KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia —
It’s not uncommon for it to take several days to find the wreckage of aircraft floating on the ocean. Locating and then recovering the flight data recorders, vital to any investigation, can take months or even years.
“In times of emergencies like this, we have to show unity of efforts that transcends boundaries and issues,” said Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, commander of the Philippine military’s Western Command.
After the oil slick was spotted, the air search was suspended for the night and was to resume Sunday morning, while the sea search was ongoing, Malaysia Airlines said.
The plane was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said. It said there were 152 passengers from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven from Indonesia, six from Australia, five from India, three from the U.S., and others from Indonesia, France, New Zealand, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and the Netherlands.
In Kuala Lumpur, family members gathered at the airport, but were kept away from reporters.
“Our team is currently calling the next of kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support,” said Ahmad Jauhari, the airline CEO. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members.”
Fuad Sharuji, Malaysia Airlines’ vice president of operations control, told CNN that the plane was flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,670 meters) when it disappeared and that the pilots had reported no problem with the aircraft.
Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three passengers, all teenagers from China.
Airliner “black boxes” — the flight data and cockpit voice recorders — are equipped with “pingers” that emit ultrasonic signals that can be detected underwater. Under good conditions, the signals can be detected from several hundred miles away, said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. If the boxes are trapped inside the wreckage, the sound may not travel as far, he said. If the boxes are at the bottom of an underwater trench, that also hinders how far the sound can travel. The signals also weaken over time.