MH370: Timeline of major developments

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 6 Aug 2015

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. 

March 9 

-- 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.   

March 14 

-- 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.            

March 15

-- 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.                     

March 16

-- 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. 

March 20 

-- 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. 

March 24

-- 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. 

March 31 

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

April 4 

-- 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.                        

April 5 

-- 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. 

April 14 

-- 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. 

April 28 

-- 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. 

May 27 

-- Malaysia releases raw satellite data used to determine the search zone.

October 6

-- A Malaysia-contracted vessel resumes the sonar search of the seabed for debris. Three specialised Dutch search ships eventually join the effort.       


January 29

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

February 4

-- 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.

March 8

-- Relatives and the airline mark one year since MH370 disappeared, with tearful ceremonies in Malaysia.

French gendarmes and police carry a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, in this picture taken July 29, 2015. The Malaysian Prime Minister said the Boeing 777 barnacle-covered debris, a 2-2.5 metre (6.5-8 feet) wing surface known as a flaperon and discovered in the Indian Ocean island of Reunion was confirmed as coming from missing flight MH370 the first real breakthrough in the search for the plane that disappeared 17 months ago. Picture taken July 29, 2015. - REUTERS

March 9

-- 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.

March 10 

-- 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. 

April 16

-- 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. 

July 29 

-- 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.  

August 6 

-- 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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mh370 , MAS , Malaysia Airlines , Beijing