BACKGROUND: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370/MAS370) was a scheduled international passenger flight operated by Malaysia Airlines that disappeared on 8 March 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, to Beijing Capital International Airport in China. The aircraft last made voice contact with air traffic control at 01:19 MYT, 8 March when it was over the South China Sea, less than an hour after takeoff. It disappeared from air traffic controllers' radar screens at 01:22 MYT. Malaysian military radar continued to track the aircraft as it deviated westwards from its planned flight path and crossed the Malay Peninsula. It left the range of Malaysian military radar at 02:22 while over the Andaman Sea, 200 nautical miles north-west of Penang in north-western Malaysia. The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, was carrying 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 15 nations.
A multinational search effort began in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, whence the aircraft's signal was last detected on secondary surveillance radar, and was soon extended to the Strait of Malacca and Andaman Sea. Analysis of satellite communications between the aircraft and Inmarsat's satellite communications network concluded that the flight continued until at least 08:19 and flew south into the southern Indian Ocean, although the precise location cannot be determined. Australia took charge of the search on 17 March, when the search moved to the southern Indian Ocean. On 24 March, the Malaysian government noted that the final location determined by the satellite communication is far from any possible landing sites, and concluded that "Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean." The current phase of the search, the largest and most expensive in aviation history, is a comprehensive survey of the sea floor about 1,800 kilometres south-west of Perth, Western Australia, which began in October 2014. Nothing was found of the aircraft until 29 July 2015, when a piece of marine debris, later confirmed to be a flaperon from Flight 370, was discovered washed ashore on Réunion Island. Although several additional small pieces of debris have been found, the bulk of the aircraft has still not been located, prompting many theories about its disappearance.
USA Today reported that the accident investigators on Thursday cast doubt on the possibility that blackened debris found on Madagascar is evidence of a catastrophic fire aboard that went missing Malaysian airliner more than two years ago.
CBS News confirmed that wreckage hunter Blaine Gibson hand-delivered five pieces of debris last week to officials at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau who are searching for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The bureau said in a statement Thursday that investigators had yet to determine whether the pieces were from the Boeing 777 that is thought to have plunged into the Indian Ocean with 239 people on board southwest of Australia on March 8, 2014.
But a preliminary examination found that two fiberglass-honeycomb pieces were not burnt, but had been discolored by a reaction in resin that had not been caused by exposure to fire or heat, the statement said.
Gibson has collected 14 pieces of debris potentially from the missing plane, including a triangular panel stenciled "no step" that he found in Mozambique in February. Officials say that panel was almost certainly a horizontal stabilizer from a Flight 370 wing.
Gibson had said the darkened surfaces of the latest debris could be evidence that a fire ended the flight far from its scheduled route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. But he conceded he had no idea when the apparent heat damaged had occurred.
"Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia's Prime Minister, new analysis of satellite data suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean.
On behalf of all of us at Malaysia Airlines and all Malaysians, our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time.
We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain. We will continue to provide assistance and support to you, as we have done since MH370 first disappeared in the early hours of 8 March, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The ongoing multinational search operation will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain. Alongside the search for MH370, there is an intensive investigation, which we hope will also provide answers.
We would like to assure you that Malaysia Airlines will continue to give you our full support throughout the difficult weeks and months ahead.
Once again, we humbly offer our sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy."