Night search for missing 777 to test Malaysia and Vietnam

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Malaysian and Vietnamese search and rescue teams could struggle to locate a lost Malaysia Airlines 777-200 during the night.

According to MAS, the last known position of flight MH370 operating on the Kuala Lumpur- Beijing route was 065515 North and 1033443 East. This point is roughly halfway between the Malaysian city of Kota Bahru and the southern tip of Vietnam.

This location is roughly 200km between the two landmasses.

Kuala Lumpur has confirmed that Airbus Helicopters EC725s and Lockheed Martin C-130 aircraft have been tasked for the search. Malaysia could also call on its four Beechcraft King Air 200 maritime patrol aircraft.

Of these assets, Malaysia’s 12 EC725s are best suited to for searching the ocean at night. Airbus Helicopters' website lists the type’s endurance at 6.3h, and its range 723nm (1,340km), which should give it 2-3h of search time over the area around the 777's last position.

Equipped for combat search and rescue, Malaysia’s EC725s have electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) pods.

Vietnam should also be able to make a meaningful contribution to the search effort. Flightglobal's MiliCAS database records its air force as operating a single Antonov An-28 maritime patrol aircraft, and four Beriev Be-12 seaplanes tasked for search and rescue.

Hanoi’s navy has three or more Viking Air DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 400 aircraft. Designated the Guardian 400, the aircraft are configured for maritime patrol missions and are equipped with a nose-mounted radar and an EO/IR sensor.

Given the large size of both Vietnam and Malaysia, it is not clear how quickly these various assets will be able to converge on the search location. Moreover, the two countries are not known for close-knit military ties, which could slow the establishment of a systematic search operation.

Flight 370 lost contact with Subang Air Traffic Control in Malaysia around 02:40 on 8 March, the airline says.

The 777-200, bearing registration 9M-MRO, departed with 227 passengers and 12 crew members at 00:41 with a scheduled arrival in Beijing at 06:30. Malaysia Airlines announced the aircraft was missing at 07:24.