In either case, the aircraft is believed to have been airborne for up to seven and one half hours. Razak also confirmed recent reports that investigators believe the aircraft’s communication systems were intentionally disabled.

“These movements are consistent with deliberate action from someone on the plane.” said Razak.

As a result, fourteen countries involved in the search efforts will be relocating their search to the area, ending efforts in the South China Sea.

He said that he is working to ensure that Malaysian authorities share all of the information they learn once it has been confirmed, surely a nod to the oft harsh criticism his government has received for the way the incident has been handled thus far.

The press conference follows what are now widely circulated reports from earlier in the evening in which Malaysian officials told the Associated Press they have concluded “conclusively” that flight 370 was hijacked. The report details several pieces of information that have come out both in the press conference and from multiple reports building through the week. First, that communications were intentionally turned off. Second, that someone with knowledge of how to work the jet was in control after that time. Third, that military radar pings that had been reported early on, were more than likely true.

As to who, or why the jet was hijacked – keeping in mind it has not been 100% confirmed by authorities – remains unclear. So to does the possibility that the jet did not crash, as the mystery behind the disappearance continues to deepen.

UPDATE 1918EDT Friday:

CNN reported earlier that it has information that suggests flight 370 crash in either the Bay of Bengal or the deep in the open Indian Ocean. The classified electronic and satellite data was analyzed by the Malaysian and US governments.

A report from the NYTimes around the same time claims that the jet repeatedly changed altitude as well as course. It was noted that the information in the data was not necessarily reliable.

The news that the jet continued pinging satellites for up to four or five more hours was first broken two days ago by the Wall St. Journal. Since then, satellite company Inmarsat has confirmed that it did in fact receive signals from the jet. It has also been reported that the majority of the airplane’s communications systems were intentionally turned off, nearly fifteen minutes apart.

Also, reports from Reuters indicate that the jet was following normal airways between the region and the Middle East / Europe, strongly suggesting that whoever was in control of the jet knew what they were doing.

Consequently the search has now expanded well into the Indian Ocean for the jet, far beyond the last confirmed location off the northern coast of Malaysia. Investigators and sources within the US have confirmed that they believe something criminal may have been afoot.

The continued developments have sparked fresh waves of speculation into what happened to Malaysian Airlines flight 370 since it vanished over one week ago. Theories range from hijacking/ditch to secret landing at a remote airfield, pilot suicide to massive mechanical failure.

And still, seven days later, none of them completely add up. Even if the jet turns up to be wrecked in the Indian Ocean or Bay of Bengal, it is still unclear how or exactly why. Depending on where the jet wound up, we may never know.

Other developments continued to come out only to wind up disputed. They include the Chinese reporting a “seismic event” in the original search area that they believe may have been the jet crashing. The news was disputed by experts, stating that an earthquake measuring 2.7 happened around the same time.

Other reports stating that the aircraft’s cargo hold was overly full of lithium-ion batteries, the same known for starting fires aboard the 787, also have been disputed. Experts pointed to the high probably of distress calls, and likelihood of evidence.

UPDATE 2127EDT THURSDAY:

Latest map, showing five hours worth of flight time at full cruise speed. Courtesy Ian Petchenik

Latest map, showing five hours worth of flight time at full cruise speed. Courtesy Ian Petchenik

The Wall St Journal again released an astonishing late breaking story on Thursday, alleging that communications satellites “received intermittent data pings” from Malaysia Airlines 370 that contained the plane’s location, speed, and altitude. If true, someone knows far more than they are saying about the (potentially) actual last known location of the jet.

Expanding on its earlier report from last night, the paper reported that the final satellite ping, received five hours after the plane originally departed, was over water at what was reportedly a normal cruising altitude. No one has yet publicly shared what that location is.

READ FULL WSJ REPORT HERE

CNN, which likewise is reporting a similar story, has added that the data suggests a track into the Indian Ocean. It added that officials noted this was not “100%”.

Update 1852PDT Thursday:

Six days have passed since Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared from civilian radar screens, and authorities appear no closer to finding the jet than the day it first vanished without a trace.

Falling into a familiar pattern with the investigation thus far, new leads developed in the past twenty-four hours only to quickly wind up disputed or discredited.

The most perplexing remains that of data ping received by communications satellites, first reported late last night by the Wall St. Journal. (SEE LATEST UPDATE, ABOVE)

Though originally characterized as messages sent from the airplane’s Trent 800 engines back to manufacturer Rolls Royce base, the Journal later clarified that satellites continued to pick up signals from the jet four hours after it vanished from radar screens. The signals did not contain data, but have led investigators to conclude that the jet was flying undetected for hours, destination unknown.

If the WSJ report is correct and the aircraft did fly for four more hours, the jet could have flown up to 2,200 miles. Such a range could place it anywhere from northern China to India to Australia, including a huge chunk of the Indian Ocean.

