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Malaysian jet mystery: Last words from Malaysia plane believed from co-pilot: airline

The last message from the cockpit - "All right, good night" - came around the time the signalling systems were switched off

  • Agencies
  • live coveragePublished: 11:20 March 19, 2014
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • A passenger takes pictures of a Malaysia Airlines plane at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 16, 2014.
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KUALA LUMPUR: The last words spoken from the cockpit of the Malaysian passenger jet that went missing 10 days ago were believed to have been spoken by the co-pilot, the airline's top executive said Monday.

"Initial investigations indicate it was the co-pilot who basically spoke," Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told a news briefing.

The last message from the cockpit - "All right, good night" - came around the time that two of the missing plane's crucial signalling systems were switched off.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid have become a primary focus of the investigation into the fate of Flight 370, with one of the key questions being who was controlling the aircraft when the communications systems were disabled.

The last signal from the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was received 12 minutes before the co-pilot's seemingly nonchalant final words.

ACARS transmits key information on a plane's condition to the ground.

The plane's transponder - which relays radar information on the plane's location - was switched off just two minutes after the voice message.

Missing plane probe: focus on cockpit crew
 

KUALA LUMPUR: An investigation into the pilots of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 intensified Monday after officials confirmed that the last words spoken from the cockpit came after a key signalling system was manually disabled.

US intelligence efforts were also focusing on Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, according to a senior US lawmaker.

"I think from all the information I've been briefed on from, you know, high levels within homeland security, national counterterrorism centre, intelligence community, that something was going on with the pilot," said Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

"I think this all leads towards the cockpit, with the pilot himself, and co-pilot," McCaul said on Fox News Sunday.

Malaysia's transport minister confirmed Sunday that an apparently relaxed final voice communication from the cockpit - "All right, good night" - came after the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) had been deliberately shut down.

ACARS transmits to the ground key information on a plane's condition.
It has not been confirmed who gave that final voice message. But the assumption is the person would have known the ACARS system had been disabled.

The plane's transponder - which relays radar information on the plane's location - was switched off 14 minutes after ACARS went down.

Shortly afterwards the plane disappeared from civilian radar, but Malaysia has since confirmed that the air force tracked it for hours on military radar - without taking action.

The plane went missing early in the morning of March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard, spawning a massive international search across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean that has turned up no trace of wreckage.
' Contradictory information'


Two-thirds of the passengers on board the flight were Chinese, and state media in China attacked Malaysia anew on Monday for its handling of the crisis.

"The contradictory and piecemeal information Malaysia Airlines and its government have provided has made search efforts difficult and the entire incident even more mysterious," the China Daily newspaper wrote in an editorial.

"What else is known that has not been shared with the world?" it asked.
 

Last contact came after shutdown began

Kuala Lumpur: The person in control of missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 issued their last communication to air traffic control after the first set of aircraft communications was disabled, Malaysian authorities have confirmed, adding further weight to suspicion that the plane was hijacked.

The latest revelation suggests that the person who delivered the "All right, good night" message to Kuala Lumpur air traffic controllers just before the Boeing-777 disappeared from their radar at 1.22am and diverted from its scheduled flightpath to Beijing was also aware that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (Acars) had been manually shut down.

Investigations still do not appear to know who was at the helm and what their intentions were when the aircraft disappeared from civilian radar more than a week ago.

Waiting for information

Malaysian investigators are still waiting for some countries to send background checks on passengers who were on a missing Malaysia Airlines’ jetliner as they intensify inquiries into a suspected deliberate diversion of the plane, the country's police chief said on Sunday.

"There are still a few countries yet to respond to our requests," Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference.

Police are also investigating airport ground staff and have intensified their checks on the two pilots, including examining a flight simulator seized from the captain's home, he said.

Investigators have stepped up their scrutiny of the 239 crew members and passengers of lost Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH370.
 

Pakistan is not hiding Missing Malaysian Airlines jet: Official

Islamabad : The Pakistan government has denied media reports that said the missing Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines jetliner, with 239 passengers and crew on board, might be hidden somewhere in Pakistan.

