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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Still Missing

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing early Saturday morning, and as of Tuesday morning, the plane is still unaccounted for. The Boeing 777-200 aircraft departed from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 12:41 a.m. with 239 souls onboard (227 passengers and 12 crew members), bound for Beijing, China. A multinational search for the missing jumbo jet has reached its fourth day.

Here is what is known so far, as of Tuesday:

  • The U.S. State Department has confirmed that three American citizens were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
  • Air traffic controllers outside Kuala Lumpur lost contact with the plane over the ocean north of Malaysia and south of Vietnam, almost one hour into the flight. The pilots did not communicate any problems to air traffic controllers, nor did they issue a distress signal. Malaysian military officials have hypothesized that the plane may have turned back toward Kuala Lumpur but pilots never communicated this to controllers.
  • The pilots of the flight were 53-year-old Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah (18,365 flying hours) and 27-year-old first officer Fariq Ab Hamid (2,763 flying hours). Shah joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and Hamid in 2007. Hamid had previously been flying a different jet and was transitioning to the Boeing 777-200 after completing his training in a flight simulator.
  • At the time the plane went missing, it was in the cruise portion of the flight, which is widely considered the safest portion. Weather conditions were also reportedly good.
  • The plane was hundreds of miles off course when communication was lost. The plane was traveling in the opposite direction of its intended course, and had "stopped sending identifying transponder codes" just before communication was lost with air traffic controllers. Conflicting statements by various Malaysian officials have made the task of finding the missing plane that much more difficult.
  • Two passengers boarded the flight using stolen passports. Some in the media have reported a possible link to terrorism, but those reports have so far been unsubstantiated. One of the passengers using a stolen passport, an Iranian citizen, was believed to be seeking asylum in Germany. Neither of those using stolen passports have any known ties to terrorist organizations, according to CNN.
  • The head of INTERPOL, the international police organization, said earlier that the plane's disappearance does not appear to be terrorist related. "The more information we get, the more we're inclined to conclude that it was not a terrorist incident," said INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald Noble.
  • CIA Director John Brennan called the mystery "very disturbing," adding that his agency is not yet willing to eliminate the possibility of terrorist links.
  • More than 10 different countries have sent out over 34 planes and 40 ships to find the missing plane. The search has centered around where the plane was last detected as well as in the Strait of Malacca.
  • At this time, officials have no idea what caused the disappearance.
  • This sort of aviation accident is not unprecedented. The last time a commercial airliner disappeared mid flight was in 2009. Air France Flight 447 went missing in the Atlantic Ocean en route to Rio de Janeiro. All of the 228 people on the plane were killed. It took two years to find the bulk of the Airbus A330 plane, which was deep in the Atlantic Ocean.

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