The news, along with unspecified “new information,” has prompted US officials to consider expanding the search into the Indian Ocean. It has been considering sending a ship to begin scouring the area on Friday.

The official search area expanded to include vast swaths of the Andaman Sea this morning as well, pushing the total area to over 38,000 square miles.

It also raises questions about whether the jet, which has presumed to have crashed, ever crashed at all. While it does sound tinfoil hat crazy, multiple reports have come out that suggest the US is seriously considering the possibility that the jet landed undetected.

However, just as quickly as the news began gaining traction Malaysian officials shot it down, stating that they believed the report to be inaccurate. Authorities there have reiterated their commitment to sticking to the official search area. Reports that Boeing and Rolls Royce denied the reports remain conflicted.

Separately, the Chinese satellite photo lead likewise fell apart after officials confirmed the images were never supposed to been released in the first place.

UPDATE 0920EDT Thursday:

Malaysian authorities claimed in a press conference early this morning that last night’s late breaking WSJ report was “inaccurate”. They did not expand on that statement. It represents the latest in an ongoing series of conflicting information. Read WSJ’s fascinating full report, linked here, for the full details. Our summary is in the update below:

UPDATE 0230EDT THURSDAY:

US investigators believe the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370 flew on about four hours past its last known location, according to a late-breaking Wall St. Journal report.

The report details that the airplane’s two Trent 800 engines continued to send out data for five hours as part of a monitoring and maintenance program.

The information is a dramatic twist that, like several other twists already, raises far more questions than answers.

Graphic courtesy Ian Petchmo

Graphic courtesy Ian Petchmo

Had the airplane maintained a 550mph cruise speed it could have traveled up to 2,200NM before its engines stopped transmitting data. This means the airplane could have wound up as far south as Australia, as far west as western India, into upper China, and nearly to Papau New Guinea in the east.

If it had additional fuel on board it potentially could have gone even further. In either case the development opens up an expansive palette of potential outcomes ranging from failed hijacking to something even more sinister.

Meanwhile, the Chinese released satellite images appear to have met a dead end. Malaysia’s civil aviation chief reported that planes sent to search the area turned up nothing.

“We went there, there is nothing,” Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told reporters in Kuala Lumpur including the AP.

The images detailed three floating objects, last seen on Sunday the 9th about 141 miles ESE of the last known location.

Doubts about the connection between the two appeared early on, however, as the size and shape of the objects appears to be too large to have come from a 777. The largest object measured 78x72ft, all of them appearing to be squarish in shape. The 777′s tail measures 60 ft, its diameter is 20.4ft, length 209.1ft, and wing span of 199.11ft.

UPDATE 1845EDT, Wednesday:

Map3A fresh lead broke late Wednesday afternoon (US time) as the Chinese have released a series of satellite images taken on March 9 that detail debris thought to have come from Malaysian Airlines flight 370.

The three floating objects are located approximately 141 miles to the east south-east from the spot where the Boeing 777-200 disappeared early Saturday morning en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The size of the objects are quite large,  estimated to measure approximately 42ft x 56ft, 45ft x 62ft, and 78ft x 72ft.

The above images were posted hours ago, but were not noticed until picked up by BBC and CNN far more recently. Malaysian authorities appear to not have had any prior knowledge of the images. With the images now several days old the objects, whatever they are, could have easily floated well beyond the original coordinates or even sunk.

It should be noted several promising debris field leads have already come and gone. Notably several reports of debris from Vietnam all turned out to be without merit. A handful of oil slicks also turned out to be bunk, revealing themselves to be shipping oil and not jet fuel.

An interesting addition, the last known communication from the flight deck was “All right, good night.” The final communication appears to confirm that there were no known problems at the time.

UPDATE 1030EDT, Wednesday:

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

The search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370 grew overnight as lead after lead fell apart.

Most notably, reports that had come out yesterday claiming that the military confirmed that they tracked the jet as it took a west-bound turn out over the Strait of Malacca have proved erroneous. The Malaysian Air Force has since released a statement which said that they have never made such a claim. It did state, however, that it has not ruled out the possibility that it did make such a turn.

It later added that it had noticed something curious on the radar headed in that direction, but that it could not confirm what it was. Reports are stating that American assistance has been brought it to help interpret the data.

Chinese authorities also announced overnight (US time) that they would begin searching for the jet on the mainland, while Vietnamese officials said they would scale back search efforts until more concrete information became available. At the same time, Malaysian authorities expanded the area into the Andaman Sea, prompting India to join the search efforts.

Meanwhile, in the latest curious twist, ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff obtained an email from an oil rig worker off the coast of Vietnam that claims the man saw the flight intact and burning at a high altitude. Vietnamese officials have said they did not find anything in that region, while Woodruff admitted on his twitter account (@BobWoodruff) that it “could be a hoax”.

