Malaysia Airlines says plane missing

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  • Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.21am
  • Vietnamese Navy reports picking up emergency signal from plane 153 miles out to sea
  • Flight MH370 declared missing nearly 90 minutes after it was due to land
  • Malaysian Transport Minister said 'no crash site has been found'
  • 227 passengers and 12 crew were from 14 different countries including Malaysia, China, U.S., France, Canada, and Australia
  • Two babies, from China and the U.S., are among the missing
  • Aviation expert Chris Yates said the aircraft will not have been carrying enough fuel to still be flying and 'will have crashed'
  • He said the investigation will look at two areas, the maintenance of the aircraft and possible terrorism

By Richard Shears and Lizzie Parry

PUBLISHED: 00:56 GMT, 8 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:17 GMT, 8 March 2014

A major search and rescue operation is today underway after a Malaysian Airlines plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew disappeared off the coast of Vietnam, after losing contact with air traffic controllers.

The Boeing 777 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.21am (4.21pm GMT) bound for Beijing, where it was expected to land at 6.30am (10.30pm GMT).

But after reaching 35,000ft and 120 nautical miles off the coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu the plane vanished, prompting fears the aircraft 'could have crashed'.

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Anxious: Families of those on board the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH307 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, face an anxious wait for news of the search mission at Kuala Lumpur airport

Anxious: Families of those on board the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH307 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, face an anxious wait for news of the search mission at Kuala Lumpur airport

Grief: Family and friends waiting for the plane to arrive break down as they hear the jet has gone missing. The flight vanished off the coast of Vietnam around two hours after taking off

Grief: Family and friends waiting for the plane to arrive break down as they hear the jet has gone missing. The flight vanished off the coast of Vietnam around two hours after taking off

Despair: There were 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board Flight MH370, from 14 different nations

Despair: There were 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board Flight MH370, from 14 different nations

Concern: The arrivals board at Beijing Airport listed flight MH370 as being delayed

Concern: The arrivals board at Beijing Airport listed flight MH370 as being delayed

Desperate: Relatives waiting for news have been booked into a hotel at Beijing Airport

Desperate: Relatives waiting for news have been booked into a hotel at Beijing Airport

Aviation expert Chris Yates said the plane would not be carrying enough fuel to still be in the air and would 'definitely have crashed'.

He told Sky News: 'Frankly the plane would not have been carrying enough fuel to stay aloft much longer than an hour after it was due to arrive in Beijing.

'We simply don't know the circumstances behind what caused that crash at the moment.

'There will be two areas for the investigation: the maintenance of the aircraft and also possible terrorism.'

Less than one hour after Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, the plane disappeared from radar.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said there was no indication that the pilots sent a distress signal. The fact that there was apparently no call for help suggests that whatever happened to the flight occurred quickly.

The Malaysian Transport Minister said 14 hours into the search and rescue missions, that no trace of a crash site in the sea has been found, after reports the plane had crashed off the coast of southern Vietnam.


'We are doing everything in our power to locate the plane. We are doing everything we can to ensure every possible angle has been addressed'
- Malaysian transport minister Hishamuddin Hussein

'We are doing everything in our power to locate the plane. We are doing everything we can to ensure every possible angle has been addressed,' Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein told reporters near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

'We are looking for accurate information from the Malaysian military. They are waiting for information from the Vietnamese side,' he said.

Ships in the area have been involved, scouring the vast site for signs of a wreckage.

Malaysian Airlines has confirmed the majority of those on board are from Malaysia and China, with four Americans, two Canadians and seven Australians and passengers from France.

Vietnamese state media, quoting a senior naval official, had reported that the Boeing 777-200ER flight had crashed off south Vietnam, but those reports have been denied, with the plane listed as 'missing'.

The Vietnamese Navy confirmed it detected the aircraft's emergency locator signal 153 miles south of Phu Quoc island in the South China sea.

