Ominous signs in search for missing passenger jet, as oil slick reported

 The search continues for a missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft, which disappeared on Saturday. The flight, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew when it went missing over the South China Sea, is presumed crashed. 

  • Malaysia Airlines was founded on October 12 1937 under the name Malayan Airways Limited. The name was later changed to Malaysian Airlines Limited after Malaysia was formed in 1963.
  • Its main base is Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
  • Boeing aircraft make up the bulk of its commercial fleet, 14 of which are the Boeing 777, with Airbus craft being added for the first time in 2012.
  • The airline has been described by experts as having an excellent safety record and has not had a fatal accident in nearly two decades.
  • Boeing 777s are known for their excellent safety record and have only ever had two major accidents while flying. Its accident rate works out at one per eighteen-million flying hours.
  • The last deadly accident came in 1995 when a Fokker 50 plane crashed, killing 35 people.
  • The most deadly in the airline’s history was in 1977 when 100 people were killed in an apparent hijacking attempt

The Very Latest:

A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew remains missing over the South China Sea, presumed crashed. 

The airline on Saturday morning said teams from Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore had been sent to scour a large area near its last known location. They failed to find evidence of any wreckage.

maa_small Ominous signs in search for missing passenger jet, as oil slick reported

But a 12-mile oil slick reported between Malaysia and Vietnam could prove an early sign that the jet crashed into waters. 

The sea search mission will continue overnight while the air mission will recommence at daylight, Malaysia Airlines said in a statement.


Earlier Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak provided details about the search and rescue mission.

“Fifteen aircraft and nine ships are currently searching for the missing plane. Our priority now is to widen the search area and provide support to relatives of those missing,” he said.

The Boeing 777-200ER flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing had been missing for hours when Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre news quoted Admiral Ngo Van Phat as saying he had asked boats from an island off south Vietnam to rush to a potential crash site.

Malaysia Airlines had yet to confirm that the aircraft had crashed and the Admiral later clarified his remarks, saying he had been referring to the presumed crash site.

A crash, if confirmed, would mark the U.S.-built Boeing 777-200ER airliner’s deadliest incident since entering service 19 years ago.

Malaysia’s flag carrier said flight MH370 disappeared, without giving a distress signal, at 2:40 am local time on Saturday, about two hours after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

It had been due to arrive in Beijing at 6:30 am local time on Saturday.

The flight was carrying 153 people from China or Taiwan including one infant, 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, five Indians and six Australians among the 227 passengers, the airline said on Saturday.

There were also three U.S. citizens including an infant, two passengers who traveled with stolen passports from Italy and Austria, four from France, two passengers each from New Zealand, Ukraine, and Canada. There were also two infants and twelve crew members on the flight.

“We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370 which departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am earlier this morning bound for Beijing,” Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, Malaysia Airlines group chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The airline’s Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route passes roughly over the Indochinese peninsula.The statement said the carrier was working with authorities, who had launched an effort to locate the aircraft.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Beijing Airport, where the plane had been due to land, said there had been little information from the authorities.

“It seems the airline and the authorities are as much in the dark as everyone else,” he said. “We are getting reports from all sides that [the different aviation authorities] are collaborating as much as possible on the search.”

Ross Aimer, a former pilot with United Airlines, told Al Jazeera it was highly unusual that air traffic control would lose contact with an aircraft without communication from the crew.

“The fact that there was absolutely no distress signal is very disturbing. This is almost unprecedented that we lose an aircraft in such a way … In that area of the world, over Vietnam, there is sporadic radar coverage to begin with,” he said.

He said the Chinese authorities would have communicated something to the outside world if it was a hijacking case. A report by China’s Xinhua news agency said contact was lost with the plane while it was near Vietnamese airspace.

Malaysia Airways said the situation in Beijing is being monitored closely. It deployed a team of caregivers and volunteers to assist the family members of the passengers in China. “Our sole priority now is to provide all assistance to the families of the passengers and our staff,” according to a company statement.

“Immediate families of passengers are advised to gather at Kuala Lumpur. Travel arrangements and expenses will be borne by Malaysia Airlines. Once the whereabouts of the aircraft (are) determined, Malaysia Airlines will fly members of the family to the location.”