MH370 Timeline - Background

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Flight MH370 Timeline - Background

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Saturday, 8 March 2014 and was expected to land in Beijing but instead the aircraft diverted from the Flight Plan and, for reasons unknown, the flight is believed to have ended in the South Indian Ocean.
This Timeline is series of articles which present a sequence of the known events for Flight MH370 but it is not a narrative. Instead, the sequence of events, referenced to the data from which the information has been obtained, is a resource on which a valid narrative can be based.

Flight MH370 - Background

Introducing Flight MH370

The tragedy of flight MH370 has many levels. The human tragedy involves the loss of 239 lives, passengers and crew. The effect on family, next-of-kin, friends, work colleagues and so many people who have been involved in the search, or investigation, or reporting of the events is not easily described. Emotions range from unresolved grief and loss, anger or bewilderment, to an obsession to find the truth about what actually happened.

The resources listed on the page Recommended Reading may be helpful. But something that has become noticeable whilst creating this Timeline is just how much information is incorrect. The pattern of communication by Malaysian officials seems to have been to say nothing, then deny a report made by a journalist or unidentified source, and subsequently confirm the statement when there was no other option. The lack of clarification early in the saga created an information vacuum which was filled with wild theories, speculation and, it must be said - deliberate misinformation.

Another contentious subject is whether Captain Zaharie Shah deliberately diverted the flight and directed it to the remoteness of the south Indian Ocean as an act of suicide. There are many voices - journalists, editors, TV hosts, investigators, even pilots, who hold this belief to be true and find proof in various items of evidence, from Captain Shah's flight simulator to recovered debris. However, the most recent official report, the Safety Investigation Report MH370/01/2018 did not dismiss the possibility of 'third party intervention'. This possibility is covered in an article Hostile takeover or suicide mission?

Many questions about flight MH370 may remain unanswered. There are no simple answers, no known cause, no perfect theory, no-one to blame (yet) and, to date, no wreckage has been located. Some debris has been found and identified as belonging to the aircraft 9M-MRO, but that's all we have. Instead of tangible proofs we have complex mathematics - see the Timeline article for the Turn South for an example - and the language of probability. To many people a word like 'probable' simply means 'possibly'. There is no certainty. It is difficult for people to resolve grief or find closure until or unless there is something tangible, definite, proven.

A fundamental tool in any investigation is a sequence of events. The Timeline developed here can be used as a baseline, something to compare and evaluate other information with to determine what is true and accurate. Many books, for example, were written before the release of the Factual Information in 2015 and consequently may contain conjecture instead of facts. Other books ignore the satellite communications data, perhaps because it is difficult to comprehend, and consequently may have an unbalanced perspective. Using the data within, or linked from, the Timeline will hopefully clarify the picture, assist understanding, and perhaps even answer some questions.

Introduction to the Timeline

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 0042 MYT on Saturday, 8 March 2014. For the purposes of a Timeline the flight has been divided into five segments.

  • Each segment contains a chronological sequence of events.
  • Malaysian Time (MYT) is used for events
  • Each event item includes a link to an Event Details page which contains the source of the information and supplementary information in the form of Notes or links to relevant documents.
  • The content in an Event Details page may also include links to Reference pages.
  • The text in any page may be faintly underlined. This indicates that some contextual help is available, called a Tooltip. Placing a mouse pointer or cursor over the underlined text will reveal an explanation of the text, acronym or abbreviation.
  • Many events are colour-coded.

MH370 Flight Crew and 'Pilot Flying'

For flight MH370 on Saturday, 8 March 2014 Malaysia Airlines selected one of their most experienced pilots, Captain Zaharie Shah to supervise and examine one of their youngest but very competent pilots, First Officer Fariq Hamid. Fariq had completed all the necessary training as a Boeing 777 pilot and this would be his first time flying as First Officer without a third, fully qualified pilot present.

Captain Shah was the Pilot-in-Command, or PIC. He was also a trainer and an examiner. Captain Shah confirmed that the First Officer would be the pilot flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

To comply with Malaysia Airlines standard procedures, Captain Shah would maneuver the aircraft on the ground. From push-back and start and taxiing to the runway, Captain Shah was the 'pilot flying', (even though the aircraft was still on the ground) and Fariq was the 'pilot not flying'.