For the fifth consecutive day, where flight 370 went and what happened remains a mystery.

UPDATE 1855EDT, Tuesday:

Questions were the theme of the day as virtually no answers on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370 appeared on the horizon, literally or figuratively. The situation remains functionally unchanged from our last update eight hours ago, but here is our recap:

The Malaysian military has reported it has primary radar evidence that the airplane veered off course after losing contact. After that, details are sketchy. Initial reports have said the Boeing 777-200ER was last spotted headed due west, cruising at 29,500 feet off the coast of Malaysia in the Malacca Strait. Follow-up reports have quoted senior military officials as saying the airplane was believed to have been flying “low”. In either case, the new path places the jet hundreds of miles off course and headed in a completely different direction.

GoogleMap

Current official search regions. The black square represents the last known position of the jet by civil radar records. The yellow square represents the last known position reported by the Malaysian military. The flight should’ve headed from the black square in a north easterly direction toward Beijing.

Subsequent reports have also since come out that have called the claims into question. Notably, NBC reported that senior non-military officials in the Malaysian government have not made any such claims, underscoring what appears to be an increasingly disorganized response from the government.

Separately, a report appeared in the NewScientist, claiming that Rolls Royce received two automatically dispatched ACARS messages from the jet on its Trent 800 engines. The contents of the messages, and whether they add anything at all to the investigation, is not clear. If true (the keys words in everything we have seen today), it could mean the airline has several ACARS messages as well. Though again, the messages may not raise any red flags.

The search area has now been expanded to cover land between the two bodies of water, as well as throughout Vietnam.

Finally, the issue of two stolen passports appears to have been resolved. Interpol noted earlier today that it was increasingly convinced that neither of the two Iranian men had any terrorist connections. While the two are presently in the clear, authorities have not ruled others on the airplane with malicious intent. Investigators have been pouring through photos and CCT tapes from the airport in Kuala Lumpur to try to find any behavioral abnormalities in any of the passengers.

Four days later, there are still far more questions than answers.

UPDATE 1030EDT, Tuesday:

Several important developments have emerged overnight (US time) on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370.

First, reports have come out in the last few hours that the Malaysian military tracked the Boeing 777-200ER as it turned west and headed out over the Strait of Malacca. According to a Times of India report the flight dropped altitude from 35,000 feet down to 29,500 feet. It was last seen around 2:40AM MYT on Saturday near the northern end of the straight. If true, it would mean the jet was tracked for more than an hour after civilian ATC lost contact roughly one hour into into the flight’s journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Second, one of the stolen passports belonged to an Iranian who was ultimately planning to seek asylum in Germany. The other man has also been identified as an Iranian in his late 20s. Both entered Malaysia on the 28th of last month.

Authorities are still not ruling out the possibility of terrorism, but have said that they are reducing the odds there is a connection between the two gentlemen and the missing jet. “We believe he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group, and we believe he was trying to migrate to Germany,” Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar reported to a news conference. He added that authorities have been studying tapes from the airport to study behavioral patterns of all passengers on board in an attempt to garner fresh leads.

The search has continued across a wide area, which now includes land  in Vietnam according to Vietnamese search crews, and the overland areas between the two oceanic regions according to the airline.

GoogleMap

Current search area as of March 11, 2014, excluding Vietnamese land searches.
      Red square with black fill = last known location by civil authorities.
      Red square with yellow fill = alleged last known location by military   authorities.

Malaysia Airline released additional information on the airplane in a statement, stating that it “was delivered to Malaysia Airlines in 2002 and have since recorded 53,465.21 hours with a total of 7525 cycles. All Malaysia Airlines aircraft are equipped with continuous data monitoring system called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) which transmits data automatically.”

All other information remains the same as this situation continues to go from bizarre to even more bizarre.

UPDATE 2015EDT, Monday:

Over three days have now past since Malaysian Airlines flight 370 disappeared, and it appears search crews are no closer to discovering the airplane than when it first was lost.

Leads have continued to come and go through the day with nothing sticking, including several suspected debris fields and oil slicks. In response Malaysian officials have widened the search area considerably, with it now extending from the Malacca Strait to the South China Sea, well outside the original flight path. Ten nations along with dozens of ships and airplanes have been involved in the search.

Several ongoing threads remain both untied and unproven. European security agency Interpol is reportedly investigating the identities of up to four persons listed aboard the flight. Malaysian authorities have suggested that two of the disputed passengers, who were traveling on stolen passports from different European nations, bought tickets together, possibly through an Iranian middle man. Just the same as earlier, however, no connection has been established.

Extra: “Ask The Pilot: Captain Patrick Smith on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Also still unknown is whether or not the airplane had begun to turn back toward Malaysia based on military radar. The possibility, however, was a major driver behind the decision to expand the search area.

