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14 March 2014

How far Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could have flown

The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines continues, with recent evidence suggesting that the aircraft may have flown for at least four hours beyond its last known position. The following graphic published 14 March 20114 by the Washington Post illustrates the possible maximum range of the aircraft given the amount of fuel it had at takeoff (about seven hours worth), and the maximum range assuming four hours of flight after last contact.

This graphic illustrates several things that will give you an idea of just how difficult the search for this 777 may be:

  • Potential locations: Countries within a radius of four hours flying time (2,400 statue miles or about 3,900 km) include parts or all of Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, China, Taiwan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Palau, East Timor, and the Maldives Islands. Bodies of water include parts or all of the South China Sea, the Sea of Thailand, the Andaman Sea, the western Pacific Ocean, and the central and eastern Indian Ocean.
  • Potential size of the search area: A circle with a radius of 2,400 statue miles has a surface area about 18,095,600 square miles, or 46,847,250 square km, is an area slightly bigger than the combined surface areas of the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, and China.
  • Extent of search area: A circle with a 2,400 mile radius, has a 4,800 mile diameter, which is roughly the distance between the following city pairs:
    • Moscow and Washington, DC
    • Havana and Honolulu
    • Harare and Rio de Janeiro
    • Mumbai and the North Pole

Dr. Curtis 16 March 2014 Radio New Zealand interview (14:11)
Dr. Curtis 15 March 2014 BBC interview (8:58)
Dr. Curtis 13 March 2014 BBC interview (7:23)
Other 777 events

BBC radio interview from 13 March 2014 discussing the possibility that the aircraft continued to fly for several hours.

NTN 24 La Tarde interview from 13 March 2014 discussing the investigation (Spanish)


  1. The Washington Post illustration here is wrong as it doesn't even include Beijing, the original destination. With contingency fuel on board the circle should be greater.

  2. Have another look Graham. The outer circle is way out further than Beijing!

  3. Could the plane have flown high enough to get vaporized? Or float in space?