a Vietnam Air Force AN26 aircraft's crew member look out the window during a search operation for the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 over the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. So far, Vietnam has mobilized 10 aircrafts and 6 ships for the search mission (AP Photo/Na Son Nguyen).

Hong Kong -

The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet has been expanded into the vast Indian Ocean.

Here is a timeline of major developments since the plane vanished early on Saturday with 239 people on board, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing...


- Malaysia Airlines says the Boeing 777 lost contact with air traffic control at around 1.30am (17h30 GMT on Friday), about an hour after take-off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Initially, authorities had put the last contact time at 2.40am.

- Vietnam says the plane went missing near its airspace. It launches a search operation that expands into a huge international hunt in the South China Sea, involving dozens of ships and aircraft from countries including the US and Japan.

- Tearful relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers criticise Malaysia Airlines over a lack of information.

- Vietnamese planes spot two large oil slicks near the plane's last known location, but it proves a false alarm.

- It also emerges that two passengers were travelling on stolen EU passports, fuelling speculation of a terrorist attack.


- Malaysia says it is probing a possible terror link to the jet's disappearance. The US sends FBI agents to assist in the investigation.

- Malaysia raises the first of several suggestions that the plane may have veered radically off-course - with the air force chief saying it may have turned back towards Kuala Lumpur for no apparent reason.

- A Vietnamese plane spots possible debris off southwest Vietnam - but this too yields no sign of the airliner.


- Authorities double the search radius to 100 nautical miles (185km) around the point where MH370 disappeared from radar.

- China lashes out at Malaysia, saying it needs to speed up the investigation.

- Malaysia sends ships to investigate a sighting of a possible life raft, but a Vietnamese vessel that gets there first finds only flotsam.

- Chemical analysis by Malaysia disproves any link between oil slicks found at sea and the missing plane.


- The search area now includes land on the Malaysian peninsula itself, the waters off its west coast, and an area to the north of Indonesia's Sumatra island - all far removed from the flight's scheduled route.

- Authorities identify the two men with stolen passports as young Iranians who are believed to be illegal immigrants - not terrorists.


- Malaysia expands the search zone to include the Malacca Strait off the country's west coast and the Andaman Sea north of Indonesia, hundreds of kilometres away.

- Malaysia's air force chief says an unidentified object was detected on military radar north of the Malacca Strait early Saturday - less than an hour after the plane lost contact - but says it is still being investigated.

- At a heated news conference, Malaysian officials deny that the search is in disarray after China says conflicting information about its course is “pretty chaotic”.

- It emerges that US regulators warned months ago of a “cracking and corrosion” problem on Boeing 777s that could lead to a mid-air break-up - but the manufacturer later confirms that the warning did not apply to the missing plane, which had a different kind of antenna.


- Malaysia dismisses a report in the Wall Street Journal which said US investigators suspect the plane flew on for four hours after its last known contact, based on data sent from its engines.

- Authorities in Kuala Lumpur also say that Chinese satellite images of suspected debris in the South China Sea are yet another false lead.

- India steps up its search, sending three ships and three aircraft to the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


- The hunt spreads to the Indian Ocean after the White House cites unspecified “new information” that the jet may have flown on after losing contact.

- Multiple US media reports, citing US officials, say the plane's communication system - not the engines - continued to “ping” a satellite for hours after it disappeared, suggesting it may have travelled a huge distance in an unknown direction.

- A US warship, initially deployed to Thailand, is among the vessels joining the Indian Ocean search. - Sapa-AFP