As it happened: Hunt for flight MH370

Key Points

  • A second day of searching the southern Indian Ocean ends without any sightings of objects that could be debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
  • Five planes are involved in the search of a vast area 2,350km (1,460 miles) south-west of Perth, Australia.
  • A Norwegian cargo vessel, diverted to the area, scoured the sea through the night using searchlights.
  • Bad weather hampered Thursday's search but conditions improved on Friday.
  • It emerged earlier this week that two objects that could be plane debris were spotted on satellite images, one 24m (78ft) long.
  • The airliner with 239 people on board disappeared on 8 March after leaving Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. (All times GMT)

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    Welcome to our live page on the continuing search in the southern Indian Ocean for debris that could be from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.


    Military search planes and a freighter are scanning rough seas after satellite images detected possible pieces from the missing plane.

    Royal Australian Air Force Flight Engineer Warrant Officer Ron Day flying an AP-3C Orion

    This picture shows Royal Australian Air Force Flight Engineer Warrant Officer Ron Day flying an AP-3C Orion over the area. Bad weather has been hampering the effort.


    Australian officials say the first of five aircraft - an Australian Orion - left its base at around dawn. A civilian Gulfstream jet and a second Orion are due to leave later Friday morning and a third Orion is due to fly out in the early afternoon. A US Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft is also scheduled to leave its base in Western Australia at about 16:00 local time. (06:00 GMT).

    Sydney Morning Herald newspaper
    Digital Globe's WorldView-2 satellite The satellite provides imagery at a resolution of about 50cm, US satellite firm DigitalGlobe says

    tweets: Meet WorldView-2, the satellite that may have found missing flight #MH370


    Experts say the search will be difficult as the two objects pictured by a satellite on 16 March will have drifted a considerable distance.

    Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St Petersburg

    Overnight, the Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St Petersburg used searchlights to look for the objects. The ship, transporting cars, is on its way from South Africa to Australia.

    Richare Erskine from Perth

    emails: How can a major international air carrier lose track of its own equipment? The airline and the Malaysian government come across as incompetent with no ability to organise or lead the search.


    Dr Robin Beaman, a marine geologist from James Cook University in Australia, tells the BBC that the search teams will calculate the flow of the ocean and then "backtrack" to try to pinpoint the objects.


    Because of the remote location, the planes face a four-hour flight to the search area and are only able to stay for around two hours before heading back to Perth to refuel.

    Vigil for Malaysia flight in Amritsar, India. 20 March 2014

    The fate of the plane has touched people around the world. These people in Amritsar, India, held a candlelight vigil for those missing and their families.


    The BBC's Juliana Liu says the family of some of the passengers are hoping the debris in the Indian Ocean is not linked to the plane, because they are still holding onto hope that their relatives are hiding somewhere alive.


    Chinese icebreaker Xue Long is on standby in Perth and is ready to help with search efforts for the debris, Chinese officials say.


    Crowdsourcing is one of the main ways in which members of the public have become involved in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. Millions of volunteers are using the internet to scour for evidence of the jet. Professor David Paul is a retired colonel with the US Air Force and says: "Do we have the succession of Inmarsat satellite signals from the aircraft from the time the plane powered up, then at 1:11, 2;11, 3:11, 4:11, 5:11, 6:11, 7:11, and finally at 8:11? The intersection of those arcs will provide a path."

    Karen Middleton SBS chief political correspondent

    tweets: PM Abbott has called Chinese Pres Xi Jinping to update him on the situation with #MH370. "If there us anything down there, we will find it"

    File photo: Xi Jinping

    During the phone call, Mr Xi thanked Mr Abbott for Australia's help in the search, and said: "As long as there is a glimmer of hope, we need to give 100% of our efforts," Xinhua news agency reports. There were 153 Chinese nationals on board the flight.


    AP reports that the Chinese government has said it is sending three warships to join the search in the southern Indian Ocean. The government said the three ships were en-route to the search area but it gave no estimate for when they would arrive.


    Malaysian authorities have come under criticism for their handling of the crisis. Neil Hansford, a strategic aviation solutions consultant in Australia, says they have made "many mistakes... They didn't know their aircraft was missing, then they had the resources all out in the Gulf of Thailand and in the South China Sea."

    A Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft takes off to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, from RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth, 21 March 2014

    This P-3 Orion is one of five planes that will be deployed to search for possible debris in the southern Indian Ocean on Friday.