At the runway, the roles would reverse. Captain Shah would clearly state 'You have the flight controls' and Fariq would confirm 'I have the flight controls'. This is a standard procedure called 'Positive Exchange of Flight Controls'. As a third step, Captain Shah would repeat 'You have the flight controls'. The First Officer would then be the 'Pilot Flying'. From take-off the Pilot-in-Command was the 'Pilot Not Flying'.

The 'pilot not flying' has many responsibilities, so is kept busy, and is usually the person communicating with air traffic controllers. That is why in the radio communications before take-off the speaker is the First Officer, and after take-off the speaker is Captain Shah.

Something unusual happened near waypoint IGARI, and we do not know who was the Pilot Flying from that time onwards.

Comments and Notes

In civil aviation the cockpit is called the flight deck. Here are some other terms:-

  • the co-pilot (a military term) is called the First Officer
  • the word Captain is actually a rank or title
  • the senior pilot is usually the Pilot-in-Command, with overall responsibility for the safety of the aircraft and its' occupants
  • as demonstrated by the roles on MH370, the Pilot-in-Command may not be the Pilot Flying
  • the Pilot-in-Command and the First Officer on MH370 are referred to as the Flight Crew
  • the flight attendants are collectively called the Cabin Crew

Some Codes and Abbreviations for flight MH370
  1. Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
    • MH - MH is the IATA code for Malaysia Airlines.
    • MH370 - The IATA code for a Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. (The return flight was MH371).
    • Malaysian 370 - Air traffic controllers used the term Malaysian 370 instead of MH370.
    • MAS 370 - Malaysia Airlines was known as Malaysia Airline Systems or MAS. The transcripts of ground to air radio communications between air traffic controllers and the aircraft identify MH370 as MAS 370.
    • Flight 370 - An unofficial term meaning Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

  2. China Southern Airlines flight CZ748

    Many of the passengers travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had purchased tickets through China Southern Airlines for flight CZ748. The two airlines were 'code share partners'. CZ is the IATA code for China Southern Airlines.

  3. Airport Codes
    • KLIA - An abbreviation for Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
    • KUL - The three-letter airport code for Kuala Lumpur International Airport, allocated by the International Air Transport Association, and used on passenger documentation.
    • PEK - The three-letter airport code for Beijing Capital International Airport, allocated by the International Air Transport Association, and used on passenger documentation. Beijing was formerly known as Peking.
    • KULPEK - From Kuala Lumpur to Beijing (Peking)
    • WMKK - The four-letter code for Kuala Lumpur International Airport, allocated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and used by air traffic controllers.
    • ZBAA - The four-letter code for Beijing Capital International Airport, allocated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and used by air traffic controllers.
    • WMKKZBAA - From Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

  4. The Aircraft: a Boeing 777-200ER
    • 777-200 - There are several variants of the Boeing 777 series aircraft.Boeing 777-200 is a passenger aircraft.
    • 777-200ER - ER means 'Extended Range'.
    • B777 - An abbreviation for any Boeing 777 aircraft but used, for example, in ACARS messages for MH370 sent to the B777 Cockpit Printer.
    • B772 - An ICAO abbreviation for a Boeing 777-200 series aircraft.
    • 9M-MRO - The Boeing 777-200ER operated by Malaysia Airlines and used for flight MH370 was registered in Malaysia (code 9M) with a unique registration number 9M-MRO.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) allocates codes to identify airlines, flights and airports. IATA codes are generally used on passenger documents.

Codes allocated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) are generally used by air traffic control and airline companies' internal documentation.

Glossary and Tooltips

To assist with understanding the terminology and abbreviations used in this website, a Glossary has been produced from official documents and reliable sources.

Each item in the Glossary has also been created as a Tooltip. Wherever those terms appear in the text of an article the existence of the Tooltip is identified by text which is faint underlined, and the additional information will be presented to the viewer if the mouse pointer or cursor is placed over the underlined text. For example, the Safety Investigation Report is usually underlined which indicates that further information is available in a Tooltip.
Some Tooltips also include a link to an article with more detail.

The article Decoding MH370 provides more explanation.