Missing Malaysia plane MH370: What we know

French gendarmes and police stand near a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, July 29, 2015. French officials have confirmed that the section of wing found in July did come from Flight MH370

The missing Malaysian Airlines plane, flight MH370, had 239 people onboard and was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014 when air traffic control staff lost contact with it.

Despite an extensive search of the southern Indian Ocean, no trace of the aircraft was found until the discovery of the barnacle-encrusted flaperon on Reunion Island, more than 3,700km (2,300 miles) away from the main search site, in July 2015.

French investigators confirmed the aircraft wing part came from the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777, after one of three numbers found on the flaperon was formally identified by a technician from Airbus Defense and Space (ADS-SAU) in Spain, which made the part for Boeing.

Investigators are continuing to search for the rest of the plane.

Boeing 777 flaperon

The Australian-led search has been combing a 120,000 sq km area of seabed about 2,000km off the coast of Perth, using underwater drones and sonar equipment deployed from specialist ships.

In December 2015, Australian officials said they had refined the search area and were confident they were looking in the right area for the plane.

Map

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said officials were "optimistic" the remains of the plane would be found.

The scope of the search has changed many times since the plane disappeared, because of confusion over its last movements, but it is expected to be concluded by the middle of 2016.

Watch the video below to find out about the jet's last known movements.

What happened the day the plane disappeared?

00:41, 8 March 2014 (16:41 GMT, 7 March): Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and was due to arrive in Beijing at 06:30 (22:30 GMT).

Malaysia Airlines says the plane lost contact less than an hour after takeoff. No distress signal or message was sent.

01:07: The plane sent its last ACARS transmission - a service that allows computers aboard the plane to "talk" to computers on the ground. Some time afterwards, it was silenced and the expected 01:37 transmission was not sent.

Final cockpit communications

Audio recording reveals last conversation with ground

PDF download Full cockpit-tower communication[60K]

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01:19: The last communication between the plane and Malaysian air traffic control took place about 12 minutes later. At first, the airline said initial investigations revealed the co-pilot had said "All right, good night".

However, Malaysian authorities later confirmed the last words heard from the plane, spoken either by the pilot or co-pilot, were in fact "Good night Malaysian three seven zero".

A few minutes later, the plane's transponder, which communicates with ground radar, was shut down as the aircraft crossed from Malaysian air traffic control into Vietnamese airspace over the South China Sea.

01:21: The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said the plane failed to check in as scheduled with air traffic control in Ho Chi Minh City.

02:15: Malaysian military radar plotted Flight MH370 at a point south of Phuket island in the Strait of Malacca, west of its last known location. Thai military radar logs also confirmed that the plane turned west and then north over the Andaman sea.

In maps accompanying its 1 May report, the Malaysian government revised the time to be 02:22 and put the position further west.

02:28 (18:28 GMT, 7 March): After the loss of radar, a satellite above the Indian Ocean picked up data from the plane in the form of seven automatic "handshakes" between the aircraft and a ground station. The first was at 02:28 local time.

Map showing the timings of electronic handshakes with flight MH370

08:11: (00:11 GMT, 8 March) The last full handshake was at 08:11. This information, disclosed a week after the plane's disappearance, suggested the jet was in one of two flight corridors, one stretching north between Thailand and Kazakhstan, the other south between Indonesia and the southern Indian Ocean.

08:19: However, there is some evidence of a further "partial handshake" at this time between the plane and a ground station. This was a request from the aircraft to log on. Investigators say this is consistent with the plane's satellite communication equipment powering up after an outage - such as after an interruption to its electrical supply.

09:15: This would have been the next scheduled automatic contact between the ground station and the plane, but there was no response from the aircraft.

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The search

The plane's planned route would have taken it north-eastwards, over Cambodia and Vietnam, and the initial search focused on the South China Sea, south of Vietnam's Ca Mau peninsula.

But evidence from a military radar, revealed later, suggested the plane had suddenly changed from its northerly course to head west. So the search, involving dozens of ships and planes, then switched to the sea west of Malaysia.

Further evidence revealed on 15 March 2014 by the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak suggested the jet was deliberately diverted by someone on board about an hour after takeoff.

