Timeline: The fruitless year-long hunt for MH370

2015-03-04 12:08
A shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft is seen on low cloud cover while it searches for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. (File, AP)

A shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft is seen on low cloud cover while it searches for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. (File, AP)

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Kuala Lumpur - One of the most baffling aviation mysteries ever seems no closer to being solved as the first anniversary of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370's disappearance approaches on 8 March.

Following is a timeline of major developments in the disappearance of the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew:

Saturday 8 March

-- Flight 370 departs Kuala Lumpur at 12:41, bound for Beijing. It vanishes from Malaysian civilian radar at 01:30, just before passing to Vietnamese air traffic control. It appears on military radar until 02:15, but Malaysia's air force takes no action.

-- Vietnam launches a search operation that expands into a multinational hunt in the South China Sea.

-- Two passengers who were travelling on stolen EU passports spark speculation of a terrorist attack, but are revealed to be merely suspected Iranian illegal immigrants. Malaysian police later say background checks of all on board produced no red flags.

Sunday 9 March

-- Malaysia's air force chief says the plane may have turned back towards Kuala Lumpur for no apparent reason, citing radar data. In the coming days, the search area expands to the west of the Malaysian peninsula and the air force confirms the blip on its radar was indeed MH370.

Friday 14 March

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

Saturday 15 March

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

-- Satellite data suggests the jet's last known location was somewhere along one of two huge arcs stretching north into Central Asia and south into the Indian Ocean. The South China Sea search is called off.

Sunday 16 March

-- With more than two dozen countries now involved in the search, suspicions focus on the pilot and co-pilot, both Malaysians. FBI experts examine the hard drive on a flight simulator in Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah's home, but find nothing suspicious.

Thursday 20 March

-- Australia says satellites photographed two large objects in the remote southern Indian Ocean, but the flotsam proves to be another in a series of a false alarms.

Monday 24 March

-- Najib announces "with deep sadness and regret" that MH370 is presumed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, citing new analysis of satellite data.

The next day in Beijing, emotional Chinese relatives of passengers scuffle with guards outside the Malaysian embassy, demanding answers.

Monday 31 March

-- Malaysia releases a transcript of all the pilots' radio communications, but it sheds little light.

Friday 4 April

-- A US-supplied "black box" detector begins scanning the suspected crash zone, with the clock ticking on the one-month battery life of their locator beacons.

Saturday 5 April

-- A Chinese search ship detects an underwater "pulse signal" in the Indian Ocean. More "pings" are detected by other vessels in subsequent days, but they cease before they are pinpointed. Some experts later express doubt they were related to MH370.

Monday 14 April

-- Halting the search for underwater signals, Australia deploys an American deep-sea drone to scan the seabed for debris near the ping sites. It ultimately finds nothing.

Monday 28 April

-- Australia announces the search area will be expanded across a huge swathe of ocean. The focus shifts for several months to mapping the uncharted seafloor before searching can resume.

Tuesday 27 May

-- After weeks of pressure from families, Malaysia releases raw satellite data used to determine the search zone. Relatives say crucial data was omitted.

Monday 6 October

-- A Malaysia-contracted vessel resumes the sonar search of the seabed for debris. Three specialised Dutch search ships eventually join an effort expected to wrap up in May 2015.

Thursday 29 January

-- Malaysia's government declares MH370's passengers and crew "presumed dead", angering next of kin who demand proof.

Wednesday 4 February

-- Prompted by the MH370 mystery, a global aviation summit in Montreal backs plans to require real-time tracking of any airliners that encounter distress, starting in 2016.

Wednesday 25 February

-- Australian authorities say vessels have completed scanning about 40% of a 60 000-square-kilometre "priority search area", and found nothing.

Sunday 1 March

-- Australia says it is conducting trials with Malaysia and Indonesia of a system that increases the frequency with which planes are tracked over remote oceans, to avoid an MH370 recurrence.

Read more on:    malaysia  |  air crashes  |  mh370

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