Admiral Ngo Van Phat told the Vietnamese newspaper Tuoi Tre that radar showed the aircraft had crashed into the sea off the southern tip of Vietnam, close to the border with Cambodia.

TIMELINE OF FLIGHT MH307

12.21am (4.21pm GMT): Flight MH307 takes off from Kuala Lumpur airport

1.21am (5.21pm GMT): The flight failed to check in as scheduled while flying between Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam

2.40am (6.40pm GMT): The flight loses contact with air traffic controllers

6.30am (10.30pm GMT): The flight was scheduled to land at Beijing

7.54am (11.54pm GMT): The airline issued a statement saying it had not landed and was officially missing

The paper later reported the Admiral qualifying his statement, saying the radar had revealed the presumed crash site.

Malaysian naval vessels saw no immediate sign of wreckage when they reached the maritime area off the country's northeast coast this morning, a senior rescue official said.

Malaysia has sent three maritime enforcement ships and a navy vessel to the area, backed by three helicopters, a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency official said.

'Our aircraft asset spotted an orange speck in the sea where the last signal came from. We sent a vessel to search the area and it was confirmed that it was nothing,' he said.

The signal picked up by the Navy is believed to be the Emergency Locator Transmittor, which can be activated manually by the flight crew or automatically upon impact.

Crying relatives of Chinese passengers on board the plane wept at Beijing airport earlier today as it became clear the jet had probably crashed.

An unconfirmed report on a flight tracking website said the aircraft had plunged 650ft and changed course shortly before all contact was lost.

The route would have taken flight MH370, a B777-200 aircraft, across the Malaysian mainland in a north-easterly direction and then across the Gulf of Thailand.

Shock: Distressed relatives wait for news of the Malaysia Airlines plane which was due to land in Beijing. Malaysia's Transport Minister said 14 hours into the massive search and rescue mission, that 'no crash site' has been located

Shock: Distressed relatives wait for news of the Malaysia Airlines plane which was due to land in Beijing. Malaysia's Transport Minister said 14 hours into the massive search and rescue mission, that 'no crash site' has been located

Missing: Flight MH370 was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it lost contact over Vietnam

Missing: Flight MH370 was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it lost contact over Vietnam

Notice: A message written on a board at Beijing Airport tells relatives the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is delayed

Notice: A message written on a board at Beijing Airport tells relatives the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is delayed

Those on the flight included an American baby and a Chinese baby, and 12 crew members, Malaysian Airlines said in a statement, adding it was working with all authorities in the region and search and rescue teams had been mobilized.

The aircraft had been due to land in Beijing at 6.30am local time but at 7.54am the airline issued a statement saying it had not landed and was officially missing.

On board were 153 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, seven Australians, three French, four Americans, two each from New Zealand, Canada and Ukraine, and one each from Russia, Italy, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Austria.

The pilot of the passenger plane is Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a 53-year-old Malaysia who joined the airline in 1981.

His co-pilot was 27-year-old First Officer Fariq Ab. Hamid, also from Malaysia, who joined the airline in 2007. 

If the aircraft has crashed, and all the passengers and crew are killed, it would the deadliest aviation incident since November 2001.

In that incident, 265 people died after an American Airlines Airbus A300 crashed in Belle Harbor, Queens, after leaving JFK Airport in New York. The deaths included five people on the ground.

MAS Operations Control Vice President Fuad Sharuji said: 'We tried to call this aircraft through various means,' adding that it was carrying fuel for 7.5 hours when it disappeared.

Lai Xuan Thanh, director of Vietnam's civil aviation authority, said the plane was over the sea and bound for Vietnamese airspace but air traffic officials in the country were never able to make contact.

The plane 'lost all contact and radar signal one minute before it entered Vietnam's air traffic control,' Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese army, said in a statement issued by the government.

More than 10 hours after last contact, officials from several countries were struggling to locate the plane.

