Kuala Lumpur: The underwater search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was called off on Tuesday, leaving unsolved one of the most enduring mysteries of the aviation age.
The Boeing Co. 777 aircraft disappeared on 8 March 2014, on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. According to satellite data, the jet headed south over the Indian Ocean for about six hours before plummeting into the water at up to 25,000 feet a minute.
Here are the key dates in the disappearance of the plane and its 239 passengers and crew.
•Flight 370 departs Kuala Lumpur at 12:41am, bound for Beijing. It vanishes from Malaysian civilian radar at 1:30am.
A search and rescue operation is launched in waters east of peninsula Malaysia.
• 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.
• 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.
• Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announces that the plane appeared to have flown 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.
• With more than two dozen countries now involved in the search, the pilot and co-pilot, both Malaysians, come under scrutiny. FBI experts examine the hard drive on a flight simulator in Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s home, but find nothing suspicious.
• A US-supplied “black box” detector begins scanning the suspected crash zone. No signals are detected within the locator beacons’ one-month battery life.
A file photo taken on 30 March, 2014 shows Australian navy ship Ocean Shield as it lies docked at naval base HMAS Stirling while being fitted with a towed pinger locator to aid in her roll in the search for missing MH370 in Perth, Australia. Photo: AP
• 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.
• A Malaysia-contracted vessel resumes the sonar search of the seabed for debris. Three specialised Dutch search ships join the effort.
• Malaysia’s government declares MH370’s passengers and crew “presumed dead”, angering next of kin who demand proof.
• Malaysia, Australia, and China say the oceanic search area for flight MH370 will double in size to 120,000 square kilometres (46,300 square miles).
They later say the area will not be further expanded without credible new leads.
• New Malaysia Airlines CEO Christoph Mueller says the carrier is “technically bankrupt”. The company begins to slash 6,000 jobs.
• A piece of aircraft debris is found by a beachcomber on the shores of the French island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean and sent to France for analysis.
A file photo taken on 29 July shows police carrying a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion. Photo: AFP
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak later says experts analysing the debris have “conclusively confirmed” it is from MH370.
• France says it will launch new searches by air, land and sea from Reunion island to hunt for more possible MH370 wreckage.
• MH370 relatives begin filing a slew of lawsuits over the plane’s disappearance.
A file photo taken on 29 July, 2016 shows a family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 reacts during a protest outside the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing. The hat reads “Pray for MH370”. Photo: Reuters.
• Malaysia confirms a piece of aircraft found off Tanzania in June is from MH370. A month later a piece of wing found in Mauritius is confirmed as having come from the plane.
Other pieces of debris that turn up on various Indian Ocean shorelines are believed to be from the aircraft, although none is confirmed.
• A new report finds Flight MH370 was likely out of control when it plunged into the ocean with its wing flaps not prepared for landing, casting doubt on theories a pilot was still in charge.
• Fed up MH370 relatives travel to Madagascar to search for debris themselves.
• An expert report says the wreckage of MH370 is almost certainly not in the Indian Ocean search zone, and may be further north. Australia and Malaysia say the report does not offer strong enough evidence to expand the search zone.
The search is suspended.