Doubts have been increasing cast on the possibility of a mid-air explosion after US spy agencies reported that they did not detect any evidence of such an event (h/t @flyingwithfish, who’s been calling that for days when Reuters only ran it earlier today). The continued lack of debris field anywhere, which would have been common with a bomb or explosive decompression, has also bolstered those thoughts.

Meanwhile, the airline’s last official statement came out over twelve hours ago, and did not release any new information. The release primarily focused on the carrier’s efforts to take care of families of the missing crew and passengers, who have become increasingly critical of the response.

The lack of information continues to leave investigators baffled and, functionally, still at square one.

What we do know for sure is that the airplane disappeared while flying at 35,000 feet somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and the southern tip of Vietnam. The crew made no emergency distress call before vanishing, nor did the automated ACARS system report any problems. The airplane appears to have had no known maintenance issues, and the crew was experienced.

Two hundred and thirty-nine were aboard, including at least two traveling with stolen passports. Malaysian authorities did not check the passports against an Interpol database that would have registered them stolen.

How, whether, and to what extent those are related, and whatever may be true beyond that, is anyone’s guess.

UPDATE 0948EDT, Monday:
Leads that once held promise evaporated overnight (US time) as the mystery behind the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 continues.

The oil slick that had captivated attention early on turned out to be a dead end. Authorities, which hoped it was from the presumably downed airplane, discovered it was instead bunker oil used in cargo ships after lab tests.

Reports from Vietnam that had been widely circulated about finding an aircraft door and part of a tail also turned up empty. Authorities searching in the same area were unable to relocate either object, while other reports have said the ‘door’ turned out to be logs tied together. The director general of the Malaysian civil aviation department added that the claims were “not verified officially by the Vietnamese authorities.”

Malaysian officials also say they have confirmed the identity of one of two passengers who used fake passports to board the plane. The person had no record of entering the country legally. No other details were provided, and no nexus between the stolen passports and the disappearance has been established.

The airplane seemingly upped and vanished three days ago after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. The almost twelve year old Boeing 777-2000ER was traveling at 35,000 feet over the ocean when it abruptly lost all contact with 239 aboard. It has not been seen or heard from since.

Rescue crews from nine nations have joined in the search, which continues by sea through the night and will resume by air Tuesday morning.

UPDATE 0045EDT, Monday:
A press conference was recently held with another update. Here is what we know:

Malaysian’s Civil Aviation Department confirms that they have found no trace of the aircraft, and they cannot confirm that the oil slick is from the aircraft. Additionally, they have not detected any signals from the Boeing 777′s black box.

Officials also say that every angle is being looked at, and they are “not discounting the theory of terrorism” says the department. As far as a rumor that a Chinese group is taking responsibility, government officials have no comment.

Malaysian government officials have confirmed that five passengers did not board the missing flight. They also confirm that all unaccompanied baggage was removed from the aircraft before take off.

The airline will start flying the families of MH370 passengers to Kuala Lumpu soon.

The search continues. Stay tuned…

UPDATE 2100EDT, Sunday:

Unfortunately, there is no new news to report at this time.

The search continues for the jet via sea and once again air, as daylight has rose over the region a few hours ago. Going forward through the day, hopes are that several search ships can locate debris that is suspected to have come from the missing jet.

Vietnamese air search crews found the two items yesterday (Sunday local time in the area) as darkness fell, which prohibited the crews from being able to positively ID the suspicious objects. Officials in the country have said they believe it was an aircraft door. Vessels were dispatched to the area, located 50 some miles off a Vietnamese island. It is unclear whether or not they have reached the area.

UPDATE 1830EDT, Sunday:

As we approach two and one half days since Malaysian Airlines System 370 went missing somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, little is still known.

Vietnamese authorities are still claiming that they spotted two items of interest in the ocean. The two objects could not be confirmed to be from the aircraft, though reports suggested it to be a door and a section of tail. Rescue ships are en route to the last known position, roughly fifty miles south-southwest of Tho Chu Island, Vietnam, after search planes had to turn back after sunset.

The Chinese, meanwhile, who had earlier claimed to have discovered a debris field, have gone silent on the matter ever since.

The search effort thus continues, with forty ships and thirty-four aircraft from nine nations traversing multiple sections of sea in the region.

The stolen passport issue remains a focus of the ongoing investigation. Malaysian has only confirmed two people traveling aboard the flight on stolen passports, both Europeans. Reports are coming out that up to two more people had been traveling aboard MAS370 with stolen passports. The issue remains unconfirmed, however.

What has been confirmed is that the airline and immigration officials failed to check the passports against an Interpol security database. Questions had arisen about how the passengers could’ve boarded with fake documents. Had that been done, the passports would’ve been flagged and the passengers in questions may have been stopped from boarding.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein reported that they have obtained CCTV images of the two in question. They declined to offer further information, citing the ongoing open investigation.

