Sunday, September 14th 2014: A Malaysia Airlines flight bound to Hyderabad is circling just above Selangor-Perak border, shortly after it took off from Runway 14R at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL).
The flight departed from Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, September 14th at 10:34 PM (MST) and scheduled to arrive at Hyderabad, 11:56 PM local time. However, about an hour after the departure, the plane made a turn back while it was cruising in Malacca Strait airspace. It then began to circle around Perak-Selangor border.
Update 12:40 AM: At least two Twitter accounts (other than LANDASAN) reported about the matter to Malaysia Airlines (MAS). MAS has yet to respond or issue a statement.
— KinFei (@kfng87) September 13, 2014
At 1:35 AM, the aircraft is still circling the same area. It has flown for about 3 hours already. Assuming the aircraft fuel tank is full and the fuel consumption rate is at 2000 liters / hour, it can fly continuously for another 10 hours.
Boeing 737s are not equipped with fuel dumping system. Therefore, in the event of emergency, the aircraft will either 1) fly in circles (holding pattern) to burn off fuel or 2) land overweight. If option 2) is taken, the aircraft will be inspected upon landing before returned to service.
At 1:47 AM, the aircraft is seen to be on descent and will be landing soon at KUL. It is no longer flying in circles.
The Problem: Possible Cause(s)
- There is mechanical problem of the aircraft. It probably happened before or after takeoff. The cabin crews realized this while airborne and they are waiting for clearance to land back in Malaysia. Even if it is already safe to land, the aircraft needs to do fuel dumping process to lighten its load before landing.
- Something has happened onboard. Malaysia Airlines has yet to come up with a statement at 1:00 AM, even about two hours after the turn-back. As stated before, even if they have to land as soon as possible, the aircraft needs to reduce its weight before landing.
A user from Lowyat forum, “peelfresh”, mentioned that there were problems in the cockpit and they decided to turn back. No major incident happened onboard. Source
Update 12:05 PM: News reports have surfaced this morning about the incident. Malaysia Airlines has yet to come up with an official statement regarding the incident, although most likely the turn back is caused by technical problems. Reports cite autopilot problem is the leading cause.
At 2:01 AM, the aircraft finally has landed on Runway 14L at KUL. The reasons is not yet known, although it is believed that mechanical problem is the cause.
Unofficial sources said that the landing was successful. Data from Flightradar shows the plane was taxiing to Main Terminal Building, KLIA.
— OMNI FLYERS (@omni_flyers) September 13, 2014
We have contacted several Malaysian media sources but no one has yet so say anything regarding the incident. While we can only speculate now, we will put additional information as soon as they become available.
The aircraft type is Boeing 737-800 (737-8H6) and its registration number is 9M-MXI. It was delivered new to MAS on July 16th 2012. The serial number is 40136 while the Line Number is 4105.
According to Boeing website, the fuel capacity of the aircraft is 6,875 U.S. gal (26,020 L) and its maximum range 3,115 nautical miles (5,765 km) for 2-class with winglets.
It also has maximum takeoff weight 174,200 lb (79,010 kg)
Previous Incidents Involving 9M-MXI
The aircraft has involved with at least one accident before. It happened on March 21st 2014 at 10:45 PM (local time) at Kathmandu Airport (Malaysia Airlines Flight 114). It struck a flock of birds during the approach process. As a result, the aircraft landing light lens was broken and subsequently replaced. Although no human fatalities was recorded, the airport was closed for half an hour and the following flight was canceled. Source