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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: The full story explained

What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? Our timeline breaks down all the new developments as they happen — plus a few conspiracy theories.


Photo credit: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

March 8, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (also known as MH370) takes off from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people aboard, scheduled to arrive in Bejing in just under six hours. The plane disappears from Malaysian radar two hours into the flight. The airline keeps the flight’s status as “delayed” long after the flight should have landed.

March 9, 2014

Two passengers are revealed to be traveling on stolen passports. Reports begin that the plane may have tried to turn back toward Kuala Lumpur. Two oil slicks are spotted in the South China Sea, but are later determined to be unrelated to the missing flight.

March 11, 2014

Malaysian authorities reveal several possible scenarios for MH370’s disappearance: terrorism, pilot/crew suicide or a technical issue with the plane.

March 12, 2014

Final verbal transmission from the cockpit is released to the media: “All right, goodnight.” It is unclear if the words were spoken by the pilot, the copilot or another male who may have breached the cockpit.

March 13, 2014

The Chinese government releases satellite images of possible debris, from a suspected crash site in the Gulf of Thailand, which is never found.

Families protest Malaysian handling of MH370 >>

March 15, 2014

Satellite data shows that MH370 flew for at least seven hours after the communications systems were deliberately shut down. Police search the homes of the pilot and the copilot.

March 18, 2014

Reports state that the flight path was altered by hand with a series of turns programmed in before the final crew communication. Australia begins a search of the southern Indian Ocean.

March 20, 2014

Possible debris is spotted approximately 1,400 miles from Perth, Australia. The Aussies send four P-3 Orion surveillance planes and an RAAF helicopter, while New Zealand and the U.S. add power to the search.

March 23, 2014

Chinese satellite imagery reveals more possible debris in the Australian search area.

March 24, 2014

The Malaysian government tells families of the passengers and crew — some via text message — as well as the press that they are sure MH370 crashed into the southern Indian Ocean and all lives were lost, despite no debris being found. Malaysia Airlines announces they are giving families of the victims $5,000 to cover immediate expenses, with more money forthcoming, and will handle all travel to Australia. Outraged families demand more answers and some stage a demonstration outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing. Ten Chinese and six Malaysian ships alone, with three additional helicopters, are expected to arrive in the search area by Tuesday.

March 25, 2014

The search is temporarily suspended due to poor weather conditions.

March 26, 2014

Malaysian officials announce that French satellites have spotted at least 122 pieces of potential debris from MH370 ranging in size from 3 to 72 feet in the southern Indian Ocean, spread over an area of 154 square miles.

March 28, 2014

The search area is moved 680 miles to the northeast of where previous efforts were focused after new calculations and satellite images point to a possible new debris field.

April 2, 2014

Sources tell CNN that an FBI investigation of the deleted files on the pilot’s home flight simulator turned up nothing unusual.

April 4, 2014

With still no sign of the missing plane and all possible debris fields coming up empty, searchers deploy submerged pinger locators before the 30-day battery on the black box runs out. The battery supply runs out on Monday, April 7.

April 8, 2014

Searchers confirm they have picked up several pings consistent with the signals sent out by a flight data recorder — but the signal is getting weaker.

Conspiracy theories

  • The pilot or copilot committed suicide by flying the plane into the ocean. This would not be unprecedented; the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 was deemed pilot suicide by the NTSB. In this case, a key detail of the theory is that the pilot may have depressurized the cabin manually or by flying above the plane’s flight limit to painlessly kill the passengers before crashing into the ocean.
  • Terrorists took over the plane and landed in Indonesia or Pakistan, where they intended to strip the aircraft and either sell parts on the black market or use it for a future terrorist attack.
  • China stole the plane from the sky to get their hands on cloaking technology. Approximately 20 passengers on board worked for Freescale Semiconductor, and some suspect the plane was being used to test this sort of invisibility shield, which would make the plane disappear from radar. In addition, four out of five owners of a valuable Freescale patent were on the missing plane. Did the fifth have something to do with the disappearance?
  • It’s not quite snakes on a plane, but MH370 did have a belly full of lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold. The entire Boeing Dreamliner fleet was grounded for several months in 2013 because of battery issues.

Tell us

What do you think happened to MH370?

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