The path likely taken by flight MH370 according to aviaton mapping site Great Circle Mapper.
A woman (C), believed to be the relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, covers her face as she cries at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The path likely taken by flight MH370 according to aviaton mapping site Great Circle Mapper. Great Circle Mapper
A woman (C), believed to be the relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, covers her face as she cries at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing March 8, 2014. REUTERS/KitThis is a developing story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes known.The Vietnamese Navy said that a Malaysia Airlines flight en route from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to Beijing, China, has crashed into the sea on Saturday. The news, reported by the website of Vietnam's biggest newspaper, Tuoi Tre, ends hours of speculation on the fate of flight MH370 after it had been reported missing and air traffic control authorities in several countries said they had lost contact with the aircraft. The Boeing 777 was carrying 239 people, including 227 passengers and 12 crew.
A statement on the Malaysia Airlines site, which has not been updated yet to reflect confirmation of the crash, said, "we deeply regret that we have lost all contact with flight MH370, which departed Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. this morning bound for Beijing. The aircraft was scheduled to land at Beijing International Airport at 6:30 a.m. local Beijing time. Subang Air Traffic Control reported that it lost contact at 2:40 a.m. (local Malaysia time) today."
An official at the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam told Reuters the plane had failed to check in as scheduled while it was flying over the sea between Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh city. Chinese aviation authorities said the aircraft had not contacted them, either. "We are extremely worried," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing, as quoted by Reuters.
Malaysia Airlines has addressed on its Facebook page unconfirmed reports that the plane landed in Nanming, China, saying "there has been speculation that the aircraft has landed at Nanming. We are working to verify the authenticity of the report." However, a pilot contacted by the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia said it was unlikely that the plane had landed safely. "I think we can safely discount that," John Preston said.
At a press conference on Saturday morning local time in Kuala Lumpur, airline officials said the plane carried people of 14 nationalities, namely: China 152 people; Malaysia 38; Indonesia 12; Australia 7; U.S. 4; France 3; New Zealand 2; Ukraine 2; Canada 2; Russia, Italy, Taiwan, Netherlands, Austria all with 1.
They also said the plane was last contacted when it was flying at 35,000 feet and 472 knots, at normal crusing altitude and speed. The flight was commanded by a senior captain who had joined the company in 1981 and had more than 18,000 flight hours, making him a very experienced flyer.
According to a database maintained by Flight Global magazine, the plane had about 20,000 hours of accumulated flight time and had performed 3,020 takeoff and landing cycles. For a modern jetliner operated by a top international airline, those are numbers well within the service life of an airframe.
If there have been fatalities, an unfortunate virtual certainty in the case of a plane crashing into the sea from cruising altitude, this would be the second fatal accident to a Boeing 777 after an Asiana Airlines 777 series 200 model landed short of the runway in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three. Investigation of that accident is still pending, but most experts agree that pilot error probably played a large part.
Overall, this is the third accident to involve a 777. A British Airways jet, also a 200 series model, crashed on landing at London's Heathrow airport in 2008 due to loss of power after icing in one engine. No one was hurt.
Malaysia Airlines, with a fleet of 105 aircraft, is a large international carrier and a member of the Oneworld alliance, which includes American Airlines, the world's biggest airline, and British Airways.
It has a safety record comparable to major Western carriers. Its last fatal accident was the crash of a small Fokker 50 turboprop in 1995, with 34 killed.
Several reports based on flight tracking sites indicated the aircraft that disappeared Saturday bore the Malaysian registration 9M-MRO. According to production lists published online by third parties not affiliated with the Boeing Co (NYSE:BA), that particular airplane was delivered new to Malaysia Airlines in May 2002 and was involved in a ground mishap in 2012. While taxiing at Shanghai's Pudong airport, its wingtip hit the tail of another aircraft. According to an independent accident-tracking site, the damage suffered by the Boeing 777 was "substantial."
Boeing issued a statement early Saturday morning eastern US time, saying the company "offers its deepest concern to the families of those aboard missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370" and announcing that it "is assembling a team to provide technical assistance to investigating authorities."