On Saturday 8 March 2014 a Boeing 777-200 operated by Malaysia Airlines took off from Kuala Lumpur with the intended destination of Beijing. Approximately one hour after take-off at a cruise altitude of 35,000 feet, all contact with the aircraft was lost, including the transponder which enables the aircraft to be identified on radar. On board were 227 passengers and 12 crew members.

Following this disappearance an international search operation to locate the aircraft was commenced. However, in the days that followed it was reported that Malaysian military radar tracked the aircraft and this indicated that it had turned from the north east heading of its intended route to a westerly track.

Beyond the coverage of the military radar, satellite data from automated pings from the aircraft was analysed and indicated that after heading west the aircraft had turned south and transited to the southern Indian Ocean.  It is also reported that the aircraft descended to 12,000 feet. Search efforts then focused on an area around 2500 km south west of the Australian city of Perth. However, following further analysis of the military radar data and estimates of fuel consumption, on 28 March the search was moved 1100 km north east, to an area around 1850 km west of Perth that covered 319,000 square km.

On the first anniversary of the disappearance, the Malaysian Investigation team issued an interim report providing a large volume of known factual information. However, with the wreckage location remaining unknown, the investigation does not have the key evidence necessary for it to be able to provide answers – this can only properly start when the wreckage is located and the black box equipment and other key evidence is recovered.

Although this incident is surrounded by mystery and lack of information, the international convention that governs liability of airlines for accidents during international flights (The Montreal Convention) provides that the carrier, Malaysia Airlines, is liable for losses suffered by the families of passengers’. On 29 January 2015 the MH370 disappearance was officially declared as an accident, meaning that there should be no doubt about the airline being liable under the Convention and the passengers’ families should be compensated for their losses.

In addition to the carrier’s responsibility under the convention, the identity and potential liability of any other entity that may have contributed to this loss will depend largely on the outcome of the accident investigation and disclosure of further information by the authorities.

The aviation and legal professionals in the Irwin Mitchell Aviation Law team are advising the families of passengers on flight MH370.

If you would like to speak in confidence to an expert regarding this accident, or any other aviation incident you were involved in, please contact a member of the aviation team on 0800 056 4110. The team will be able to advise you on the accident, the relevant law and the parties who may be liable.

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