Shujaat Azeem, Special Aviation Assistant to the Pakistan Prime Minister, said the flight disappeared very far off from Pakistan, was never visible on the country’s radars, and hence there was no chance Pakistan was hiding it, The Nation reported.
 

Pilots' homes searched, flight simulator examined: authorities

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia said Sunday that police had searched the homes of a missing airliner's two pilots and were examining the captain's home flight simulator, but warned against "jumping to conclusions".

"Police searched the home of the pilot on Saturday, 15 March," a statement by the transport ministry said, referring to Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53.

"Officers spoke to family members of the pilot and experts are examining the pilot's flight simulator."

The statement added: "On 15 March, the police also searched the home of the co-pilot."

Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, was co-pilot of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which vanished eight days ago, sparking a massive international search across a huge swathe of Asia.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Saturday the plane appeared to have been deliberately diverted from its flight path after it dropped off radar. He said satellites continued to detect it for hours afterwards, an announcement which raised fears of a hijack or rogue action by pilots or crew.

The revelation has prompted fresh scrutiny of the two pilots.
Zaharie is said to have assembled his own complex flight simulator at home but nothing has emerged to cast suspicion on him.

The government statement said engineers who may have had contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 before it took off on March 8 were also part of the probe into the missing jet, but called this "normal procedure" for such an event.

"We appeal to the public not to jump to conclusions regarding the police investigation," it said.

It reiterated that all crew and passengers on board the flight were being investigated for possible leads. Nothing that suggests a motive had yet surfaced, it said.

The plane disappeared from civilian radar less than an hour into its journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Najib also said investigators believe that systems relaying MH370's location to air traffic control were manually switched off before the jet veered westward.

An Australian television programme earlier broadcast an interview by a South African woman who alleged that she and a friend were invited into the cockpit of a 2011 flight co-piloted by Fariq, in breach of post-9/11 security rules.

India suspends search for plane, awaits new instructions

NEW DELHI: India on Sunday suspended its search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 around the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands and in the Bay of Bengal and are awaiting fresh instructions from Malaysia, a defence official said.

"The entire operation is on hold for now. We are awaiting fresh instructions from Malaysia. Nothing came out of the search in designated areas on Saturday," said Colonel Harmit Singh, spokesman for India's army, navy and airforce command in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
 

Hunt for MH370 now criminal probe

Sepang, Malaysia: The hunt for flight MH370 took a dramatic new turn on Saturday after the Malaysian Prime Minister said the missing jetliner’s air communications system and transponder had been deliberately switched off by someone on board before the Boeing 777 turned back and flew northwest.

Najib Razak also said that search efforts in the South China Sea had been ended, and that technical experts now believed that the aircraft could have ended up anywhere in one of two zones — one as far north as Kazakhstan in Central Asia, and the other crossing the southern Indian Ocean.

That conclusion was based on a final signal from the plane picked up on satellite at 8.11 am on March 8, nearly seven hours after ground control lost contact with the jet, he said.

While Najib said that investigators had not ruled out alternatives to hijacking, his remarks represented official confirmation that the disappearance of the Boeing 777-200 a week earlier had not been an accident.

He noted that one communications system had been disabled as the plane flew over the northeast coast of Malaysia and that a second system, a transponder aboard the aircraft, had stopped broadcasting its location, altitude, speed and other information at 1.21 am while the plane was one-third of the way across the Gulf of Thailand from Malaysia to Vietnam.

Najib’s news conference came a day after American officials told The New York Times that Flight 370 had experienced significant changes in altitude after it lost contact with ground control, and altered its course more than once as if still under the command of a pilot.

Military radar data subsequently showed that the aircraft turned and flew west across northern Malaysia before arcing out over the wide northern end of the Strait of Malacca, headed at cruising altitude for the Indian Ocean.

