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two weeks

Timeline: The search for missing MH370

The families of the airplane’s passengers were told today that there is no hope for any survivors.

THE FAMILIES OF the 239 people on board the missing Malaysia Airlines plane have endured an agonising series of false alarms and dramatic about-turns since it vanished on 8 March.

Today, they were told that the passengers on MH370 were “lost” and that nobody survived.

The country’s Prime Minister said the flight ended in Indian Ocean, citing new data.

Here is a timeline of major developments in the hunt for flight MH370 over the past 17 days.

Saturday, 8 March

imageMalaysia and Vietnam on 8 March led a search for a Malaysia Airlines jet that has gone missing over Southeast Asia, as fears mounted over the fate of the 239 people aboard.

The Boeing 777 takes off from 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 blips on military radars until 2.15am, but that sighting is only later identified as flight MH370.

Vietnam launches a search operation that expands in the following days into a huge hunt in the South China Sea, involving dozens of ships and aircraft from countries including the United States and China.

Vietnamese planes spot two large oil slicks near the plane’s last known location, but they prove a false alarm.

It emerges that two passengers were travelling on stolen EU passports, fuelling speculation of a terrorist attack. The two Iranian men are later revealed as suspected illegal immigrants, but Malaysia and the US continue to investigate a possible terror link.

Sunday, March 9

Malaysia’s air force chief says the plane may have turned back towards Kuala Lumpur for no apparent reason, citing radar data.

A Vietnamese plane spots possible debris off southwest Vietnam – another false alarm.

imageItalian Luigi Maraldi, left, whose stolen passport was used by a passenger boarding a missing Malaysian airliner. (Image: Krissada Muanhawong/AP/Press Association Images)

Monday, March 10

imageNotices with words of encouragement and information regarding the missing Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 are seen in different areas in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

  • China lashes out at Malaysia, saying it needs to speed up the investigation.
  • Malaysia sends ships to investigate a sighting of a possible life raft, but a Vietnamese vessel that gets there first finds only flotsam.
  • Chemical analysis by Malaysia disproves any link between oil slicks found at sea and the missing plane.

Tuesday, 11 March

The search area now includes land on the Malaysian peninsula, the waters off its west coast, and an area to the north of Indonesia’s Sumatra island – all far from the flight’s scheduled route.

imageSand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik creates a sculpture depicting the missing Malaysian Airlines aircraft on the beach in Puri, India. (AP Photo)

Wednesday, 12 March

Malaysia expands the search zone again to include the Malacca Strait off its west coast and the Andaman Sea north of Indonesia, hundreds of kilometres away.


Malaysia’s air force chief says an unidentified object was detected on military radar north of the Malacca Strait early Saturday – less than an hour after the plane lost contact – but says it is still being investigated.

It emerges that US regulators warned months ago of a “cracking and corrosion” problem on some Boeing 777s that could lead to a mid-air break-up, but the manufacturer later confirms the warning did not apply to the missing plane.

Thursday, 13 March

imageImage: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence

Chinese satellite images of suspected debris in the South China Sea are found to be yet another false lead.

Friday, 14 March

The hunt spreads west to the Indian Ocean after the White House cites “new information” that the jet may have flown on after losing contact.

Saturday, 15 March


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak addresses the media during a press conference at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang. (PA Images)

At a dramatic news conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announces that the plane appears to have been flown deliberately onwards for hours, veering sharply off-route at roughly the same time that its communications system and transponder were manually switched off.

Satellite data now places the jet anywhere in one of two huge corridors of land and sea – a northern one stretching into Central Asia and a southern one swooping deep into the Indian Ocean. The search in the South China Sea is called off.

Sunday, 16 March

  • Malaysia announces that the number of countries involved in the search has jumped from 14 to 26.
  • Suspicions focus on the pilot and co-pilot. Their homes are searched, with experts examining a flight simulator installed in the home of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

imageA woman stands in the doorway of the house belonging to Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the pilot onboard flight MH370 in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. (Image: PA Wire)

Monday, 17 March

After conflicting statements, officials confirm that the relaxed-sounding last words from the cockpit -

All right, good night

- came two minutes before the plane’s transponder was shut down.

Malaysia Airlines says the voice is believed to be that of co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid. Police investigating the two pilots also probe a potential political motive on the part of Captain Zaharie, a supporter and distant relative of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who denounces such talk.

Tuesday, 18 March

  • Australian and US surveillance planes begin combing 600,000 square kilometres of the remote Indian Ocean in the southern search corridor.
  • The total search area now encompasses an area bigger than Australia, Malaysia says.
  • Desperate relatives of the Chinese passengers threaten to go on hunger strike, insisting they are not being given the full truth.

Wednesday, 19 March

imageAn office building is illuminated with LED lights displaying “Pray for MH370″ next to Malaysia’s landmark Petronas Twin Towers. (Image: PA)

Malaysia says background checks on almost all passengers and crew have produced no “information of significance”.

President Barack Obama says the search is a “top priority” for the United States and that every possible resource has been offered to assist Malaysian authorities, including the FBI.

A US official tells AFP that Malaysia has asked the FBI to help recover data deleted from the captain’s home-built flight simulator.

Angry Chinese relatives try to gatecrash Malaysia’s daily media briefing on the investigation, unfurling a banner reading: “Give us back our families.”

The 26-country search appears bogged down in coordination problems, with some ships and surveillance planes sitting idle pending clearance to enter foreign waters and airspace.

In a further sign of miscommunication, the Thai air force reveals that its military radar had picked up what appeared to be flight MH370 just minutes after it was diverted.

Thursday, 20 March

imageThe Australian satellite image which claims to show a 24 metre piece of debris.

Australia says satellites have spotted two objects, one estimated at 24 metres long, in a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean 2,500 kilometres southwest of Perth.

Four surveillance aircraft are dispatched to the area, as is a Norwegian merchant ship that had been on its way to Australia. But in poor weather, they spot nothing before nightfall.

Friday, 21 March

Planes spend a second fruitless day searching the remote stretch of the Indian Ocean.

Australia says radar has failed to detect any sign of the objects, and switches to visual searching with the naked eye by trained observers scouring the seas from the windows of low-flying aircraft.

Malaysia asks the United States to provide undersea surveillance technology to help their investigators.

Saturday, 22 March

imageImage: National Defense Industry Bureau, China

China releases a new satellite photo of a large floating object, 120 kilometres from those pictured in the Australian images.

Sunday, 23 March

Along with French satellite data indicating floating objects in the area, sightings of a wooden pallet and other debris raise further hopes of a breakthrough.

Monday, 24 March

In a separate headache for Malaysia Airlines, another of the flag-carrier’s jets is forced to divert to Hong Kong en route from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul due to electrical problems.

The US Navy orders a specialised black box locator sent to the area. If found, the device would be crucial in determining what happened to the plane.

China says one of its aircraft has spotted two “relatively big floating objects”, while Australia announces it also has spotted two objects, “one circular and one rectangular”, adding to the mounting evidence of debris in the Indian Ocean.

The Malaysian Prime Minister says that new satellite analysis has shown that flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean, west of Perth.

Malaysian Airlines sends a text message to families to confirm that there is no hope of finding any survivors.

image© AFP, 2014

Read: Malaysia Airline sends text message to MH370 families

More: Malaysia Airline sends text message to MH370 families

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