Timeline: the hunt for flight MH370

2014-03-20 15:22
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: a timeline in pics

A series of photographs following the development of news regarding the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing over the weekend.

Kuala Lumpur - Relatives of the 239 people on board the missing Malaysia Airlines plane have endured an agonising series of false alarms and dramatic about-turns since it vanished on March 8.

A potential breakthrough came on day 12 of the massive international search operation, when Australia said satellite imagery showed two pieces of possible debris in the remote southern Indian Ocean.

Here is a timeline of major developments in the hunt for flight MH370:


-- The Boeing 777 takes off from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing, at 12:41 am. It vanishes from Malaysian civilian radar at 01:30 am, just before passing to Vietnamese air traffic control. It blips on military radars until 02:15 am, but that sighting is only identified later as flight MH370.

-- Vietnam launches a search operation that expands in the following days into a huge international hunt in the South China Sea, involving dozens of ships and aircraft from countries including the US and China.

Check out this timeline in pics

-- Vietnamese planes spot two large oil slicks near the plane's last known location, but they prove a false alarm.

-- It emerges that two passengers were travelling on stolen EU passports, fuelling speculation of a terrorist attack. The two Iranian men are later revealed as suspected illegal immigrants, but Malaysia and the US continue to investigate a possible terror link to the plane's disappearance.


-- Malaysia says the plane appears to have veered radically off-course, with the air force chief saying it may have turned back towards Kuala Lumpur for no apparent reason.

-- A Vietnamese plane spots possible debris off southwest Vietnam - another false alarm.


-- China lashes out at Malaysia, saying it needs to speed up the investigation.

-- Malaysia sends ships to investigate a sightingof a possible life raft, but a Vietnamese vessel that gets there first finds only flotsam.

-- Chemical analysis by Malaysia disproves any link between oil slicks found at sea and the missing plane.


-- The search area now includes land on the Malaysian peninsula itself, the waters off its west coast, and an area to the north of Indonesia's Sumatra island -- all far removed from the flight's scheduled route.


-- Malaysia expands the search zone again to include the Malacca Strait off its west coast and the Andaman Sea north of Indonesia, hundreds of kilometres away.

-- Malaysia's air force chief says an unidentified object was detected on military radar north of the Malacca Strait early Saturday - less than an hour after the plane lost contact - but says it is still being investigated.

-- It emerges that US regulators warned months ago of a "cracking and corrosion" problem on some Boeing 777s that could lead to a mid-air break-up, but the manufacturer later confirms the warning did not apply to the missing plane.


-- Chinese satellite images of suspected debris in the South China Sea are found to be yet another false lead.


-- The hunt spreads west to the Indian Ocean after the White House cites unspecified "new information" that the jet may have flown on after losing contact.


-- At a dramatic news conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announces that the plane appears to have been flown deliberately onwards for hours, veering sharply off-route at roughly the same time that its communications system and transponder were manually switched off.

-- Automated satellite communications continued until 08:11, Najib reveals, deepening the suspicion of foul play by someone in full control of the cockpit.

-- Satellite data now places the jet anywhere on one of two huge arcs - a northern one stretching into Central Asia and a southern one swooping deep into the Indian Ocean. The search in the South China Sea is called off.


-- Malaysia announces that the number of countries involved in the search has jumped from 14 to 26.

-- Suspicions focus on the pilot and co-pilot. Their homes are searched, with experts examining a flight simulator installed in the home of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah.


-- The probe into the pilots' background intensifiesas officials confirm that the relaxed-sounding last words from the cockpit - "All right, good night" - came two minutes before the transponder was shut down.

-- Malaysia Airlines says the voice is believed to be that of co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid. Police also probe a potential political motive on the part of Captain Zaharie, a supporter and distant relative of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who denounces such talk.


-- China says intelligence checks on the 153 Chinese passengers have produced no red flags.

-- Australian and US surveillance planes begin combing 600 000 square kilometres of the remote Indian Ocean in the southern search corridor.

-- The total search area now encompasses an area bigger than Australia, Malaysia says.

-- Desperate relatives of the Chinese passengers threaten to go on hunger strike, insisting they are not being given the full truth.


-- Malaysia says background checks on almost all passengers and crew have produced no "information of significance".

-- President Barack Obama says the search is a "top priority" for the United States and that every possible resource has been offered to assist Malaysian authorities, including the FBI.

-- A US official tells AFP that Malaysia has asked the FBI to help recover data deleted from the captain's home-built flight simulator.

-- Angry Chinese relatives try to gatecrash Malaysia's daily media briefing on the investigation, unfurling a banner reading: "Give us back our families."

-- The massive 26-country search appears bogged down in coordination problems, with some ships and surveillance planes sitting idle pending clearance to enter foreign waters and airspace.

-- In a further sign of miscommunication, the Thai air forcereveals that its military radar had picked up what appeared to be flight MH370 just minutes after it was diverted.


-- Australia says satellites have spotted two objects- one estimated at 24 metres long - in the southern Indian Ocean. Officials in both Australia and Malaysia says the imagery is "credible" but caution that it shows nothing definitive yet.

-- Four search aircraft are dispatched to the area. A Norwegian merchant ship also arrives in the vicinity, while the Australian naval vessel HMAS Success- capable of retrieving any debris - is en route.

In the mean time theories about the plane's disappearance are running rife. Check out these leading theories as well as this simple and rather believable conjecturethat render the pilots innocent. 

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