While the passport question remains under investigation, no nexus between the missing airplane and the issue has been determined.

Reports that the airplane may have tried to turn around still remain unconfirmed. A report that another airplane had contacted MAS370 well after ATC had lost contact has not been fully substantiated.

Meanwhile, families of the passengers aboard the flight grew frustrated. According to reports from CNN, a group of Chinese relatives signed a petition in Beijing that the airline tell the truth, and requested the Chinese government to step in to force more information.  The airline had dispatched a care team to the Chinese capital Saturday night, and announced that family members would be transported to the site of the wreck as soon as it could be found.

UPDATE 1605EDT, Sunday:

Yesterday, we learned that at least two passengers were able to board MH 370 with stolen passports. The issue has prompted many questions, primarily how this could’ve happened. We reached out to attorney Adam Wasch with Wasch Law LLP for some insight:

“If we assume that the passengers on board with stolen passports had something to do with the Malaysia Airlines MH370 incident, which is unconfirmed at this point, then it could be argued that the airline and Malaysian authorities were ‘negligent’ in allowing those persons on board,” says attorney Adam Wasch with Wasch Law LLP.

“This type of argument passed muster in U.S. federal court in the  9/11 civil action against American Airlines for allowing terrorists with boxcutters on board before the case settled. However, in this case, a claim against the airline would be governed by the Montreal Convention because this was an international flight between two signatory countries. The convention asks only whether there was an ‘accident’ on board as that term has been defined by international and U.S. courts, and the answer to that question here is probably ‘yes.’”

UPDATE 1045EDT Sunday:

Tho Chu IslandThere have been a number of developments to the ongoing MAS370 incident overnight.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, a Vietnamese Navy search plane found aircraft components that they believe may be an inner door and a piece of the vertical stabilizer (tail), according to a Wall St Journal report. The parts are suspected of being from the ill fated, missing MH370 777-200ER and were located about 50 miles south-southwest of Tho Chu Island, Vietnam off the coast of mainland Vietnam.

The objects were not picked up by the air crews, which were forced to turn back as darkness fell. Ships, which are not subject the restriction on daylight, are en route to the last known location. Some forty ships continued searching through the night. Roughly thirty aircraft will begin again in the morning.

The lack of a debris field has raised concern that the airplane “disintegrated in flight at around 35,000 feet” according to a source involved in the investigation. But not everyone is sold on that explanation: “Of couse if ADS-B (transponder) was switched off, which can be done by the flight computer, why didn’t ACRS send out a hundred messages if there was a catastrophic event?”, said aviation expert Steven Frischling of Flying With Fish.

Adding to the mystery is that the plane may have turned back. Rodzali Daud, the Royal Malaysian Air Force chief said in a press conference “What we have done is actually look into the recording on the radar that we have and we realized there is a possibility that the air aircraft did make a turn back.”  Scott Hamilton, publisher of Leeham News has released an additional interesting list of possible scenarios that suggests that the plane may have deviated from the intended flight path and why.

Fake passport images

A screen shot of the two stolen passports, with sequential ticket numbers
They were both to connect to KL 898 together. Thanks to Steven Frischling for forwarding these.

According to Reuters, the possibility of foul play mounted as the Malaysian Transport Minister said authorities were checking the identities of two other passengers in addition to the the two men who were already know to be flying on stolen Austrian and Italian passports. “All four names are with me…We are looking at all possibilities. We cannot jump the gun. Our focus is now to find the plane”, said  Malaysian Transport and Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein. He reiterated the news that the FBI had been called in to assist, after which authorities then retracted back to just two stolen passports.

Of course, the big question remains as to how the passengers carrying the stolen passports cleared airline check-in, immigration, customs, and boarding. The Malaysian government has access to biometric e-passport technology combining an RFID chip, digital photo, and fingerprint identification, and was the first country in the world to deploy it back in 1998. The technology was invented in Malaysia. It’s unclear why it wasn’t deployed here.

Still in a press conference, Malaysia’s Inspector-General and Police Chief Khalid Abu Baker indicated that though they continue to consider the possibility a terrorist act bought down the lane, they don’t necessarily consider it the most likely cause it went missing – yet. 

In a new release from Malaysia Airlines said it is “fearing for the worst”, and had dispatched a “discovery management recovery specialist from Atlanta along with 94 caregivers consisting of well-trained staff and also Tzu Chi Foundation members to provide emotional support to the families. The airline will also be deploying another set of caregivers to Beijing later today.”

MAS issued its 8th press release at 2:43pm local time on Sunday when it said:

Family members of the MH370 passengers from Beijing who wish to travel will be flown in stages to Kuala Lumpur on the available flights.  We are also communicating with the families from other nations to similarly arrange for their travel to Kuala Lumpur. 