    Australia says four planes have now left Perth for the search area in the southern Indian Ocean. One P-3 Orion from the Royal Australian Air Force is now in the search area, while another two P-3s, and a Bombardier Global Express jet, are on their way.


    If you want to find out more about the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, you can visit this page for the BBC's latest background and analysis on the hunt for MH370.


    Investigators have not ruled out any possible explanation for the missing flight. However, some experts believe that if debris of the plane is found in the southern Indian Ocean, it is unlikely that the plane was hijacked. "The reasonable motives for forcing the plane to fly there are very, very few," Gerry Soejatman, a Jakarta-based independent aviation analyst, tells AFP.


    Warren Truss, Australia's acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is overseas, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the search is "very, very difficult and challenging... Weather conditions are not particularly good and [the] risk [is] that they may deteriorate."


    Even if the objects in the southern Indian Ocean turn out to be wreckage from the plane, it is unlikely it will give us the conclusive answers as to why the plane deviated so far from its course, says the BBC's Jonah Fisher in Kuala Lumpur.

    A satellite image of an object in the Indian Ocean which may be from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, 16 March 2013

    Satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe has confirmed that it provided the images that appear to show possible debris related to flight MH370. "No conclusions have been reached about the origins of the debris or objects shown in the imagery," a spokesperson said. "Our thoughts go out to the families and communities of those affected by this tragic situation."

    A diagram showing the search area for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean

    Australian PM Tony Abbott has told reporters the search area is "about the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it".


    The search for the plane is taking place in an area around 2,500 km (1,500 miles) off the coast of Western Australia. Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales, was on a ship near there in December. "The place couldn't have been worse, but also the timing couldn't have been worse. Had it been a few months earlier, the seas are much calmer, much easier to work in," he told AFP.


    Although the sighting of possible debris has raised hopes that the plane can be found, Australian PM Tony Abbott has cautioned that it could be another false lead. Mr Abbott told reporters the objects sighted "could just be a container that's fallen off a ship, we just don't know".

    Graphic of missing Malaysia Airlines plane

    What are some of the theories behind the missing flight MH370? You can watch the BBC's Richard Westcott explain some of these in this video.


    To recap: Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it lost contact with air traffic controllers and disappeared from radar on 8 March. There were 239 people on board.


    David Gallo, director of special projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the US, took part in the Air France search in 2009. He told Reuters news agency of the possible debris found in the Southern Indian Ocean: "If it is confirmed as debris, then the first priority is to recover and record each piece and see how high or low it is sitting in the water. This may help indicate how it has been moved by currents and winds."


    From the BBC's Phil Mercer in Perth, Australia: "The weather so far out in the Indian Ocean can be harsh and unpredictable, while churning seas make it hard to see any floating objects."

    File photo: This picture taken on 29 June 2012 shows a man taking a photo of Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, literally "snow dragon", berthed in Qingdao port, east China's Shandong province

    The Chinese icebreaker Xue Long - the Snow Dragon - berthed at a port in China in this photo, is also to help with search efforts in the Southern Indian Ocean, Chinese officials say.


    The captain of the Chinese vessel Xue Long, Wang Jianzhong, said 87 crew members are ready to join the search for the missing plane, China's state news agency, Xinhua, reports.

    This picture taken on 20 March 2014 shows prayers and messages written by relatives to the missing passengers in the meeting room of Lido hotel where relatives are staying in Beijing

    There has been a continued outpouring of support for relatives of the passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. The majority of those on the flight were Chinese. Read some of the passengers' stories here.


    A new advanced radar system has been successfully tested by scientists, but could it make a difference in the search for the missing plane? The BBC's science reporter, James Morgan, reports: "The compact system could potentially be installed on aircraft, and has a very large bandwidth - allowing pilots to transmit detailed information directly to ground stations within range." Read more here.


    Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday that he has a duty to keep the families of the passengers on the missing flight informed.

    The Australian Broadcasting Corporation quotes him while on an official trip to Papua New Guinea: "We owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones of the almost 240 people on flight MH370 to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle."


    Three Chinese aircraft have been sent to Malaysia to help with the search for the missing plane, China's Xinhua news agency says. There are now seven planes from the Chinese air force helping out in the search, it added.


    To recap: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said in a statement on Friday that four aircraft have left Perth for the search area in the southern Indian Ocean.

