KUALA LUMPUR - A massive search and rescue (SAR) mission has been mobilised by Malaysian and international authorities following the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) jetliner enroute to China from here. The SAR mission was prompted within minutes after MAS requested for government and international assistance, after it and air traffic controllers failed to locate the Boeing 777's location.
The SAR operations involve MAS, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the Royal Malaysian Navy, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the Butterworth-based Intergrated Area Defence System Headquarters and the agencies from Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, China and the Hawaii-based United States Pacific Command.
The IADS Headquarters administers the five-power defence pact involving Malaysia, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, while the United States Pacific Command has a flotilla of warships and aircraft carriers scouring the Pacific Ocean.
Aviation and defence officials said that the massive SAR was mobilised following a request from Malaysian authorities after Flight MH 370, that departed the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang at 12.41am, disappeared from the air traffic control radar screen about two hours later.
Malaysian air traffic controllers lost radio contact with the aircraft at 2.40am as it flew over the South China Sea between Kota Baru and south Vietnam, and was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30am.
The SAR mission is learnt to have mobilised assets like maritime patrol aircraft, fighter jets, frigates and submarines to help locate the missing aircraft.
Maritime officials have also alerted fishing vessels in the region to keep a lookout.
"We are puzzled as to why communication was abruptly disengaged when the modern Boeing 777 has various state-of-the-art equipment like the transponder, avionics, voice radio contact and global position system.
"Additionallty, no aircraft flying in the vicinity nor air traffic controllers managed to locate aircraft after it suddenly went missing," said offiicals, fearing for the worst.
The SAR mission, the officials said, put aside political and territorial differences in the hotly disputed South China Sea that is rich with islands and shoals rich in oil and gas.
"This is where humanitarian camaraderie and military diplomacy comes into play when lives are at stake," they said.
The plane, which was bound for Beijing, was carrying 239 passengers, comprising 227 passengers (including 2 infants) and 12 crew members, before it was reported lost in airspace controlled byVietnam in the early hours of the day.
The passengers were of 13 different nationalities,
The deadliest crash in Malaysian aviation history was in Tanjung Kupang on December 4, 1977, when all 100 people on board a MAS plane were killed it was hijacked mid-air. It was heading to Subang from Penang. Several VIPs, including agriculture minister
Datuk Ali Ahmad, Public Works Department head Datuk Mahfuz Khalid, and Cuban ambassador to Japan Mario García, were also on board.
On October 10, 2013, two people, including co-pilot Marc Joel Bansh, 23, and passenger Tan Ah Chai, 96, were killed when a MASwings flight from Kota Kinabalu to Kudat crashed into a house, after landing short of the runway.
On September 15, 1995, 34 people were killed and 19 survived after a MAS flight crashed during approach in Tawau.
The Malaysian Embassy in Beijing has established a hotline to handle all inquiries related to the missing plane. All calls can go to +861065322531 or 2/3