On March 8 Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur at 00:41 local time with 239 people on board, it was scheduled to land in Beijing at 06:30. The Boeing 777-200ER climbed to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet and at 01:19 one of the aircraft’s pilots responded to a send-off by Kuala Lumpur air traffic control with “Good night Malaysian Three Seven Zero”. At 01:20, the plane vanished from radar screens.
Airplanes, ships and underwater drones searched more than 5 million square kilometres of sea for months and found nothing. No trace of the plane has been recovered. MH370 carrying 227 passengers and 12 crewmembers appeared to have just disappeared, it is the biggest mystery in modern aviation history.
Now six months on the families of those on board are still praying for answers, some still hoping their friends and relatives may one day return home safely.
Puzzling reports and questionable government statements from Malaysia have made the mystery even more agonising for relatives. There are signs that the disappearance could have been a deliberate act, communication systems appear to have been shut down and according to radar data, the flight took an unexpected diversion from its flight path, changed altitude, turned west, then headed south.
Investigators are keen to find the aircraft’s “black box” flight recorders as they could help explain what happened on board. Satellite and radar data suggests MH370 ended its journey in the Indian Ocean.
Teams are currently preparing to begin a new deep-sea search at the end of the month. This new search effort will be focussed on a 60,000 square kilometre area, 1,100 miles off the coast of the Australian city of Perth. It follows months of specialist teams mapping the sea bed and is expected to take 12 months to complete.
Since MH370 went missing Malaysia Airlines faced a second tragedy when MH17, another Boeing 777-200ER, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down on July 17, killing all 298 on board. The plane lost contact while flying over Ukraine and US intelligence has suggested that Russian separatists shot the aircraft down using a Buk surface-to-air missile. The Russians denied involvement and blamed the Ukrainian government. Investigations are still ongoing.
The airline has suffered heavy financial losses and in late August they reported a loss $97.4 million in the second quarter. Cut backs have led to 6,000 people at the airline losing their jobs.