Malaysia Airlines Flight Missing With 239 On Board, Search And Rescue Now Underway

Jonathan Vankin

A Malaysia Airlines flight with 239 people on board, including two infants, went missing between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing Friday. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the jet at about 2:40 on Saturday morning local time in Malaysia — about 1:40 pm Friday afternoon U.S. Eastern Time.

Malaysia Airlines officials believe the Boeing 777-200 jet has somehow crashed. A search and rescue operation is underway for the missing flight. Of the plane's passengers, 160 were said to be Chinese nationals.

The flight, MH370, was about 2 1/2 hours into its scheduled three-hour and 50 minute journey between the Malaysian and Chinese capitals when it vanished from radar. Air traffic controllers could not reach the plane's crew by radio either. The plane was reportedly somewhere over Vietnam when it vanished.

At last report, about 6:55 pm U.S. Eastern time, there was no information on where the Malaysia Airlines flight might have gone, or the fate of the passengers, including 12 crew members on board.

"It doesn't sound very good," a retired American Airlines captain, Jim Tilmon, told CNN. "I've been trying to come up with every scenario that I could just to explain this away, but I haven't been very successful."

Because the flight path of the Malaysia Airlines plane took it mostly over land, there would be no shortage of tracking faciities, maing it unlikely that the plane simply lost radar contact while otherwise proceeding normally. In any case, it did not land at its destination, Malaysia Airlines officials said

The missing flight was supposed to have landed in Beijing at 6:30 am there, or 5:30 pm Friday by U.S. Eastern Time. About 90 minutes after the landing that never happened, Malaysia Airlines announced that the plane was missing.

Malaysia Airlnes flights transport about 37,000 passengers to 80 worldwide destinations every day. The airline has a strong safety record, with is worst accident coming in 1977 when a crash in Malaysian killed 93.

But according to a report in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that is now missing has been involved in a mishap before. In August 2012 it reportedly collided with the tail of a China Eastern Airlines plane at Shanghai Pudang Airport.

The now-missing Malaysia Airlines plane lost the tip of one wing in the 2012 incident.