March 08, 2014 00:00 By Agence France-Presse HONG KON 5,718 Viewed
The Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing Saturday on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing was a Boeing 777, a model which up to now has seen only one fatal crash.
The popular family of long-range, wide body, twin-engined planes have a solid safety record and have been among the world's most widely-flown passenger jets since first entering service in 1995.
The planes are often used in flights of 12 hours or longer, across wide stretches of ocean from one continent to another, and have largely replaced the older Boeing 747 models.
In the sole fatal crash involving the planes, a Boeing 777-200 operated by South Korea's Asiana Airlines skidded off the runway upon landing at San Francisco's international airport in July 2013.
The plane had clipped a seawall before touching down. Three people died in the incident, including a teenage Chinese girl who survived the crash but was run over by a rescue vehicle as she lay motionless on the runway.
A final US report on the crash is expected by the first anniversary of the disaster. At the time, however, Asiana chief executive Yoon Young-Doo said he understood there were "no engine or mechanical problems" with the aircraft.
In the days after the crash aviation experts publicly praised the Boeing 777's safety features for preventing further loss of life.
The Boeing 777 has been involved in only one other fatal accident, which occurred after a plane had landed.
In 2001, a British Airways flight touched down in Denver and passengers had begun disembarking when a hose that was being used to refuel the plane detached, spraying fuel around the area.
The fuel mist ignited, engulfing the area in flames. Fire trucks arrived two minutes later, but the refueller suffered fatal injuries in the incident.
The only previous major incident involving a Boeing 777 was a crash at London's Heathrow airport in January, 2008.
All those on board the British Airways flight survived, and a later investigation confirmed the crash was caused by ice forming in the fuel system.
Changes were soon after made to the fuel system.
The Malaysia Airlines flight which lost contact with authorities Saturday was a Boeing 777-200.
The model, the oldest in the Boeing 777 family, has a range of 5,240 nautical miles (9,700 kilometres), according to the Boeing website. Its typical cruising speed at 35,000 feet is Mach 0.84.
Boeing 777s are used on long distance routes around the world, such as London-New York and Tokyo-San Francisco.
Saturday's incident came a day after Boeing reported further problems with its troubled Dreamliner 787 aircraft.
Hairline cracks had been found in the wings of some Dreamliners still in production, a spokesman for the Chicago-based aerospace giant told AFP.
It was the latest in a series of problems that have beset the high-tech 787 put into service two years ago, including a months-long global grounding over battery problems last year.
Boeing said Saturday it was "closely monitoring" reports on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
"Our thoughts are with everyone on board," the company said in a statement via Twitter.