    A family member of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as he listens to a briefing from Malaysian government at a hotel in Beijing, 21 March 2014

    Meanwhile, family members of passengers continue to wait for news, 14 days after the plane's last known communication.


    AP news agency is reporting that the first plane which flew to the area of suspected debris in the southern Indian Ocean has returned without finding anything.

    John Young, general manager of the emergency response division of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), listens to a question during a briefing in Canberra, 20 March 2014

    John Young, general manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa), said in an update on the search for the missing plane: "The first aircraft got on scene and did report on the weather and found it suitable for searching, so that's encouraging. We have no sightings yet. I'd make the usual reminders that although the search area is much smaller than we started with, it nonetheless is a big area when you're looking out the window and trying to see something by eye."


    To recap: Amsa says the aircraft deployed are searching a 23,000 km area, about 2,500 km (1,550 miles) south-west of Perth.


    The families of the passengers are still hoping that their relatives could be alive somewhere. Wen Wancheng's 33-year-old son Wen Yongsheng was on the plane. Mr Wen told the BBC: "What wreckage? In a few days they are going to say it's not true. [The Malaysian authorities] need to stop giving us false information. I simply don't believe them any more."

    Royal Australian Air Force Flight Engineer, Warrant Officer Ron Day from 10 Squadron, keeps watch for any debris as he flies in an AP-3C Orion over the Southern Indian Ocean during the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force on 20 March 2014

    Three Australian P-3 Orion reconnaissance planes are scouring distant parts of the southern Indian Ocean, says the BBC's Phil Mercer in Perth. More details on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane here.

    Relatives of passengers from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 wait for new information at a hotel in Beijing on 21 March 2014

    Malaysian officials have met Chinese relatives of passengers on the missing plane. Some of the relatives have been staying at the Lido Hotel in Beijing while they wait for news.


    John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division, has been speaking to the Associated Press news agency. He said nothing has been spied so far from their search planes. "We may have to do this a few times to be confident about the coverage of that search area," he said.


    The area being scoured in the southern Indian Ocean is so remote that it takes aircraft four hours to fly there and four hours back, leaving them only about two hours to search, AP points out.


    At that briefing in Beijing for the Chinese families of passengers on board MH370 one woman angrily asked Malaysian officials: "Can we trust the Malaysian government? Can the world trust you?" The families all applauded.

    Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Loadmasters, Sergeant Adam Roberts (L) and Flight Sergeant John Mancey, launch a "Self Locating Datum Marker Buoy" from a C-130J Hercules aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean during the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, 21 March 2014

    In this picture, Royal Australian Air Force sergeants launch a "self locating datum marker buoy" into the southern Indian Ocean. The buoy will provide information about the drift of objects in that part of the sea, potentially helping investigators locate any debris.


    At a briefing for relatives of the passengers in Beijing, Malaysian officials admitted that they could have released information in a better way. However, they said this had not affected the search, and explained how the search areas had expanded over time.


    Australia's acting Prime Minister Warren Truss says "nothing of particular significance" has been identified in Friday's search so far. "Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating," he added.

    Kay Burley, Sky News Presenter

    tweets: Chinese president 'devastated' by missing #MH370 says Aus PM after a phone call between the two. 153 on board were Chinese


    Chari Pattiaratchi, professor at the University of Western Australia Oceans Institute, explains the search area of the possible debris to the BBC: "It is one of the remotest and most hostile areas in the world. To give you a scale - Perth is the closest city to where it is and it's four hours flight to get there. It takes that much time to get there before they even start and so they can only [search] for about two or three hours then they have to come back because they don't have enough fuel."


    The daily news conference is about to start in Malaysia. Stay tuned for updates.

    Fred Cunningham, WSPA-TV, US

    tweets: The first plane to return Friday from a search mission for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 didn't find anything in southern Indian Ocean (CNN)

    Amanda Farnsworth, BBC Journalist

    tweets: BBC News - Could this radar spot Malaysia's missing plane? #malaysianplane #missingplane


    Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says China will be searching in the southern corridor. Japan will also be assisting in the search efforts, he says.


    Malaysia will request from the US further specialist assets to help with the search.


    Latest developments: Objects shown in satellite image still unconfirmed.


    Ukraine also confirmed that background checks on Ukrainian nationals on board the plane came back clear, the minister said.


