Timeline: The hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Malaysian PM: Data concludes flight ended in Indian Ocean


For more than two weeks, the world has watched and speculated as the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has played out. The search has been marred by surprising technological limitations, finger-pointing between nations over information-sharing and an ever-expanding search field.

On Monday, a Malaysian official said investigators are now convinced the plane went down in the Indian Ocean. But even that determination leaves open many more troubling questions about Flight 370. Was it hijacked, and if so, by whom? Will the wreckage, and the remains of 239 people aboard the plane, ever be found? And will a "black box," or flight data recorder, ever be recovered to help shed light on what caused the Boeing 777 to leave its flight path and, apparently head for one of the most remote regions on the planet?

Here is a timeline of events regarding Malaysian Airline Flight 370:

• The Beijing-bound flight departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 a.m. local time on March 8, with a planned arrival approximately six hours later. Aboard the Boeing 777 were 227 passengers and 12 crew members.

• After reaching cruising altitude and speed, both the plane’s transponder signal and all communication from the cockpit suddenly ceased somewhere above the Gulf of Thailand. The last words to Malaysian air traffic controllers, at 01:19 a.m., were co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid saying "All right, good night."

• When the plane never reached its destination, a multi-national search and rescue effort began in the Gulf and the adjacent South China Sea. Authorities began their search below the plane’s last known position.

• On March 11, after a determination had been made the plane made a sharp turn and apparently flew back over the Malaysian Peninsula, the search was extended to the Strait of Malacca, off the nation’s western coast. A day later, the search was expanded again, to the Andaman Sea, northwest of the Strait of Malacca and then to the Indian Ocean.

• As the world waited for news on the jet’s mysterious disappearance, several theories began to emerge, some plausible, others far-fetched. But investigators were cited in several reports saying it appeared that someone in the cockpit had deliberately disabled communications systems, leading to the likely conclusion of foul play. Suspicion centered on pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, a veteran pilot with decades of experience, and Hamid, his co-pilot. Suspicion also fell on two Iranians believed to have boarded using stolen passports.

• When word came that despite the cockpit communications shutoff, the plane’s Rolls-Royce engines had continued to send off signals, indications were that the plane had flown on for as many as seven hours. The revelation expanded the potential search exponentially.

• By March 18, more than two-dozen countries were helping search an area of the Indian Ocean described as one of the remotest regions in the world, though authorities had not discounted the possibility the plane had flown north, possibly going down somewhere between northern Thailand and Kazakhstan.

• On March 20, a series of satellite images showed what may prove to have been aircraft debris in the southern Indian Ocean southwest of Australia, focusing the search effort some 2,000 miles southwest of the Australian city of Perth.

• As the search intensified in an area so far from land that ships’ search times were limited by fuel supplies, more debris was spotted. Although authorities have yet to positively identify any debris from the plane, on Monday, a Malaysian official said new analysis of satellite images appears to show conclusively that the plane went down in the Indian Ocean.