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Here's everything we know about missing flight MH370

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It’s been almost three years since the disappearance of flight MH370 - complete with 227 passengers and 12 crew - and this morning it was announced that the search for the missing plane was to be suspended.

In a joint statement released by the ministers of transport for Australia, China & Malaysia they said: “Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modelling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft.

“Accordingly, the underwater search for MH370 has been suspended.”

In response to the statement, the victims’ families (under the banner of ‘Voice370’) said that they are: “dismayed to note the latest joint communique announcing the suspension of the underwater search.”

Voice370

Ghislain Watrello's wife and two of his three children were onboard flight 370. Credit: Rex Images

It’s been a long and exhausting search, to say the least, ever since the plane went missing on back on 8 March 2014,.

But after everything we have heard over the last 3 years, what exactly do we know?

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Flight MH370 took off on 8 March 2014 at 00:41 (16:41 GMT, 7 March), leaving Kuala Lumpur and heading to Beijing, due to arrive at 06:30 (22:30 GMT) with 239 people on board.

The following timeline, according to the BBC, is what occurred during the flight:

8 March 2014, 00:41 (16:41 GMT, 7 March): Flight MH370 departs for Beijing, ETA: 06:30 (22:30 GMT)

01:07: The last ACARS transmission, a signal which allows in-flight planes to communicate with on-ground computers. This was silenced as the expected 01:37 transmission was not sent.

01:19: This was the last communication between MH370 and Malaysian air traffic control. Initial reports claimed that the last words heard from the flight were “All right, good night” but this was later revealed by Malaysian authorities to be: “Good night Malaysian three seven zero”.

It was only a couple of minutes after this when the plane’s communication with ground radars was shut down when the flight entered Vietnamese airspace over the South China Sea.

01:21: Vietnam‘s Civil Aviation Authority reported that flight MH370 failed to check in as expected with air traffic control in Ho Chi Min City.

02:15: A Malaysian military radar plotted MH370 just south of Phuket Island, Thailand – west of its last known location. This was confirmed by Thai military radar logs which confirmed the plane turned west and headed over the Andaman Sea.

02:28: An automatic signal was picked up by a satellite as the flight was above the Indian Ocean, where several “handshakes” were exchanged between the aircraft and a ground station.

08:11: This was when the last handshake occurred and suggested that flight MH370 was either in a flight corridor between Thailand and Kazakhstan or between Indonesia and the Southern Indian Ocean. This information was not disclosed until a week after the plane’s disappearance.

08:19: It is possible that another handshake occurred here between the plane and a ground station. This request was from the aircraft, to log on. Reports suggest that this may have occurred if the plane suffered a power outage and the electrical equipment was beginning to restart.

09:15: The plane should have made contact with the ground here, but no signal was received.

MH370 search operations

Search operations for Flight MH370. Credit: Rex Images

A week after the flight’s last communication with a satellite was disclosed, a search area was expanded to take in around 3,000,000 square miles (from Kazakhstan to the remote southern Indian Ocean), roughly 1.5% of the surface of the earth.

On 15 March 2014, Najib Razak (Malaysia’s PM) suggested that the jet was deliberately diverted by someone on board about an hour after take-off. From 16 March, satellite images of possible debris and tracking data released by the Malaysian authorities suggested that the plane had crashed in the Indian Ocean, south west of Australia.

On 24 March, the Malaysian PM announced that there was no doubt the plane had gone down in this part of the ocean, following the analysis of data relayed between the plane and ground station via satellite by Inmarsat and UK accident investigations.

At this point, potential debris was spotted by satellites but the main search was moved 1100km to the north-east and closer to Australia.

Over the days that followed, (5-8 April), Australian and Chinese vessels, using underwater listening equipment, detected ultrasonic signals and believed them to be from flight MH370’s black box. It was the most promising lead at this point and led the search parties to focus their efforts at specific areas along the sea-floor.

Flight MH370 Debris

Debris found on Reunion Island from Flight MH370. Credit: Rex Images

On 29 May, Australian officials discarded the signals as a lead and said that it could be ruled out as the final resting place of the plane.

Following this, on June 26, a new 60,000 sq. km search area was announced 1800km west of Perth.

No notable debris was found until 29 July 2015 when a section of wing appeared on Reunion island, more than 2300 miles away from the main search site.

The debris was confirmed to be the flaperon of MH370 after it was identified by ADS-SAU in Spain (Airbus Defense and Space).

In December 2015, the area surrounding Australia was redefined to a priority search area and was expected to conclude by mid-2016.

It wasn’t until 27 February 2016, that a second piece of debris appeared in Mozambique – with a “high possibility” of it being from flight MH370 according to Malaysia’s transport minister.

Up until now, the search for the missing flight had continued, with the statement from the joint transport ministers adding: “We remain hopeful that new information will come to light and that at some point in the future, the aircraft will be located.”

Theories as to how it happened range from the flight being shot down during a joint military exercise between the United States and Thailand in the South China Sea – first mooted brought in Nigel Cawthorne’s book Flight MH370: The Mystery – to a hijacking by rogue terrorists who plan to use the plane at a later date, but now it would appear the actual answer looks further away than ever.

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