Flight MH370: infographics on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane

19 March 2014
By Jonathan Wilson
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Despite fading hopes, prayers for the missing jet and its passengers keep pouring from across the world

Despite fading hopes, prayers for the missing jet and its passengers keep pouring from across the world

Here we present a series of infographics about the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines plane, flight MH370.

These infographics have been posted in a chronological order, so that they document the story of the search and rescue mission as it unfolded over the weeks immediately following the plane's disappearance. 

Further infographics will be added to the page, as new information comes to light. Click on any of the images to view the full-size infographic.

E&T news has been covering specific angles on the story of flight MH370: 

Satellites to shed light on missing jet mystery (March 11 2014)

Fire or cabin pressure loss likeliest explanations of MH370 mystery (March 19 2014)

Unprecedented data analysis ends MH370 hopes (March 24 2014)

Flight MH370's emergency beacon mystery examined (March 24 2014)

Unmanned submarine to join hunt for MH370 wreckage (March 25 2014)

Flight MH370: satellite images reveal field of debris (March 26 2014)

Flight MH370: China not satisfied with Malaysia's official statement (March 26 2014)

Flight MH370: Space-eyes on the ocean in hunt for debris (March 27 2014)

New radar analysis shifts flight MH370 search area (March 28 2014)


Flight MH370 infographics

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 – possible causes for its disappearance

The disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER well into its flight on Friday 7 March somewhere over the South China Sea has led aviation experts to assume that whatever happened was quick and left the pilots no time to place a distress call.

The search has been widening daily in attempts to locate the missing plane.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 – the search and rescue mission widens

The search and rescue operation continues for flight MH370, with Malaysian aviation authorities widening their hunt for the missing jet.

The search area has been expanded from 50 nautical miles from where the plane is believed to have disappeared – somewhere over water between Malaysia and Vietnam – to 100 nautical miles. At least 40 ships and 34 aircraft are taking part in the search, with teams from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, New Zealand and the USA.

The latest intelligence from the Malaysian aviation authorities, based on military radar data, is that flight MH370 turned west, away from its planned route, immediately before vanishing.

The search is being conducted on both sides of the Malay Peninsula.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


E&T news reported how Chinese satellites are to be used to shed light on the missing jet mystery. A fleet of Chinese military satellites will assist the efforts to locate the Malaysian aircraft that disappeared without a trace on Friday in the South China Sea. The satellites will be used to capture high-resolution images of the area of the presumed crash, which experts will analyse in search for any hints about what happened to the MH370 flight from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people aboard.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 – black box recorders crucial to understanding final moments

With still no sign of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the authorities’ understanding of exactly what happened in the final moments before the plane’s disappearance ultimately rests on recovery of the black box data recorders on board.

Commercial aircraft carry two black boxes. While they do nothing to help the plane in flight, they are vitally important to accident investigators in the aftermath of a plane crash. Our infographic today shows the detail inside and outside of the Honeywell ED-55 Flight Data Recording System, which was installed on flight MH370.

As the graphic shows, the boxes are designed to withstand an extreme impact and will send out a location signal for weeks after a crash.

A compelling example of the kind of information black box recorders can provide, months and even years after a plane crash, is detailed in this Popular Mechanics article. It relates to Air France flight 447, the sudden disappearance of which in 2009 has uncomfortable parallels with flight MH370.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia airlines flight MH370 – plane may have flown extra four hours and 4,000km

In the continued absence of any hard, physical evidence as to what happened to Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, the latest speculation from US security officials is that the plane may have flown on for four hours after its last known contact.

This supposition is based on data automatically transmitted from the plane’s engines as part of the ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) programme, which monitors and transmits data including performance, location, altitude and air speed every 30 minutes. If ACARS transmissions continued as claimed, the plane could have flown up to 4,000km.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia airlines flight MH370 – one-tenth of the planet now being searched

Almost unbelievably, the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 now extends to covering one-tenth of the planet’s surface.

Taking in two vast air corridors, crossing Thailand, Laos and Kazakhstan to the north and from Indonesia way out in to the Indian Ocean to the south, 26 countries are now involved in the search. Australia leads the search in the southern areas.

Given that the plane could possibly have disappeared anywhere along either of the red lines indicated in the infographic below, we can appreciate the scale of the task in locating one small plane across such a vast expanse of the planet.

To compound the problem, of course, it is still entirely possible that the plane isn’t located anywhere along these air corridors.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia airlines flight MH370 – debris found at sea

The first credible lead has surfaced in solving the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Australian investigators spotted what could possibly be plane debris floating in the southern Indian Ocean, 2,500km south-west of Perth.

An international task force of aircraft and ships has been sent to the area to determine if the objects spotted by satellite are in fact debris from flight MH370. The satellites spotted two objects on the ocean surface, one of which is approximately 24 metres long.

