KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak confirmed on Thursday that Boeing 777 wreckage found on an Indian Ocean island came from missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370, the first confirmation that the plane had crashed.
Following is a timeline of major developments in the disappearance of the flight and its 239 passengers and crew 17 months ago:
March 8, 2014
- Flight 370 departs Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am, bound for Beijing. It vanishes from Malaysian civilian radar at 1.30am, just before passing to Vietnamese air traffic control. It appears on military radar until 2.15am, 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.
-- 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.
-- Najib 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. The South China Sea search is called off.
-- 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.
-- 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.
-- Najib announces “with deep sadness and regret” that MH370 is presumed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, citing new analysis of the satellite data. The next day in Beijing, emotional Chinese relatives of passengers scuffle with guards outside the Malaysian embassy, demanding answers.
-- Malaysia releases a transcript of all the pilots’ radio communications, but it sheds little light.
-- 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.
-- 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.
-- 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.
-- 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.
-- Malaysia releases raw satellite data used to determine the search zone.
-- A Malaysia-contracted vessel resumes the sonar search of the seabed for debris. Three specialised Dutch search ships eventually join the effort.
-- Malaysia’s government declares MH370’s passengers and crew “presumed dead”, angering next of kin who demand proof.
-- Prompted by MH370, a global aviation summit in Montreal backs plans to require real-time tracking of any airliners that encounter distress, starting in 2016.
-- Relatives and the airline mark one year since MH370 disappeared, with tearful ceremonies in Malaysia.
-- International investigation team set up by Malaysia releases an interim report that notes that the 30-day beacon battery on one of the plane’s data recorders had expired more than a year before the flight. But the report sheds no new light on what happened to the plane.
-- Investigators reveal that a Malaysia Airlines towelette was found on the coast of Western Australia in July 2014, but authorities say there is no way to conclusively link it to MH370.
-- Malaysia, Australia, and China say the oceanic search area for flight MH370 will double in size to 120,000 sq km (46,300 sq miles). They later say the area will not be further expanded without credible new leads.
-- A piece of aircraft debris is found by a beachcomber on the shores of the French island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean. The wreckage, determined to be a wing part from a Boeing 777, is sent to France for analysis.
-- Najib announces that the team of experts analysing the debris have “conclusively confirmed” the wreckage is from MH370. However, Najib gave no indication that the analysis of the debris yielded any clues into the cause of the disappearance. - AFP
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