Malaysia Airlines loses contact with jet carrying 239 people

KUALA LUMPUR (TIP) — A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared Saturday after losing contact with air traffic controllers, the airline said.

“At the moment we have no idea where this aircraft is right now,” Malaysia Airlines Vice President of Operations Control Fuad Sharuji said on CNN’s “AC360.” Subang Air Traffic Control lost contact with Flight MH370 at about 2:40 a.m. local time (1:40 p.m. ET Friday), Sharuji said. “We tried to call this aircraft through various means,” he said.

The airline checked reports that the jet had landed in several places, but determined that none of the reports was true, he said. The Boeing 777-200 departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 a.m. and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m., a 2,300-mile (3,700 kilometer) trip. It was carrying 227 passengers, two of them infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said. At the time of its disappearance, the plane was carrying about 7.5 hours of fuel, Sharuji said.

The passengers are of 13 nationalities, the airline said. They were from China and Taiwan (154), Malaysia (38), Indonesia (12), Australia (7), France (3), United States (4), New Zealand (2), Ukraine (2), Canada (2), Russia (1), Italy (1), Netherlands (1), Austria (1). One infant from the United States and another from China were included in the tally. By CNN’s math, that adds up to 228 passengers, one more than the total cited by the airline.

There was no immediate explanation offered. “Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft,” the statement said. The public can call +603 7884 1234 for further information. Efforts to contact the plane were fruitless. “We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts” with the jet, said CEO Ahmad Juahari Yahya in a statement. The airline’s website said the flight was piloted by Cap.

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Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, a Malaysian. He has 18,365 total flying hours and joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981, the website said. The first officer is Fariq Ab.Hamid, 27, a Malaysian with a total of 2,763 flying hours. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007. The airline said in a statement that its representatives were contacting the relatives of those aboard. “Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support,” it said.

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