    The UK has also pledged assistance in the search operation and HMS Echo is now heading to the southern Indian Ocean, the press conference hears.


    Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says the focus is to reduce the area of search and possible rescue.


    Kazakhstan has confirmed it does not have any information relating to the flight, the press conference hears.

    The flight crew from a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-3 Orion aircraft step off the plane after it returned from a search of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean The Australian crew from a P-3 Orion search plane return from a search in the Indian Ocean on Friday

    Latest developments: Malaysia had briefings in Kuala Lumpur with the families of the passengers on Thursday night and will continue these briefings for as long as they are wanted. Another team has now arrived in Beijing and met with family members there for 3.5 hours this morning.


    Malaysia's acting transport minister said that they have been in touch with the French delegation, which "includes the man who led the investigation into the Air France 447 crash". "They have agreed to assist us with their considerable experience and expertise," he said.


    "Before being able to search for and identify the black box we need to narrow the areas of search," Hishammuddin Hussein says.


    The daily briefing on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight which is still under way is, as ever, being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Officials are still taking questions from journalists.


    Mr Hussein is asked about the challenges in narrowing the search corridor. He talks about the depth of the sea, weather conditions, and the waves. The minister also underlines the enormity of the search operation: "If we as a global community cannot narrow the search area, I don't know who else can?"


    Malaysia has just wrapped up the daily press briefing in Kuala Lumpur.

    HMS Echo

    The Malaysian press conference also confirmed that the UK is sending HMS Echo to assist in the search operation. It's a ship designed to carry out a wide range of survey work.


    Malaysian officials were also asked about the cargo list and a rumour that lithium batteries (considered unstable at altitude) were on board. They said confirmed some batteries were on board, but said they followed airline safety requirements and they were packaged properly.

    Jonah Fisher, BBC Myanmar/Burma Correspondent

    tweets: The weather is better today in the search area and they are actually looking primarily by sight. Radar has failed to locate so far.


    The latest statement from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) says its "search operation for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has concluded for today without any sightings". "AMSA's focus continues to be on locating any survivors on board the flight and searching for possible objects that could be connected to the missing aircraft or discounting them," it said.


    BBC Monitoring points to a piece by Tom Allard, writing in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, who wonders why the black box is not designed to float: "Can the plane's flight recorder - actually an orange box, with two units comprising separate cockpit and flight data recorders - be better designed?... Surely a flotation device that is triggered by barometric pressure, once the black box is sinking, could be devised?"


    Russell Adams, captain of one of the Australian planes carrying out the search, said weather and visibility were good. "We've got a lot of hope and if the conditions remain as they are hopefully we'll find something soon," he said.

    Katie Beck

    tweets: Team @BBCNewsAsia in #perth waiting on the runway for news from the second search flight due any minute @JonDonnison

    Malaysia's Minister of Defence and Acting Transport Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein (C) answers questions during a press conference near Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on 21 March 2014

    Malaysia's minister of defence and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, told reporters that briefings with family members of the passengers will continue "for as long as the families want them".


    The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says the Royal Australian Navy's HMAS Success is on the way to the search area, as are two merchant ships.


    The BBC's Jennifer Pak in Malaysia tweets: Message wall of hope for #MH370 closed to the media. No explanation.


    Friday's aerial contingent comprised three Australian air force P-3 Orions, a US Navy P-8 Poseidon and a civil Bombardier Global Express jet, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says: "We replanned the search to be visual, so aircraft flying relatively low, with very highly skilled observers looking out of the windows," John Young told AFP.


    The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says its focus "continues to be on locating any survivors on board the flight and searching for possible objects that could be connected to the missing aircraft or discounting them". You can watch its latest video update here.


    The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Kuala Lumpur points out on BBC World TV that if they do find the plane and black box recorder, it is still no guarantee that the mystery of why this plane went so far off course will be solved.

    James, Chester, UK

    emails: No-one seems to be saying when the next satellite pictures of the debris area might be available. Is it possible to re-scan the area?


    Aviation expert Prof Jason Middleton tells the Sydney Morning Herald that flight MH370 could have glided for 100km (62 miles) without petrol or a conscious pilot.


    But even with a fully alert pilot, the conditions of the Indian Ocean would guarantee a messy crash with the plane likely cartwheeling and breaking apart, says Prof Middleton, of the University of New South Wales' School of Aviation.