After MH370's last communication with a satellite was disclosed, a week after the plane's disappearance, the search was expanded dramatically to nearly three million square miles, from Kazakhstan in the north to vast areas of the remote southern Indian Ocean. This was the equivalent of 11% of the Indian Ocean and 1.5% of the surface of the Earth.

Map showing the last-known movements of flight MH370

However, from 16 March, satellite images of possible debris and tracking data released by the Malaysian authorities appeared to confirm that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean, south west of Australia.

Australian search teams sent long-range surveillance plans and vessels to the area.

On 24 March the Malaysian prime minister announced that following further analysis of satellite data there was no doubt the plane had gone down in this part of the ocean.

This was based on Inmarsat and UK air accident investigators' analysis of the data relayed between the plane and ground station by satellite.

Graphic: Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER

More potential debris was spotted by satellites but on 28 March the main search area was moved 1,100km (684 miles) to the north-east and closer to Australia, following further analysis of the speed of the plane and its maximum range.

Malaysian officials said that the debris could still be consistent with the new search area as ocean currents may have moved floating objects.

On 5-8 April, Australian and Chinese vessels using underwater listening equipment detected ultrasonic signals, which officials believed could be from the plane's "black box" flight recorders. The pings appeared to be the most promising lead so far, and were used to define the area of a sea-floor search, conducted by the Bluefin-21 submersible robot.

But Australian officials announced on 29 May that the search had found nothing and the area where the signals were heard could be ruled out as the final resting place of the plane.

Co-pilot and Squadron Leader Brett McKenzie of the Royal New Zealand Airforce (RNZAF) P-3K2-Orion aircraft, helps to look for objects during the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 Searchers have been combing the Indian Ocean since last year

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities, assisted by international aviation and satellite experts, continue their attempts to piece together the plane's final hours and explain what happened to its 239 passengers and crew.

Australian officials believe the plane was flying on autopilot when it crashed.

On 26 June, officials announced a new 60,000 sq km search area some 1,800 km west of Perth. This phase of the operation started in August with detailed mapping of the sea bed.

Teams searching for wreckage of the plane have used specialist equipment to survey the ocean floor, enabling a metre-by-metre underwater search relying on towed instruments and submersibles.

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Debris discovered

On 29 July 2015, a 2m-long (6ft) piece of plane debris was found by volunteers cleaning a beach in St Andre, on the north-eastern coast of Reunion.

On 5 August, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that investigators had "conclusively confirmed" the debris was from the missing plane.

On 3 September, French officials said they also believed "with certainty" that the flaperon did come from Flight MH370.

However, officials said this did not affect their search plans, as the debris had been carried to Reunion by ocean currents.

In December, Australia's Assistant Minister for Defence, Darren Chester, said a new analysis of data gave them "a high level of confidence that we are searching in the right area".

On 27 February 2016 another piece of debris was found on a sandbank in Mozambique. Malaysia's transport minister said there was a "high possibility" that the 1m-long fragment was from the missing plane.

Australia said its location was consistent with models of where ocean currents would carry debris, but investigators have yet to formally confirm the piece is from MH370.

Debris map
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Who was on board?
Arni Marlina, 36, a family member of a passenger onboard Flight MH370, shows a family picture on her mobile phone, at a hotel in Putrajaya, Malaysia, 9 March Muhammad Razahan Zamani (bottom right), 24, and his wife Norli Akmar Hamid, 33, were on their honeymoon on the missing flight. The phone is being held by his stepsister, Arni Marlina

The 12 crew members were all Malaysian, led by pilots Captain Zaharie Ahmed Shah, 53, and 27-year-old co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid.

Police have searched their homes and a flight simulator has been taken from the captain's home and reassembled for examination at police headquarters.

There were 227 passengers, including 153 Chinese and 38 Malaysians, according to the manifest. Seven were children.

Other passengers came from Iran, the US, Canada, Indonesia, Australia, India, France, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and the Netherlands.

Two Iranian men were found to be travelling on false passports. But further investigation revealed 19-year-old Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad and Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza, 29, were headed for Europe via Beijing, and had no apparent links to terrorist groups.

Among the Chinese nationals was a delegation of 19 prominent artists, who had attended an exhibition in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia Airlines said there were four passengers who checked in for the flight but did not show up at the airport.

The family members of those on board were informed in person, by phone and by text message on 24 March that the plane had been lost.

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