AP: ap_dd8a044a729ddf094d0f6a7067009751
A woman cries at the arrival hall of the International Airport in Beijing, China, Saturday, March 8, 2014. Relatives and friends were arriving at Beijing airport for news after a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 was reported missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing Saturday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China-bound Malaysian jet vanishes with 239 aboard

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A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact over the South China Sea early Saturday morning on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and international aviation authorities still haven't located the jetliner.

"It has been more than 24 hours since we last heard from MH370 at 1.30 am. The search and rescue team is yet to determine the whereabouts of the Boeing 777-200 aircraft," said a statement from the airline.

A Malaysia Airlines official says there is still no indication of what happened to flight MH370.

At a news conference in Beijing, the CEO of Malaysia Airlines subsidiary Firefly airlines says the Boeing 777-200 was inspected 10 days ago and was "in proper condition."

Vietnamese air force planes searching for the aircraft have spotted two large oil slicks off the southern tip of Vietnam.

The U.S. Navy has joined other nations in the search for the jetliner. It's dispatched the USS Pinckney, a guided missile destroyer, to the area along with an Orion patrol and surveillance plane.

The Malaysia Air plane lost communication two hours into the flight in Vietnam's airspace at 1:20 a.m. (18:20 GMT Friday), China's state news agency said. The radar signal also was lost, Xinhua reported.

Vietnamese media reported that authorities detected signals from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight off the southwestern coast of Vietnam on Saturday.

Website VN Express said a Vietnamese search and rescue official reported that the signals were detected from about 120 nautical miles (140 miles; 225 kilometers) southwest of Vietnam's southernmost Ca Mau province.

Fuad Sharuji, Malaysian Airlines' vice president of operations control, told CNN that the plane was flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,670 meters) and that the pilots reported no problem with the aircraft. He said that the aircraft's last communication was over the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.

Flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. Saturday (16:41 GMT Friday) and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. Saturday (22:30 GMT Friday), Malaysia Airlines said.

Finding planes that disappear over the ocean can be very difficult. Airliner "black boxes" the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are equipped with "pingers" that emit ultrasonic signals that can be detected underwater.

Under good conditions, the signals can be detected from several hundred miles away, said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. If the boxes are trapped inside the wreckage, the sound may not travel as far, he said. If the boxes are at the bottom of a deep in an underwater trench, that also hinders how far the sound can travel. The signals also weaken over time.

The plane was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said. Passengers were from at least 12 countries, including 152 from China, seven Australians and three Americans.

Questions have arisen regarding a passenger manifest released. Foreign ministry officials in Rome and Vienna confirm that names of two nationals listed on the manifest of the missing Malaysian airlines flight match passports reported stolen in Thailand.

Italy's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that an Italian man whose name was listed as being aboard is traveling in Thailand and was not aboard the plane.

A foreign ministry functionary, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Italian reports that Luigi Maraldi had reported his passport stolen last August.

Italian news agency ANSA says Maraldi called home after hearing reports that an Italian with his name was aboard the plane.

Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss confirmed that a name listed on the manifest matches an Austrian passport reported stolen two years ago in Thailand. Weiss would not confirm the identity.

The airline continues to work with search and rescue teams to locate the aircraft. The route would take the aircraft from Malaysia across to Vietnam and China.

"Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support," Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members," he added.

All countries in the possible flight path of the missing aircraft are performing a "communications and radio search", said John Andrews, deputy chief of the Philippines civil aviation agency.

At Beijing's airport, Zhai Le was waiting for her friends, a couple, who were on their way back to the Chinese capital on the flight. She said she was very concerned because she hadn't been able to reach them.

Airport authorites posted a written notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather to a hotel about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the airport to wait for further information, and provided a shuttle bus service.

Another woman wept aboard the shuttle bus while talking by mobile phone, " They want us to go to the hotel. It cannot be good!"

Malaysia Airlines last fatal incident was in 1995, when one its planes crashed near the Malaysian city of Tawau, killing 34 people.

Malaysia Airlines has 15 Boeing 777-200 jets in its fleet of about 100 planes. The state-owned carrier last month reported its fourth straight quarterly loss.

The 777 had not had a fatal crash in its 20 year history until the Asiana crash in San Francisco in July 2013. All 16 crew members survived, but three of the 291 passengers, all teenage girls from China, were killed.

Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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