All countries in the possible flight path of the missing aircraft were performing a 'communications and radio search', John Andrews, deputy chief of the Philippines' civil aviation agency, said.

Xinhua said China has sent two maritime rescue ships to the South China Sea to help in the search and rescue efforts.

'It couldn't possibly be in the air because it would have run out of oil by now,' Shukor Yusof, an aviation analyst at S&P Capital IQ, said.

'It's either on the ground somewhere, intact, or possibly it has gone down in the water.'

Aviation experts said that if the report of the aircraft suddenly plunging was correct it could be due to a number of factors.

Long wait: A Malaysian man with relatives on the plane arrives at Beijing airport. An unconfirmed report on a flight tracking website said the aircraft had plunged 650ft and changed course shortly before all contact was lost

Long wait: A Malaysian man with relatives on the plane arrives at Beijing airport. An unconfirmed report on a flight tracking website said the aircraft had plunged 650ft and changed course shortly before all contact was lost

Devastating: A woman cries in Beijing airport as she waits to hear information about her family

Devastating: A woman cries in Beijing airport as she waits to hear information about her family

Anxious: A man with family on the missing flight is escorted to the relatives room at Kuala Lumpur airport

Anxious: A man with family on the missing flight is escorted to the relatives room at Kuala Lumpur airport

'CRASH' WOULD BE DEADLIEST IN PLANE'S 19-YEAR HISTORY

If it is confirmed that the plane has crashed, the loss would mark the second fatal accident involving a Boeing 777 in less than a year and by far the worst since the jet entered service in 1995.

It would mark the U.S.-built Boeing 777-200ER airliner's deadliest incident since entering service 19 years ago.

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200ER crash-landed in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three passengers and injuring more than 180.

Boeing said it was aware of reports that the Malaysia Airlines plane was missing and was monitoring the situation but had no further comment.

The flight was operating as a China Southern Airlines codeshare.

An official at the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) said the plane had failed to check in as scheduled at 5.21pm GMT while it was flying over the sea between Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh city.

These include a catastrophic engine failure; the pilots taking evasive action to avoid another aircraft; or an explosion.

The airline has not said whether the pilots were able to issue a distress call - but if they did not, experts said this could indicate a catastrophy that had occurred without warning.

At Beijing's airport, authorities posted a notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather to a hotel about 15km from the airport to wait for further information, and provided a shuttle bus service.

A woman wept on the shuttle bus while saying on a mobile phone: 'They want us to go to the hotel. It cannot be good.'

A waiting area for family and friends was also set up at the Kuala Lumpur airport the flight had left from.

Fuad Sharuji, Malaysian Airlines' vice president of operations control, told CNN that the plane was flying at an altitude of 35,000ft and that the pilots had reported no problem with the aircraft.

The Boeing jet lost contact with Malaysian air traffic controllers a little over two hours into its flight.

Reports from China's Xinhua news agency said later that the aircraft was lost in air space controlled by Vietnam and did not enter Chinese airspace or make any contact with Chinese controllers.

'Our team is currently calling the next of kin of passengers and crew,' the airline's chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said as the airline issued a statement saying its 'thoughts and prayers' were with all those on board as well as their families.

Waiting room: Family and friends are being directed to a reception area at Kuala Lumpur airport, where the plane left, as the airline gathers details about the missing aircraft

Waiting room: Family and friends are being directed to a reception area at Kuala Lumpur airport, where the plane left, as the airline gathers details about the missing aircraft

Information: A member of staff from Malaysia Airlines is surrounded by reporters at the airport

Information: A member of staff from Malaysia Airlines is surrounded by reporters at the airport

NATIONALITIES OF THE MISSING

China/Taiwan: 154, including an infant

Malaysia: 38

India: 5

Indonesia: 7

Australia: 6

France: 4

U.S.: 3, including an infant   

New Zealand: 2

Ukraine: 2

Canada: 2

Russian: 1

Italy: 1

Netherlands: 1

Austria: 1

Finding planes that disappear over the ocean can be difficult. Airliner 'black boxes' -  the flight data and cockpit voice recorders - are equipped with 'pingers' that emit ultrasonic signals that can be detected underwater.