In the event flight MH370 is located, a Response Control Centre (RCC) in the area will be activated to support the needs of families.

Scott Hamilton, publisher of Leeham News has released an additional interesting list of possible scenarios that suggests that the plane may have deviated from the intended flight path and why.

We will continue with updates here as they happen and on our social media outlets.

UPDATE 0430EDT Sunday:

Another press conference was held, and MAS has confirmed that two passports did not belong to two of the passengers on MH370.

The stolen passports were linked to two tickets that were purchased at the same time, and the ticket numbers only differ by one number (one ends with 99 and the next ends with 00). @flyingwithfish reports that two passengers who used the stolen passports were flying: KUL-PEK-CPH and KUL-PEK-FRA.

UPDATE 0245EDT Sunday:
China’s XH News is reporting that Chinese rescue forces have reached the suspected site of the missing aircraft.

UPDATE 0050EST Sunday:
Officials are investigating the identities of four passengers that were believed to have been on MH370, and the FBI will send specialists to Kuala Lumpur to assist with the investigation.
It is believed that at least two passengers were travelling on stolen passports.

Military radar indicates that the missing Boeing 777 jet turned back before vanishing, Malaysia’s air force chief said Sunday.

22 aircraft and 40 ships are part of the search and rescue team.

MAS says there are no plans to ground the 777 fleet.

The next press conference is scheduled for 3 AM EST/ 12 AM PST.

UPDATE 2020EST Saturday:
A Malaysian official says that search crews seated all night. There has been no trace of the aircraft, and the search area is being expanded.

Another press conference is expected in two two hours.

UPDATE 1915EST Saturday:
According to the LA Times, the FBI is deploying agents and technical experts to assist in the investigation of MAS 370. The agency will join the investigation as four Americans were on board the flight.

U.S. officials said they are working to determine if this was an act of terrorism, but have said n no evidence thus far that leads them to believe this.

UPDATE 1815EST Saturday:
As of 1815EST, there have been no major updates to the search and rescue mission of MAS 370. Approximately 24 hours after contact was lost with the airplane, MAS issued a press release, highlights from which are found below:

Sepang, 9 March 2014: Malaysia Airlines humbly asks all Malaysians and people around the world to pray for flight MH370.

Immediate families of passengers are advised to gather at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Travel arrangements and expenses will be borne by Malaysia Airlines. Once, the whereabouts of the aircraft is determined, Malaysia Airlines will fly members of the family to the location.

Our sole priority now is to provide all assistance to the families of the passengers and our staff. We are also working closely with the concerned authorities in the search and rescue operation.

We expect more details at the next press conference which is scheduled for 9AM local time Sunday morning.

UPDATE 1600EST Saturday:

The Gulf of Thailand averages approximately 150 feet deep (45 meters), with the deepest point at approximately 250 feet (80 meters). It appears the search for MAS 370 should be easier than searching for Air France 447. (Hat tip Robert Mann)

gulfthai

Map of Gulf of Thailand Courtesy of WorldAtlas.com

UPDATE 1335EST Saturday:

Moments ago, another press conference was held by MAS. The carrier has confirmed that authorities are still searching for the aircraft by sea, though air searching will not resume until Sunday morning.

However, the airline has not confirmed that the oil slick is from the missing flight. It is not confirming or denying reports about possible fake passports.

UPDATE 1200EST Saturday:

So far, there has been no confirmation that the aircraft has been found. We have confirmed reports that Vietnamese search aircraft have found two narrowly-spaced oil slicks in the South China Sea, but officials have not confirmed if the oil slick belongs to MAS 370 . Boats have been dispatched to the area where the oil slick was found to investigate.

Business Insider has obtained photos of an areal view of the oil slick.

One Austrian and one Italian were reported to have been aboard the missing plane, but foreign ministry officials say they were not on-board the aircraft.

Officials in Vienna say the man is safe at home and his passport was stolen. “Our embassy got the information that there was an Austrian on board. That was the passenger list from Malaysia Airlines. Our system came back with a note that this is a stolen passport,” the ministry official said. The passport was reported stolen two years ago while the person was traveling in Thailand, according to the spokesperson.

U.S. officials told NBC News, “We are aware of the reporting on the two stolen passports,” one senior official said. “We have not determined a nexus to terrorism yet, although it’s still very early, and that’s by no means definitive.”

We will bring you the latest as soon as we learn more.

UPDATE: 1125EST Saturday:

Video (h/t to Sylvain Faust @sylvainfaust) of the last 9 minutes of flight before MAS 370 vanished.

http://youtu.be/jnRGL82aa0U

UPDATE: 0945EST Saturday:

Vietnamese search aircraft have found two narrowly-spaced oil slicks in the South China Sea. However, they have not verified if it belongs to MAS 370. The air search has been called off for the night, and will resume tomorrow morning. However, the sea search will continue through the night.