The Seventh Fleet of the United States Navy said in a statement yesterday that its search for the plane now encompassed the Strait of Malacca and beyond to the Bay of Bengal — an enormous area.

But Najib said that representatives of many more governments across the region had been contacted, since the plane might have been flying for many hours after it left Malaysian airspace. By noting that investigators had not yet concluded that the episode was a hijacking, Najib seemed to leave open the possibility that the cockpit crew might have chosen to take the aircraft to an unknown destination.

Meanwhile, relatives of the flight’s 153 Chinese passengers said in Beijing that Najib’s remarks did little to ease their nerves. “I feel [Malaysia Airlines] had a role to play in this incident,” Wen Wancheng, a man from east China whose son is among the passengers on the flight, told reporters.

Several passengers’ relatives said after a two-hour meeting with airline representatives in Beijing earlier yesterday that they were frustrated with the lack of definite information on the plane’s whereabouts.

As emotions over the missing plane continued to run high, China’s official Xinhua news agency ratcheted up its criticism of Malaysian authorities, suggesting that either a “dereliction of duty or reluctance to share information” was to blame.

According to a person who has been briefed on the investigation, the two “corridors” that officials were focusing on were derived from calculations made by engineers from the satellite communications company Inmarsat, which were provided to investigators. The northern arc described by Najib passes through or close to some of the world’s most volatile countries that are home to insurgent groups, but also over highly militarized areas with robust air defense networks, some run by the US military. The arc passes close to northern Iran, through Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, and through northern India and the Himalayan mountains and Myanmar. The southern arc, from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean, travels over open water with few islands stretching all the way to Antarctica.

Mikael Robertsson, a co-founder of Flightradar24, a global aviation tracking service, said the Boeing’s transponder was switched off just as the plane passed from Malaysian to Vietnamese air traffic control space, thus making it more likely that its absence from communications would not arouse attention.

Crew, passengers under scrutiny

Confirmation that a missing Malaysian airliner was deliberately diverted suggests several scenarios that will sharpen scrutiny of the cockpit crew and passengers known to have boarded with stolen passports.

Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Saturday that satellite and radar data clearly indicated the plane's automated communications had been disabled and the plane then turned away from its intended path and flown on for hours.

"These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane," he said, adding that investigators had consequently "refocused their investigation into crew and passengers on board."

Pilot's home searched

Police began searching the home of the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight on Saturday, after the country's prime minister confirmed the plane was suspected to have been deliberately diverted, a senior police official said.

Police officers arrived at the home of the captain, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, on Saturday afternoon, shortly after Prime Minister Najib Razak ended his news conference.

Investigators had confirmed that an aircraft tracked by military radar was the lost Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, after its communications were likely switched off before it reached the east coast of Malaysia a week ago, Najib said.

Plane 'deliberately' diverted

Investigators believe someone aboard a missing Malaysian airliner deliberately shut off its communications and tracking systems, turned the plane around and flew for nearly seven hours after it vanished, Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Saturday.

As the unprecedented search for Flight MH370 and its 239 passengers and crew entered its second week, Najib told a news conference that the hunt for wreckage around the scheduled flight path to the east of Malaysia was being called off.

"Despite media reports the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear, we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate," Najib said.

The fate the of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 has been shrouded in mystery since it disappeared off Malaysia's east coast less than an hour into a March 8 scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

But investigators have increasing focused on the possibility that it was flown off-course by the one of the pilots or someone else on board with detailed knowledge of how to fly and navigate a large commercial aircraft.

Najib said new data showed the last communication between the missing plane and satellites at 8:11am Malaysian time.

That is almost seven hours after it dropped off civilian air traffic control screens at 1:22am last Saturday, less than an hour after take-off. It was flying across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand on the eastern side of Malaysia towards Vietnam.

Najib said satellite data confirmed that an unidentified aircraft that later appeared on military radar off Malaysia's west coast before going out of range at 2:15 a.m. was flight MH370.

"Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane," he said.