Large pieces of debris are often found floating in the world's oceans. However, this discovery is being considered the first sighting of potential wreckage from the missing plane. The area now under scrutiny is close to 10,000km south, and in the opposite direction, of the original flight path's intended final destination, Beijing.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – US Navy sub-hunting Poseidon plane searches for debris

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane flight MH370 continues, with attention currently focussed on the debris spotted floating in the southern Indian Ocean. In light of this discovery, the US Navy has deployed its newest patrol aircraft – the P-8A Poseidon – in order to use its high-tech sub-hunting equipment to search below the surface of the ocean.

The Poseidon is a surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, which can drop sonobuoys in to the sea in order to listen for pingbacks coming from the missing plane’s black boxes.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 - US Navy pinger hunts for black boxes

Tecnological conjecture, floating debris, rumour, conspiracy theory - until the mysterious whereabouts of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are determined, all bets are off and all opinion is valid.

The latest development in the search and rescue mission is the US Navy deploying a "towed pinger locator", shipped to Australia to begin trawling the ocean where the floating debris was spotted last week.

This state-of-the-art pinger locator device is being used as a black box finder, capable of picking up a signal from a submerged black box pinger down to a depth of 6,000 metres.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – what we know so far

With the focus of the flight MH370 search mission now centred around the floating debris in the southern Indian Ocean, a consensus of opinion about the events leading up to the plane's mysterious disappaerance is coalescing around known facts.

The plane took off. Its transponder was disabled. Military radars show the aircraft turning sharply to the west, then north. Satellite data indicates the plane was still flying seven hours after losing contact with air traffic control. No response was received at the next scheduled contact time.

The big question begged by all these facts is: why? We are still waiting to learn exactly what happened.

New satellite images have revealed more than 100 objects in the southern Indian Ocean that could be debris from the missing plane. However, for the second day running, the search has been called off due to bad weather over the ocean area under scrutiny.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – black box pinger locator begins its search

With the search continuing for missing Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH370, locating the plane’s black boxes are the focus for investigators.

To that end, a Towed Pinger Locator and a Bluefin-21 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle have arrived in Perth to assist with the location and recovery of the black boxes. This equipment will be fitted to the Australian naval ship, the Ocean Shield, as she covers the current search area.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – black box pings grow fainter

With signals from the black boxes from Flight MH370 expected to degrade soon, the hunt for the plane could ultimately involve an exhaustive search of a vast area of unmapped ocean floor. This process could take years.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – unmanned sub on the hunt for black boxes

The unmanned Bluefin-21 submarine deployed to search for wreckage of the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner on the sea floor, after acoustic signals consistent with an aircraft black box narrowed down the likely search area last week, has been forced to resurface.

A technical glitch has halted operations, with the autonomous submarine already in its second mission.

The Bluefin-21, currently the only tool available to the search teams to move forward with the investigation after the black box batteries ran out more than 30 days after the suspected crash, resurfaced early on Wednesday due to unspecified technical problems.

Sonar data downloaded from the system hadn’t shown any promising findings and the drone was sent into the depths of the southern Indian Ocean again. On Tuesday, the Bluefin-21’s quest reached its depth limit of 4.5km, prompting it to return to the surface after only six hours of scanning the seabed.

E&T News covered this Bluefin-21 story in more detail.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – black box signals picked up to narrow search area

An Australian ship searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner has picked up two signals consistent with the pings from aircraft black box recorders, in the most promising lead yet in the month-long hunt.

Infographic about the missing plane, flight MH370


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – mysterious underwater sound could be linked to missing plane – an annotated infographic

While it has been deemed unlikely that the deep-sea pings picked up by search teams in April originated from the black boxes of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, a new sound has now piqued the curiosity of Australian researchers.


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – new priority search area in Indian Ocean – an annotated infographic

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 most likely flew on autopilot for several hours before a crash landing, with the crew incapacitated probably due to hypoxia, an investigation report has revealed.

The report coincides with an announcement by the Australian authorities that a new priority search area of 60,000 sq. km in the Indian Ocean will be the focus over the next 12 months. This is in addition to a wider search area encompassing what is known as the 7th Arc, from where the final electronic “handshake” was received.


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – search site reveals underwater volcanoes, deep trenches – an annotated infographic

As if the search teams hunting for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 didn’t have enough problems already, an analysis of the area of current focus has revealed a forbidding seabed terrain of previously unmapped deep-sea trenches, mountains and extinct volcanoes.

The dramatic terrain has naturally compounded the difficulties of the search team in locating any trace of the plane.


Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – undersea search area moves on – an annotated infographic

The near-impossible search for the wreckage of flight MH370 valiantly continues in the Indian Ocean, as the search area is moved to a new location.

Now three ships will use “towfish” – underwater vessels equipped with Synthetic Aperture Sonar that creates high-resolution images of the ocean floor – in the search for any sign of the missing plane.

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