Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing March 8 with 239 people on board. On Tuesday, Malaysian officials announced that new satellite data confirms the flight went down in the south Indian Ocean, but very little else is known about the plane’s mysterious disappearance 17 days ago. Here’s what we do know:
Flight 370 departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport en route to Beijing Capital International Airport at 12:41 a.m. local time on March 8 (9:40 a.m. March 7 PT). Less than an hour later, at 1:21 a.m. local time, we have the last known position of the Boeing 777: about 140 miles southwest of Vietnam’s southernmost province, according to Vietnamese officials. The aircraft was cruising at 35,000 feet.
The last words Malaysian air traffic control heard from the flight were those of the co-pilot at 1:19 a.m.: “All right, good night.”
Malaysia Airlines issued a statement at 7:24 a.m. local time, about an hour after the flight’s 6:30 a.m. scheduled arrival time, stating that contact had been lost with the plane at 2:40 a.m. Officials later revised that time to 1:22 a.m., which was when the plane’s transponder had been turned off and the flight had dropped off civilian radar. It was at the point the flight made a left turn back toward Malaysia, dropping off military radar at 2:40 a.m. in the Straits of Malacca.
The plane’s antenna pinged a satellite several times over the next few hours. with the last signal at 8:11 a.m., around when the plane would have run out of fuel.
There were 239 people aboard Flight 370: 12 crew members and 227 passengers. Of the passengers, 154 are from China or Taiwan and 38 are from Malaysia. Three are U.S. citizens. In all, 15 nationalities are represented by passengers and crew. Four passengers who had paid for tickets didn’t show up for the flight.
Two of the plane’s passengers, Pouri Nourmohammadi, 18, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29, both Iranians, boarded using stolen passports. The men had entered Malaysia on Feb. 28 using legitimate Iranian passports, according to Interpol. Officials think Nourmohammadi was seeking asylum in Germany. Authorities have not linked either man to terrorist groups.
All the crew members are Malaysian citizens. The pilot, 53-year-old Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, has 18,365 flying hours and joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981. The co-pilot, 27-year-old Fariq Ab Hamid, has 2,763 flying hours.
Within a day of the plane’s disappearance, Vietnamese officials reported an oil slick in the water in the general vicinity of the plane’s last noted position. The oil slick seemed to support the theory that the plane had gone down shortly after losing contact with air traffic control, leaking fuel in the water. Lab results showed the oil slick was from a ship, though, and had not been left by the plane.
Multiple false leads have dominated the search efforts, in which dozens of countries are participating. Debris spotted about 50 miles south of Thổ Chu Island on March 9 were determined not to belong to the plane. Also on March 9, Chinese satellite images showed three floating objects in the South China Sea. These were also determined not to be from the plane.
On Thursday, Australian aircraft discovered two objects that could be Flight 370 debris floating about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth. Poor weather conditions have slowed the search for debris, though.
On Sunday morning, France released satellite imagery showing “potential objects” in the same part of the Indian Ocean. On Sunday night, Chinese crews reported seeing a white, square-shaped object in the ocean and sent the coordinates to the Australian command center.
In a press conference at 10 p.m. local time on Monday (7 a.m. PT), Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced new satellite data confirmed the flight’s last known position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, near Perth, and that based on that information officials had concluded Flight 370 had “ended in the southern Indian Ocean.” A press conference was announced for Tuesday to provide more information. As of Monday morning, no one had publicly confirmed that the debris found Sunday was from Flight 370.