aviation

By Clive Cookson, Science Editor

In our world of super-surveillance it seems almost unthinkable that a large airliner with 239 people on board could have vanished without trace in one of the most populated regions of the world.

Dozens of aircraft and ships are criss-crossing the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca to search for signs of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing early on Saturday morning. And a galaxy of civil and military satellites and high-flying spy planes, capable of distinguishing objects as small as a football, are observing from high in the sky.