UPDATE: 0805EST Saturday:

Over night, Malayasia Airlines (MAS) has issued new press release with a full passenger manifest which can be viewed here.

The families of all passengers on board MH370 are being informed. The flight was carrying a total number of 239 passengers and crew – comprising 227 passengers (including 2 infants) and 12 crew members.

An international search and rescue mission was mobilized this morning. At this stage, our search and rescue teams from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have failed to find evidence of any wreckage.

The sea mission will continue while the air mission will recommence at daylight.

MAS has dispatched a care and comfort team to Beijing to assist families of those presumed to be lost. Gathered in a room at Beijing Capital Airport, Chinese relatives of the missing passengers have angrily accused the airline of depriving them of information while Chinese state media criticized what they believe to be the carrier’s poor response.

There has been mounting speculation as to what might have caused the crash. Ideas include the usual suspect including  a bomb, hijacking and/or deliberate destruction of the plane, accidental shoot down by military missile or some form of military missile or military attack on airplane, and pilot suicide as in EgyptAir flight 990. On the technical front, structural failure and dual engine flame out and loss of control are in play, though both are exceptionally unlikely. Leehman News further details these possibilities.

As a massive search and rescue scene unfolded, there were earlier reports from Vietnamese state media, quoting a senior naval official that parts of the plane had been located. Malaysia’s transport minister later denied any crash scene had been identified. The last known position of MH370 before it disappeared off the radar was 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude).

“The search and rescue operations will continue as long as necessary,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. Reuters reports The Malaysian government has pressed 15 air force aircraft, six navy ships and three coast guard vessels  into service by Malaysia. Vietnam, the country closest to where MAS 370 is thought to went down, on Saturday dispatched two navy boats from Phu Quoc island along with two jets and one helicopter from Ho Chi Minh City to search for the missing airliner. It was readying a further seven planes and nine boats to join the search effort. The governments of China and the Philippines have dispatched ships to the area for the effort while the U.S., the Phillippines, and Singapore have dispatched military planes to aid in the search.

UPDATE: 0400EST:

With well over twelve hours having passed since Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight 370 went missing, we feel confident stating that the airplane is missing and presumed crashed.

If you’re just joining this thread, MAS flight 370 went missing earlier today after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. It was last heard from just prior to 0300 MYT, as it passed 125 miles off the coast of Malaysia. Two-hundred and twenty-seven souls were aboard the airplane, representing fourteen nationalities.

MAS has denied earlier reports that the airplane safely touched down in China, and has disputed reports from the Vietnamese Navy that wreckage has been found in South China Sea. It has continued to maintain that it “is still unable to determine the whereabouts” of the flight.

A massive, multinational search operation has been underway since Vietnamese ATC noted that the airplane failed to check in. Air and naval forces from China, Malaysia, and Vietnam are involved in the effort.

Speculation is, predictably, running rampant as to what could’ve caused the Boeing 777-200ER to disappear. All we know for certain is that the weather was understood to be clear, and the pilots quite experienced. Even with this being the third hull loss of this model of aircraft, the 777 has one of the best safety records in the world.

The particular airplane, understood to be registered 9M-MRO, is  powered by Rolls Royce Trent engines. It was delivered to the airline in 2002.

Stay tuned to Airchive here or on our twitter @airchive for developments as this story progresses. Be patient with updates and information in the overnight hours!

UPDATE MAR 8 0218EST:

Boeing has released a brief statement about the incident. They are assembling and dispatching a team to provide “technical assistance to investigating authorities.

UPDATE MAR 8 0145EST:

Malaysia Airlines reports the airplane has still not been located in a press conference. It added that it was aware of a report that the Vietnamese Navy had located the wreckage but would not confirm, stating that it was working with the Malaysian military to confirm the account with the Vietnamese. It has since denied reports that the airplane had possibly landed in China.

A vast search and rescue operation has since been under way. Three nations, China, Malaysia, and Vietnam have joined in the search. Both air and sea assets have been deployed, including ships, helicopters, and C-130 aircraft.

The company added that it would be holding press conferences every two hours.

UPDATE MAR 8 0012EST:

Malaysia Airline System declines to confirm or deny reports attributed to the Vietnamese Navy that MH370 has been located in the South China Sea.

UPDATE MAR 7 2335EST:

A joint rescue operation is underway with China, Malaysia, and Vietnam, according to the airline.

MAS confirmed the last point of contact with the airplane was 120 nautical miles off Kota Bharu over South China Sea.  The airline said there was no bad weather in the area at the time of the disappearance.

So far, the carrier is reporting there was no distress call.