    China's icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon) is to join the search for debris in the southern Indian Ocean, state news agency Xinhua reports. The ship is setting out from the Western Australian port of Fremantle and will take about four days to reach the site.

    14:16: Pekka, Nurmijarvi, Finland

    emails: The Indian military say they have checked the Andaman islands area. Did they also check the Great Coco Island? It is Burmese territory, and by definition outside of Indian jurisdiction.

    14:17: Darren, Bristol, UK

    emails: As it takes four hours to fly to the search zone, would an aircraft carrier be of any use?


    Just to recap - the second day of the search in the southern Indian Ocean has wrapped up for the day with no sightings. It is due to start again on Saturday, with extra vessels joining in.

    Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lt Russell Adam

    Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lt Russell Adams speaks to the media at Pearce Airbase near Perth after flying his P-3 Orion to the search site.

    Akademik Shokalskiy The Akademik Shokalskiy

    The Chinese icebreaker now on its way - the Xue Long - was one of the ships involved in the rescue of the Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy when it got stuck in pack ice over Christmas.


    The New Zealand Herald reports that the Kiwi air force crew searching for the missing plane were "very deflated" after they failed to find any wreckage.

    Chinese officials in Beijing, 21 March

    Chinese security officials try to prevent journalists in Beijing photographing a man attempting to hand out leaflets detailing his own theory about the disappearance of MH370


    The New York Times ponders how authorities could lose track of a Boeing 777, and concludes - 'The Technology Is Out There,' but Satellites Don't Track Jets.


    tweets: What makes a plane crash while cruising?

     Indonesia's National Search and Rescue helicopter, 21 March

    As planes scour the southern Indian Ocean, the hunt goes on elsewhere too. Here, Indonesia's National Search and Rescue despatches a helicopter over the Andaman sea, near the northern tip of Sumatra island.


    A pastor in Sunderland, north-east England, has paid tribute to one of the passengers - engineer Huan Peen Chan. John Cropley said Mr Chan, 46, was "just one of life's lovely guys", the Press Association reports.


    Here's the Washington Post's take on the fallibility of satellites in searches such as these.

    Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion aircraft, 21 March

    With improved visibility on Friday, search crews were able to use their own eyes more effectively. Expert Andrew Dempster, the director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research at the University of NSW, told the Sydney Morning Herald this was a "human eyeball operation".

    15:44: Bill Neely, Chief Global Correspondent NBC

    tweets: Search for #MH370 suspended for day- dark now. Resumes Sat. Aussie planes plus Japanese & Chinese. US plane being maintained.

    15:48: Jon Williams, Foreign Editor ABC, New York

    tweets: #Malaysia Defense Minister spoken to #SecDef Hagel to request hydrophones - towable underwater listening devices - to help in #MH370 search.

    Mark Stone, Asia Correspondent, Sky News

    tweets: 2 weeks ago to the hour, #MH370 pulled back from the stand at Kuala Lumpur airport & took off for Beijing. It & 239 people remain missing.


    To recap, four military planes, including three Orions belonging to the Royal Australian Air Force, have so far taken part in the search, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa). A civilian Bombardier Global Express was also involved.


    British newspaper, the Telegraph, says it has obtained a copy of the transcript of the last 54 minutes of communication aboard Flight MH370.


    The first message delivered by the cockpit, according to the Telegraph, was at 01:07. It said that the plane was flying at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, apparently repeating a call that had already been delivered six minutes earlier.


    The newspaper also quotes a former British Airways pilot, Steve Landells, who says the repetition should not be regarded as suspicious: "He (the pilot) might be reconfirming he was at 350 [35,000 feet]. It is not unusual. I wouldn't read anything into it."


    To explain a bit more about the search process, it takes the P-3 Orion planes about four hours each way to get from Perth to the search area, some 2,500km (1,500 miles) away. This leaves the planes with just two to three hours of search time.


    According to the Telegraph, which says it has a copy of the transcript of the flight communications, co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid "gave routine accounts of the plane's location, ascent and altitude" from his sign in time at 12:36, when the plane was still on the ground.


    Though he took a slightly casual approach and at times departed from formal wording, nothing in his banter gives any sign that the plane was about to fly off course and disappear, the Telegraph adds.


    We are wrapping up our live coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight now. You can carry on following all the latest updates on the search for Flight MH370 and other news stories on the main BBC News pages.


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