Under good conditions, the signals can be detected from several hundred miles away, John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said.

If the boxes are trapped inside the wreckage, the sound may not travel as far, he said. If the boxes are in an underwater trench, that also hinders how far the sound can travel. The signals also weaken over time.

Unconfirmed reports said it was believed the missing aircraft was involved in a crash in August 2012 when it damaged the tail of a China Eastern Airlines plane at Shanghai Pudong Airport.

The reports said that in that incident the tip of the wing of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 broke off.

Family room: Women waiting to hear about loved ones on the plane arrive at Kuala Lumpur airport

Family room: Women waiting to hear about loved ones on the plane arrive at Kuala Lumpur airport

Update: Malaysian Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahyain speaks at a press conference on Saturday

Update: Malaysian Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahyain speaks at a press conference on Saturday

Retired American Airlines captain Jim Tilmon told CNN that 'it doesn't sound very good,' as the search continued for the missing jet.

'The route is mostly overland, which means there would be plenty of radars and radios to contact the plane.

'I've been trying to come up with every scenario that I could just to explain this away, but I haven't been very successful.'

Mr Tilmon said the jet was 'about as sophisticated as any commercial airplane could possibly be.'

Route: An online flight tracker for MH37 ends shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur

Route: An online flight tracker for MH37 ends shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur

BOEING 777: ONE OF THE WORLD'S SAFEST JETS

The Boeing 777 flown by Malaysia Airlines that disappeared over the South China Sea is one of the world's most popular - and safest - jets.

The long-range jumbo jet has helped connect cities at the far ends of the globe, with flights as long as 16 hours.

But more impressive is its safety record: The first fatal crash in its 19-year history only came last July when an Asiana Airlines jet landed short of the runway in San Francisco. Three of the 307 people aboard died.

Missing: The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 lost contact with Air Traffic Control over the Pacific with 227 passengers aboard

Missing: The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 lost contact with Air Traffic Control over the Pacific with 227 passengers aboard

Airlines like the plane because it is capable of flying extremely long distances thanks to two giant engines.

Each engine is so massive that a row of at least five coach seats could fit inside it. By having just two engines, the plane burns through less fuel than four-engine jets, like the Boeing 747, which it has essentially replaced.

"It has provided a new standard in both efficiency and safety," said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation consultant with the Teal Group.

"The 777 has enjoyed one of the safest records of any jetliner built."

Besides last year's Asiana crash, the only other serious incident with the 777 came in January 2008 when a British Airways jet landed about 1,000 feet short of the runway at London's Heathrow Airport.

Malaysia Airlines did have an incident in August 2005 with a 777 flying from Perth, Australia, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's largest city.

While flying 38,000 feet above the Indian Ocean, the plane's software incorrectly measured speed and acceleration, causing the plane to suddenly shoot up 3,000 feet.

The pilot disengaged the autopilot and descended and landed safely back in Perth. A software update was quickly made on planes around the world.

Malaysia Airlines has 15 Boeing 777-200ER jets in its fleet of about 100 planes. The first was delivered on April 23, 1997, and the most recent on December 13, 2004, according to Boeing. The 200ER is one of four versions of the 777.

The 777 is capable of flying 7,250 miles non-stop. Its two Rolls-Royce Trent 875 engines each have 74,600lb of thrust, letting the plane cruise at Mach 0.84, or nearly 640 mph.

A new model has a list price of 261.5 million US dollars (£156 million), although airlines usually negotiate discounts.

The 777 was the first twin-engine plane to be immediately certified to fly over the ocean as far as 180 minutes from any emergency landing airport.

Government safety regulators have determined that it could fly for nearly three hours on a single engine in the case of an emergency.

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