The Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing 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.
Tears and anger as relatives wait for word
Tearful and angry, the friends and relatives of passengers on board missing plane lashed out at the company as journalists besieged them in a Beijing hotel.
Many were taken there by the airline after going to the Chinese capital's airport to meet the flight, scheduled to land at around 6.30am local time.
A press conference was expected at the same location, and when others arrived later, they had to run the gauntlet of scores of Chinese and international reporters shoving microphones and cameras in their faces.
At the press conference, a Malaysia Airlines staffer read out a statement that had already been given in Kuala Lumpur - and which the passengers had read online - in chaotic scenes as scores of cameramen fought and barged each other out the way to get clear shot.
Fighting back tears, a 20-year-old woman who had gone to the airport to meet a college friend said the passenger's family still had not been told by the airline she was on board.
According to Malaysia Airlines, 153 of the 239 people on board the missing flight - a codeshare with China Southern Airlines - are Chinese citizens.
Scores of family members spoke to airline officials in small groups in a room on the hotel's second floor.
Security at times struggled to hold back the huge throng of reporters crowding outside the door and making it difficult for relatives to enter or exit.
At the airport, for hours after the flight should have landed, the digital arrivals board described it, in red, as "delayed".
Then it changed, to "cancelled".