He said analysis of the plane's last communication with satellites placed it in one of two corridors: a northern corridor stretching from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, or a southern corridor stretching from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

Two routes

Earlier, a source familiar with official US assessments of electronic signals sent to satellites said it appeared most likely the plane turned south over the Indian Ocean, where it would presumably have run out of fuel and crashed into the sea.

The other interpretation was that Flight MH370 continued to fly to the northwest and headed over Indian territory.

The source added that it was believed unlikely the plane flew for any length of time over India because that country has strong air defence and radar coverage and that should have allowed authorities there to see the plane and intercept it.

Two sources familiar with the investigation in Malaysia told Reuters on Friday that military radar data showed the aircraft following a commonly used commercial, navigational route towards the Middle East and Europe.

That course - headed into the Andaman Sea and towards the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean - could only have been set deliberately, either by flying the jet manually or by programming the auto-pilot.

The disappearance of the Boeing 777 - one of the safest commercial jets in service - is shaping into one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history.

It is extremely rare for a modern passenger aircraft to disappear once it has reached cruising altitude, as MH370 had.

When that does happen, the debris from a crash is usually found close to its last known position relatively quickly.

In this case, there has been no trace of the plane, nor any sign of wreckage, as the navies and military aircraft of more than a dozen countries scour the seas on both sides of peninsular Malaysia.

The maximum range of the Boeing 777 is 7,725 nautical miles or 14,305 km. It is not clear how much fuel the aircraft was carrying though it would have been enough to reach its scheduled destination, Beijing, a flight of five hours and 50 minutes.


South China Sea search for jet called off

 
Prime Minister Razak said on Saturday that Malaysia was ending a search in the South China Sea for a vanished jetliner after investigations indicated the missing plane likely turned far to the west.

"We are ending our operation in the South China Sea and reassessing the deployment of our assets," Najib told reporters.

Plane hijacked, official says

A Malaysian investigation into the missing flight 370 has concluded that one or more people with flying experience switched off communications devices and deliberately steered the airliner off-course, a Malaysian government official involved in the investigation said on Saturday.

The official called the disappearance a hijacking, though he said no motive has been established and no demands have been made known. It's not yet clear where the plane ended up, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media.

The official said a deliberate takeover of the plane was no longer a theory. "It is conclusive," he said, indicating that investigators were ruling out mechanical failure or pilot error in the disappearance.

He said evidence that led to the conclusion were signs that the plane's communications were switched off deliberately, data about the flight path and indications the plane was steered in a way to avoid detection by radar.

The Boeing 777's communication with the ground was severed just under one hour into a Malaysia Airlines flight March 8 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Another US official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said investigators looking for the plane have run out of clues except for a type of satellite data that has never been used before to find a missing plane, and is very inexact.

The data consists of attempts by an Inmarsat satellite to identify a broad area where the plane might be in case a messaging system aboard the plane should need to connect with the satellite, said the official.

The official compared the location attempts, called a "handshake," to someone driving around with their cellphone not in use. As the phone from passes from the range of one cellphone tower to another, the towers note that the phone is in range in case messages need to be sent.

In the case of the Malaysian plane, there were successful attempts by the satellite to roughly locate the Boeing 777 about once an hour over four to five hours, the official said. "This is all brand new to us," the official said. "We've never had to use satellite handshaking as the best possible source of information."

The handshake does not transmit any data on the plane's altitude, airspeed or other information that might help in locating it, the official said. Instead, searchers are trying to use the handshakes to triangulate the general area of where the plane last was known to have been at the last satellite check, the official said.

"It is telling us the airplane was continuing to operate," the official said, plus enough information on location so that the satellite will know how many degrees to turn to adjust its antenna to pick up any messages from the plane.

The official confirmed prior reports that following the loss of contact with the plane's transponder, the plane turned west. A transponder emits signals that are picked up by radar providing a unique identifier for each plane along with altitude.

Malaysian military radar continued to pick up the plane as a whole "paintskin" - a radar blip that has no unique identifier - until it traveled beyond the reach of radar, which is about 320 kilometers offshore, the official said.