UPDATE MAR 7 2300EST:

Reuters has reported that earlier reports of a signal turning up from the airplane off the coast of Vietnam are false.

UPDATE MAR 7 2230EST:

The Malaysia Airlines press conference has come and gone, and, unfortunately, very little new information was revealed.

The carrier said in its most recent statement that it is investigating reports that the airplane has landed in Nanming, China. China has denied tracking the airplane, however.

The captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, joined the airline in 1981, and had logged 18,365 flying hours. The first officer, Fariq Ab.Hamid, 27,  joined in 2007 and had 2,763 hours logged. Both are Malaysian.

The passengers comprised 14 different nationalities, including 153 total Chinese (including one infant), 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, 7 Australians, 3 French, and 4 total Americans (including one infant), among others.

Full nationality breakdown available here.

UPDATE MAR 7 2216EST:

Malaysia Airlines press conference beginning now here (English).

UPDATE MAR 7 2200EST:

Here is a recap of what we know so far about the Malaysia Airlines MH370 incident:

  • Malaysia 370, operating Kuala Lumpur (KUL) – Beijing (PEK) was a Boeing 777-200ER.
  • The aircraft was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, comprising 13 different nationalities.
  • There is currently no sign of the aircraft, airborne or otherwise. However, Malaysia Airlines confirms the aircraft would have exhausted its fuel supply by this time.

UPDATE MAR 7 2140EST: 

China’s Xinhua news agency reporting that radar contact was lost with MH370 in Vietnamese-controlled airspace (via Reuters).

UPDATE MAR 7 2130EST: 

Malaysia Airlines has launched a dedicated website to provide reports on the MH370 event.

FlightRadar24.com tracking data playback is now available for 9M-MRO, the aircraft operating MH370.

UPDATE MAR 7 2110EST: 

Passengers of thirteen nationalities were onboard MH370, including around 158 160 153 Chinese nationals, according to CCTV.

Again, there have been no confirmed sightings of the aircraft, airborne or otherwise. However, it is now four hours overdue into Beijing, and would no longer have fuel at this point. 

UPDATE MAR 7 2100EST: 

Malaysia Airlines Vice President of Operations Fuad Sharuji tells CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the company has “no idea” where Malaysia 370 may be.

UPDATE MAR 7 2049EST: 

Malaysia Airline System CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya issues statement, offering “thoughts and prayers” for affected passengers and families. Malaysia also reports they are notifying next-of-kin. Statement is reprinted in its entirety below.

We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370 which departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am earlier this morning bound for Beijing. The aircraft was scheduled to land at Beijing International Airport at 6.30am local Beijing time. Subang Air Traffic Control reported that it lost contact at 2.40am (local Malaysia time) today.

 

Flight MH370 was operated on a Boeing B777-200 aircraft. The flight was carrying a total number of 239 passengers and crew – comprising 227 passengers (including 2 infants), 12 crew members. The passengers were of 13 different nationalities. Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft. Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew.

 

Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support. Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members. The airline will provide regular updates on the situation.

There is still no updated information on the aircraft’s location or status.

UPDATE MAR 7 2028EST: 

The People’s Republic of China reports that MH370 did not enter Chinese airspace or make contact with Chinese controllers.

According to FlightAware ADS-B data, the last recorded movement of the aircraft was a drastic heading change and a descent of 700 feet.

ORIGINAL STORY MAR 7 2017EST:

Breaking news out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Malaysia Airlines announced over Facebook that Subang air traffic control ‘lost contact’ with flight MH370 at 2:40am local time on March 8 (GMT +8 hours), slightly more than six hours ago. The Boeing 777-200ER, registered 9M-MRO, was operating Kuala Lumpur (KUL) – Beijing (PEK), and was due to land a Beijing at 6:30am local time the same day. The aircraft was carrying 227 passengers and twelve crew members, for a total of 239 people onboard.

Overnight weather in Kampung Subang, Malaysia was reported as cloudy, but precipitation-free.

At this time, a crash is presumed. If correct, this would be only the third hull loss of a Boeing 777 aircraft, after the British Airways crash at London-Heathrow in 2009 and the Asiana crash in San Francisco last year.

In over forty years of operation, Malaysia aircraft had only been involved in two fatal accidents prior to today. In 1977, flight 653, a Boeing 737-200, was hijacked and crashed near the village of Tanjung Kupang, killing 100. In 1995, a Malaysia Fokker 50 crashed on approach to Tawau, Borneo, killing 34.

Once again, this is a breaking story. Airchive will update this article with more information as it becomes available.

Featured photo via russavia/Wikimedia Commons.

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Airchive staff Chris Sloan in Miami, Taylor Michie in New York, Jack Harty in Houston, Vinay Bhaskara in Chicago, and Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren in Seattle are contributing to this report. Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com.

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