Vietnamese navy reports Malaysian flight crashed into sea

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Updated: March 7, 2014, 11:05 PM

 

BEIJING — Malaysia Airlines confirmed Saturday that had lost contact with a flight carrying 239 people that was in route to Beijing.

The flight was scheduled to land at Beijing at 6:30 a.m. local time, and air traffic controllers lost contact with it at 2:41 a.m.

A Vietnamese newspaper later reported that the Vietnamese Navy had confirmed that the plane crashed into the ocean. According to the reports, Vietnamese military radar recorded the plane crashing into the sea.

There was no confirmation of the report from Malaysia Airlines, however.

“We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370 which departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 a.m. earlier this morning bound for Beijing,” the airline said in a statement released at 9:05 a.m. Saturday.

The airline said Flight MH370 was carrying 227 passengers, including four Americans, and 12 crew members on a Boeing B777-200 aircraft.

The passengers included 13 different nationalities. “Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft,” the statement said.

“Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew.” China’s broadcast network CCTV, citing Chinese aviation officials, reported that 158 Chinese nationals were on board the flight. State news agency Xinhua reported radar contact with the flight was lost while it was in Vietnamese airspace, but as of 11 a.m. local time there had been no reports of any air crash in Chinese waters.

The last major crash of Malaysia Airlines flight was in 1995, when a Fokker 50 (9M-MGH) crashed during approach in Tawau, Sabah, Malaysia, killing 34 people.

In 1977, a Malaysia Airlines flight was hijacked and crashed in Tanjung Kupang, Johor, Malaysia, killing all 100 people aboard.


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact over the South China Sea early this morning on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and international aviation authorities still hadn’t located the jetliner several hours later.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said at a news conference that Flight MH370 lost contact with Malaysian air traffic control at 2:40 a.m. (10:50 a.m. Friday, Pacific Time), about two hours after it had taken off from Kuala Lumpur. It had been expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. Saturday (2:30 p.m. Friday, Pacific Time).

Pham Hien, a Vietnamese search and rescue official, said the last signal from the plane detected by the aviation authority was 120 nautical miles (140 miles) southwest of Vietnam’s southernmost Ca Mau province. 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,” Lt. Gen. 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 seeking to locate the plane, which carried passengers from at least 14 countries, mostly from Asia but also from the U.S. and Europe.

All countries in the possible flight path of the missing aircraft were performing a “communications and radio search,” said John Andrews, deputy chief of the Philippines’ civil aviation agency. Xinhua said China has dispatched 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,” said Shukor Yusof, an aviation analyst at S&P Capital IQ. “It’s either on the ground somewhere, intact, or possibly it has gone down in the water.”

At Beijing’s airport, authorities posted a notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather at a hotel about 9 miles from the airport to wait for further information, and provided a shuttle bus service. A woman wept aboard the shuttle bus while saying on a mobile phone, “They want us to go to the hotel. It cannot be good!”

“Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support,” Yahya said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members.”

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

Finding planes that disappear over the ocean can be very 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, said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. If the boxes are trapped inside the wreckage, the sound may not travel as far, he said. If the boxes are at the bottom of a deep underwater trench, that also hinders how far the sound can travel. The signals also weaken over time.

Air France Flight 447, with 228 people on board, disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio de Janiero to Paris on June 1, 2009. Some wreckage and bodies were recovered over the next two weeks, but it took nearly two years for the main wreckage of the Airbus 330 and its black boxes to be located and recovered.

The Malaysian Airlines plane was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said. It said there were 153 passengers from China, 38 from Malaysia, 12 from Indonesia, seven from Australia, four from the U.S., three from France, two each from New Zealand, Canada and Ukraine, and one each from Russia, Italy, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Austria.

Yahya, the airline CEO, said the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, has more than 18,000 flying hours and has been flying for Malaysia Airlines since 1981. The first officer, Fariq Hamid, 27, has about 2,800 hours of experience and has flown for the airline since 2007.

The tip of the wing of the same Malaysian Airlines Boeing broke off Aug. 9, 2012, as it was taxiing at Pudong International Airport outside Shanghai. The wingtip collided with the tail of a China Eastern Airlines A340 plane. No one was injured.

Malaysia Airlines’ last fatal incident was in 1995, when one its planes crashed near the Malaysian city of Tawau, killing 34 people.

Malaysia Airlines has 15 Boeing 777-200 jets in its fleet of about 100 planes. The state-owned carrier last month reported its fourth straight quarterly loss.

The 777 had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed in San Francisco in July 2013. All 16 crew members survived, but three of the 291 passengers, all teenage girls from China, were killed.