Today in History: Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Today in History: Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

M.C. Millman 

One of the greatest and most expensive aviation mysteries of all time occurred on March 8, 2014, with the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

The Boeing 777 carried 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board the commercial flight. On board were 152 Chinese nationals and 50 from Malaysia, and passengers from Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and the United States.

Information from the Malaysia Ministry of Transport records that the flight took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 a.m., bound for Beijing. The last voice contact with flight 370 was at 1:19 a.m., less than one hour into the flight. There were no distress signals received. 

At 1:21 a.m., when the plane was about to enter Vietnamese airspace, the plane's transponder was no longer functioning. At this point, Malaysian military radar was used to track the aircraft. Automated satellite communications helped determine that the plane flew deviated from its original flight plan. Communication ended just after 8:19 a.m.

The disappearance of the flight led to a multi-national search effort, which soon became the most expensive search in aviation history. The initial search lasted years and included underwater searches in the Indian Ocean. The estimated cost of the search is around $150 million, according to Daren Chester, a member of the Australian House of Representatives. When the search failed to find evidence of the plane, US exploration firm Ocean Infinity took over on a no-find, no-fee basis. After six months, the investigation came up short and was called off in May 2018.

An official 495-page report in July 2018 said the plane was deliberately taken off course by a person or persons unknown, MalayMail reported. According to the report, a mechanical malfunction was extremely unlikely, and "the change in flight path likely resulted from manual inputs." However, investigators could not determine why flight 370 disappeared.

The aircraft is believed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean. To date, the only physical sign of the plane has been debris that washed up, including a wing fragment.

On May 15, 2017, six weeks after the third anniversary of searching for the plane, the search was officially suspended. 

This year, just before the ninth anniversary of the plane's disappearance, Malaysia's Transport Minister Anthony Loke said that Malaysia would consider new search operations for the flight if "new and credible" information emerges about its location, as reported by MalayMail.

photo credit: Flickr

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