A Malaysia Airlines flight with 239 people on board vanished on Friday, as it lost contact with air traffic control after taking off from the airport in Kuala Lumpur. The Boeing 777-200 was on its way to Beijing and had passengers on board from China as well as from Europe and North America, including three Americans. After more than 10 hours since the last contact with the aircraft, officials and relatives from passengers are left worried.
Although Malaysia Airlines’ CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya says it is too early to say whether or not the airplane has crashed and the airline previously stated the aircraft is suspected in Nanming in southern China, an oil slick in the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam is the first sign that the aircraft may have crashed. The 12-mile oil slick was discovered by the Vietnamese Navy and is suspected of being of the Malaysia Airline aircraft, but no confirmation has been announced yet. Jauhari Yahya says, “Our team is contacting closest relatives of all people who are on the flight. Our focus is also to work with emergency responders and authorities to mobilize a full report. We pray for all the affected passengers, crew members and their relatives.” Whether or not the oil slick is indeed of the aircraft, is currently being researched by the airline.
The Malaysia Airlines flight has caused authorities of several countries to worry and Malaysia and Vietnam are working together to find the aircraft that vanished with 239 people on board. Search operations are focused on the area of Malaysia and Vietnam, as the aircraft was about to fly into Vietnamese airspace when it lost contact with air traffic control and two maritime rescue ships from China are searching the South China Sea. Surrounding countries are helping to find the aircraft as well. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “We are very worried and we are doing everything we can to get the details. It is disturbing news and we hope everyone is safe.”
According to the airline, the aircraft was piloted by an experienced and loyal employee, 53-year old Zaharie Ahmad Sha, who has worked for Malaysia Airlines since three decades. Ahmad Sha was accompanied by Fariq Ab Hamid, a 27-year old who started flying for Malaysia Airlines in 2007. The two men are Malaysian.
The Boeing 777-200 is considered to be one of the safest aircrafts in the past 20 years. The Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco in July 2013 was the only fatal crash in its history, killing three passengers. Malaysia Airlines has 100 jets in its fleet, 15 of those are Boeing 777-200 jets.
The Boeing 777-200 is a favorite of many airlines, as it can fly long distances and hold a large number of passengers. In addition, the aircraft is large enough to fill up on cargo, making the aircraft extremely profitable for airlines. United Airlines was the first to fly this aircraft in 1995 and Boeing has delivered 1,030 jets since, with another 370 jets on its way. In the meantime, Boeing is working on building a larger version of the aircraft in addition to its current version.
The Malaysia Airlines flight, carrying 239 people on board, vanished two hours after departing Kuala Lumpur airport. Boeing is monitoring the situation but had no comments.
By Diana Herst