The New York Times, quoting American officials and others familiar with the investigation, said radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military appear to show the airliner climbing to 13,700 metres, higher than a Boeing 777's approved limit, soon after it disappeared from civilian radar, and making a sharp turn to the west.

The radar track then shows the plane descending unevenly to an altitude of 7,000 metres, below normal cruising levels, before rising again and flying northwest over the Strait of Malacca toward the Indian Ocean, the Times reported.

Comments (112)

  1. Added 11:18 March 19, 2014

    for finding missing plane location the following data may usefull to know approximate location 1) total fuel present in tank after missing its control 2)possible speed of plane1)if its max,2)minimum and 3)average plane can reach in kilometers 3)possible direction plane can move 4)before manual operation animation is necessary (trial and error method)

    surendra, mandya, India

  2. Added 11:03 March 18, 2014

    Instead of tracing the location of the aircraft, families should start tracing the location of passenger's phone. TELECOM & MOBILE companies can help in the search for mobile phone location while it is still switch on which can be traced to its location.

    hpraas, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 09:22 March 18, 2014

    I've watched in Discovery, animals and Fish are getting tagged by scientists with devices which will enable to track and pin point the subject anywhere in deep ocean. Why on earth these Air craft's which carry precious human life have any device which will help to pin point its stationed location in case of catastrophe as such. Are we still in stone age??

    Hasan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 18:08 March 17, 2014

    THERES MUST BE A CATCH IN THIS...

    Qasim, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 17:48 March 17, 2014

    The manner the Malaysian govt has handled the unfortunate disappearance of a sophisticated airliner is a mystery. To the extent, even the manufacturers have given less / no information to assist. Now we have 25 countries involved? It is not about the number game but, transparency with partners involved in the search and rescue rather than being a doubting Thomas !!! From the very beginning they were clueless and still remain!!?? The authorities need to play their cards well and give the respective countries access to information they need to speed up the search and bring relief to the tormented families. Adding additional countries, planes and ships brings no solace to the mess the authorities have created over the past 10 days and still counting. If the need of the hour is transparency, then yes, a quick and thorough investigation should be conducted on the MH 370 Captain and Co-Pilot / ground crew and findings to be made known to the next of kin and the world at large. This is the worst case scenario of its kind for a sophisticated commercial airline’s history disappearance globally. Malaysia is a well-developed country with a pool of talented / skilled individuals from China and India who are the minority or non-Malays. Are they being suppressed from the mainstream of politics and, individual development hampered, cause, being a non-malay? Assuming this too has added to the fury, vented out by people across the globe on the Malaysian Govt Auth. in handling of the situation and its minorities. Families of the passengers of MH370 need answers and now, before it’s too late !!!

    Melwin, DXB, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 16:38 March 17, 2014

    This is really strange, In this world have great great technologies, Definitely there is high potential to find out this. I feel that step has taken is not effective on search of this plane. If still official cannot find, might aliens have taken this plane into their world.

    Anees Ahamed, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 16:36 March 17, 2014

    The truth of the matter is that the plane was taken by Aliens. No one wants to admit it.

    Rob Jones, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 16:18 March 17, 2014

    The technology invented by HUMAN is not able to search the invented technology. The world do not believe in Unidentified Flying Objects(UFO's) as there are no clear evidence behind it. I suspect this incident could be related to Alien Abduction.

    Parag Srivastava, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 16:03 March 17, 2014

    When you buy a Smartphone for $500, you have the capability of downloading some software which will help you track the phone if it gets stolen. And all this on a phone that costs only a few hundred dollars. However, we now have an airline that most probably cost around $100 million dollars and no one can find it. That is amazing!!

    Sangeh, Perth, Australia

  10. Added 15:40 March 17, 2014

    Malaysia could have been more transparent when their Military radars had tracked the flight movement. As this information was not shared the massive search operation had turned out to be a farce. A wasted effort.

    Chelliah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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