This Day in Aviation History: Malaysian Flight 370

Good afternoon fellow ECAHF’ers.  We should all celebrate another successful Gala event and the hard work put in by our Tourist and Event Center team led by Pam Holder and Dianna Vaccarella and MC’d by Tom Braaten.

It’s a mystery to me, the level of volunteerism and giving of one’s time that so many offer to each other in America.  It’s really a wonderful thing to witness.  We’re the most giving, volunteering people in the world.  Thank God for that.

But other mysteries are not quite as wonderful.  There are many aviation mysteries to ponder, Amelia Earhart’s disappearance being one of our biggest.

But another mystery is Malaysia Flight 370, 20 years ago today.

According to, 20 years ago today, “On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, lost contact with air traffic control less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, then veered off course and disappeared.

“The plane departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive in Beijing Capital International Airport at 6:30 a.m. local time. However, at 1:07 a.m., the aircraft’s last automated position report was sent, and at 1:19 a.m. what turned out to be the final voice transmission from the cockpit of the doomed jetliner was relayed to air traffic controllers: “Good night, Malaysian three seven zero,” a message that suggested nothing out of the ordinary. About an hour after Flight 370 was scheduled to land in Beijing, Malaysia Airlines announced it was missing. Prior to the aircraft’s mysterious disappearance, it had been flying seemingly without incident. There were no distress signals from the plane or reports of bad weather or technical problems.

“The ensuing search for Flight 370 initially was centered on the Gulf of Thailand, where the plane was traveling when radar contact was lost. Investigators looked into the possibility of terrorist involvement in the plane’s disappearance after it was discovered that two passengers had been using stolen passports; however, this theory, at least in relation to the two men, soon was determined to be unlikely. (The people onboard Flight 370 represented 15 nations, with more than half the passengers from China and three from the United States) Then, on March 15, investigators said that satellite transmissions indicated Flight 370 had turned sharply off its assigned course and flown west over the Indian Ocean, operating on its own for five hours or more. On March 24, Malaysia’s prime minister announced the flight was presumed lost somewhere in the Indian Ocean, with no survivors. As the search for the aircraft continued, with more than two dozen nations, including the United States, participating in the effort, the mystery of how a commercial jetliner could vanish without a trace received global media attention.

“In June 2014, Australian officials involved in the investigation said radar records suggested Flight 370 likely was flying on autopilot for hours before it ran out of fuel and crashed into the southern Indian Ocean. The officials did not publicly speculate about who put the plane on autopilot after it veered off course or why, although they did indicate it was possible the crew and passengers had become unresponsive due to hypoxia, or oxygen loss, sometime before the plane crashed. No explanation for what might have caused the oxygen deprivation was provided by the officials.

“Meanwhile, other authorities suggested one of the pilots of Flight 370 could have deliberately flown the aircraft into the Indian Ocean on a suicide mission, although there was no conclusive evidence to support this theory.

“Throughout 2015 and 2016, debris from the aircraft washed ashore on the western Indian Ocean, but the fate of Flight 370 remains a mystery.

Grace Subathirai Nathan (2nd, from left), daughter of passenger Anne Daisy, shows Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke (far left) pieces of debris found in Madagascar, believed to be from flight MH370. Adli Ghazali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“On July 17, 2014, four months after Flight 370 vanished, tragedy struck again for Malaysia Airlines, when one of its planes was shot down over eastern Ukraine near the Russian border. All 298 people aboard the aircraft, also a Boeing 777, perished. European and American officials believe Flight 17, which took off from Amsterdam and was enroute to Kuala Lumpur, was downed by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired from territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists battling the Ukrainian government. The rebel leaders and President Vladimir Putin of Russia denied any responsibility for the incident.”

The following recap of the mystery is from Reuters:


“The last transmission from the Malaysia Airlines plane was about 40 minutes after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

“Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah signed off with ‘Good night, Malaysian three seven zero’, as the plane entered Vietnamese air space.

“Shortly thereafter, its transponder was turned off, which meant it could not be easily tracked.

“Military radar showed the plane left its flight path to fly back over northern Malaysia and Penang Island, and then out into the Andaman Sea towards the tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It then turned south and all contact was lost.


“Malaysia, Australia and China launched an underwater search in a 46,332 square miles area in the southern Indian Ocean, based on data of automatic connections between an Inmarsat satellite and the plane.

“The search, which cost about $143 million, was called off after two years in January 2017 with no traces of the plane found.

“In 2018, Malaysia accepted a ‘no-cure, no-fee’ offer from U.S. exploration firm Ocean Infinity for a three-month search, meaning the company would only get paid if it found the plane.

“That search covered 43,243 square miles north of the original target area and also proved fruitless, ending in May 2018.


“More than 30 pieces of suspected aircraft debris have been collected along the along the coast of Africa and on islands in the Indian Ocean, but only three wing fragments were confirmed to be from MH370.

“Most of the debris were used in drift pattern analysis in the hopes of narrowing down the aircraft's possible location.


“A 495-page report into MH370's disappearance, published in July 2018, said the Boeing 777's controls were likely deliberately manipulated to take it off course, but investigators could not determine who was responsible.

“The report also highlighted mistakes made by the Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control centers and issued recommendations to avoid a repeat incident.

“Investigators stopped short of offering any conclusions about what happened to MH370, saying that depended on finding the plane's wreckage.


“The inability to locate MH370's crash site has fueled numerous conspiracy theories, ranging from mechanical error or a remote-controlled crash, to more bizarre explanations like alien abduction and a Russian plot.

“In recent years, some aviation experts have said the most likely explanation was that the plane was deliberately taken off course by an experienced pilot. Investigators, however, have said there was nothing suspicious in the background, financial affairs, training and mental health of both the captain and co-pilot.


“Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said this week the government is willing to re-open an investigation into the disappearance of MH370, if there was a compelling case to do so.

“Transport Minister Anthony Loke said U.S. seabed exploration firm Ocean Infinity had been invited to discuss a new search proposal. Loke said Malaysia would talk to Australia about cooperation in resuming the search once Ocean Infinity's proposal is approved by Malaysia's cabinet. “  (Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Barry Fetzer

ECAHF Historian