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Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 missing and apparently down over Vietnam

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A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-2H6-ER, tail number 9M-MRO, operating as Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China on Saturday, March 8, 2014 is missing and has apparently crashed while near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam or over the South China Sea, as reported on this date by the National Post, AsiaOne, The Sydney Morning Herald, and other media sources.

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Air traffic controllers in both Vietnam and Malaysia lost radio contact and radar tracking of the aircraft at 2:40 a.m. local time, just over two hours after the plane had taken off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) at 12:35 a.m. on a scheduled 6-hour non-stop night flight to Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), a distance of 2,300 air miles or 3,700 kilometers.

There were conflicting reports of emergency locator signals coming from a potential crash area. These initial reports have been denied. No distress message from the flight crew was sent before the plane vanished.

The wide body twin-engine jet was carrying 227 passengers, including 2 infants, and 12 crew members. Two of the passengers were Canadian citizens and 3 were from the United States. In total, they represented 14 nations, including 7 from Australia, 2 from New Zealand, 152 from China, 38 Malaysians, and 12 from Indonesia.

Malaysia Airlines Group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya issued the following statement, saying in part, "We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370. Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft. Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support. Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members."

The captain of the plane was 53-years-old and had 18,365 flying hours and more than 33-years of experience with Malaysia Airlines.

The same plane, 9M-MRO, then operating as flight MH389, was involved in a runway accident on Aug. 9, 2012, when it damaged the tail of a China Eastern Airlines plane at Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG) while taxiing. In that incident, the tip of the wing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 broke off. Both aircraft were grounded as a result of that incident.

The Boeing 777 was first introduced on June 7, 1995 with United Airlines as the launch carrier. A total of 1,544 of all variants of the aircraft have been produced to date, including 721 of the 777-300ER, the most common model, compared to 422 of the 777-200ER and 88 for the 777-200.

Depending on seating configuration, the aircraft can carry between 282 and 440 passengers. It has a cruising speed of 560 miles an hour, a maximum speed of 590 mph, and costs approximately $260 million per aircraft. The model has been involved in 8 aviation incidents and accidents, including 4 hull losses. The first happened on Jan. 17, 2008, when British Airways Flight 38, a 777-200ER with Rolls-Royce Trent 895 engines flying from Beijing to London, crash-landed approximately 1,000 feet short of Heathrow Airport's runway 27L and slid onto the runway's threshold, resulting in 47 injuries but no fatalities.

Prior to this most recent Malaysia Airlines incident, on July 6, 2013, Asiana Airlines Flight 214, a 777-200ER registered as HL7742, crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) after touching down short of the runway. Passengers and crew evacuated before fire destroyed the aircraft. The crash resulted in the death of two of the 307 people on board. A third person died after being struck by an airport fire truck responding to the crash.

Malaysia Airlines was established on May 1, 1947, 66 years ago. Assuming the worst case scenario for Flight MH370, there are now three accidents involving passenger fatalities on Malaysia Airlines, with a total of 373 fatalities. Prior to this latest incident, on Dec. 4, 1977 Malaysia Airlines Flight 653, a Boeing 737-200 (9M-MBD) was hijacked and crashed in Tanjung Kupang, Johor, Malaysia killing all 100 people aboard. On Sep. 15, 1995 Malaysia Airlines Flight 2133, a Fokker 50 (9M-MGH) crashed during approach in Tawau Airport (TWU), Sabah, on the island of Borneo, due to pilot error. A total of 34 people were killed.

The carrier, based in Kuala Lumpur, has 105 aircraft in service including 15 Boeing 777-200ER, each configured to carry 282 passengers, 35 in business class and 247 in coach. It recently joined the Oneworld airline alliance, whose members include Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN Airlines,Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, and S7 Airlines, plus some 30 affiliated airlines. It is well regarded in the aviation industry for safety and in-flight service.

We extend our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of all those who may have perished in this tragic accident.

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