Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Plane Loses Contact with Air Traffic Control, May Have Crashed

March 7, 2014 Updated: March 9, 2014    

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which was supposed to fly into Beijing after departing Kuala Lumpur, lost contact with air traffic control on Saturday and officials from three countries scrambled to try to find it.

There were 227 passengers on board the plane  from 14 different nations, the airline said in a statement. 

That includes 153 Chinese nationals, 38 Malaysian nationals, 12 Indonesian nationals, seven Australian nationals, and four Americans. Several Canada, Ukraine, French, and New Zealand nationals were also among the passengers. The other nationalities involved were one from each of the following countries: Russia, Taiwan, Italy, Netherlands, Austria.

There were also 12 crew members on board.

Vietnam, Malaysia, and China officials were among those working to locate the plane.

All countries in the possible flight path of the missing aircraft were performing a “communications and radio search”, said John Andrews, deputy chief of the Philippines’ civil aviation agency. All four countries were also participating in an extensive search of the sea and land.

Tuoi Tre, a paper in Vietnam, reports that the Vietnamese Navy said that the plane crashed into the sea about 153 miles south of Tho Chu Island. But Malaysia’s transport minister Seri Hishammuddin told reporters that there is “no sign” of wreckage as of yet and a location hasn’t been confirmed.

Earlier reports said that the plane made an emergency landing in China, but airline and Chinese officials denied those reports.

The airline said that it was contacting the next-of-kin of everyone on board to give them updates on the situation.

A Malaysian man who says he has relatives on board the missing Malaysian Airlines plane, talks to journalists at Beijing’s International Airport Beijing, China, Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

The plane left Kuala Lumpur International just after midnight Saturday and was supposed to arrive at Beijing Capital International at 6:30 a.m. local time after a five hour, 21 minute flight.

Air traffic control lost contact with the airliner at 2:40 a.m. 

“At the moment we have no idea where this aircraft is right now,” Fuad Sharuji, the airlines vice president of operations control, told CNN at about 8:30 a.m. Beijing time. He said that the aircraft would have run out of fuel by now if it hadn’t landed somewhere.

Malaysian Airlines didn’t report the situation until about 7:30 a.m. Beijing time, almost five hours after contact was first lost.

Retired American Airlines Captain Jim Tilmon told CNN that the situation doesn’t look good, noting that the route is mostly overland, meaning that it should have been easy to contact the plane. 

“I’ve been trying to come up with every scenario that I could just to explain this away, but I haven’t been very successful,” he said.

The Boeing 777-200ER is “about as sophisticated as any commercial airplane could possibly be,” Tilmon said.

Pilot and writer Jeremy William noted via Twitter that the plane “has disappeared in one of the world’s busiest air corridors between SE Asia and NE Asia.”

Boeing said in a statement that it’s monitoring reports of what’s happening. “Our thoughts are with everyone on board,” it said.

Any members of the public such as relatives of those on board who need direct information were told to contact 603 7884 1234.

Story developing; check back for updates.

Follow Zachary Stieber on Twitter.

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