Malaysia Airlines announces the ” loss of contact ” with one of its planes , carrying 239 passengers
Malaysia Airlines announced Friday it had ” lost contact ” in one of its planes , carrying 239 people, while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing . The company said in a statement that the contact plane trip, ” MH 370 ” , a Boeing 777-200 , was Saturday at 2:40 pm ( 18:40 GMT Friday ) , after it took off from a remote Malaysian capital midnight on Friday - Saturday and was supposed to reach Beijing at 6:30 local time ( 22:30 GMT Friday ) . The statement added that ” Malaysia Airlines is now working with the authorities who proceeded to run her team specialist search and rescue to find the plane.
Aviation experts have expressed surprise at the sudden loss of contact with the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, which has an almost flawless safety record.
Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation safety consultant who serves on India’s Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Committee, said it was “very, very rare” for an aircraft to lose contact completely without any previous indication of problems.
“The 777 is a very safe aircraft – I’m surprised,” he said.
He noted that the flight had already reached cruising altitude of 10,700 metres but that online flight data suggested it had experienced a very rapid loss of height and change in the direction it was heading.
Neil Hansford, the chairman of consultancy firm Strategic Aviation Solutions and a former air freight executive, said of the Boeing 777: “It has probably been one of the safest aircraft in aviation history.”
He said more than 1000 of the aircraft had been produced and just 60 incidents had been logged, most of them minor. He said the chance of both engines failing at the same time was very low.
“If you lose an engine in a cruise it doesn’t fall out of the sky,”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo by -Fredrik Granberg - Boeing 777-2H6/ER / year 2006