The Malay Mail Online
March 17, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Investigators initially took the words “Good night” — the last words sent from Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 — to mean all had then been well aboard the plane.
But a revelation now shows that the final transmission was made after someone onboard disabled the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) that conveyed the plane’s health to MAS is raising questions about who was in control of the Beijing-bound plane that is missing along with its 239 passengers.
The chronology indicates that the person who last contacted Subang Air Traffic Control (ATC) was aware that the critical communications system was no longer functional at the time, the Guardian reported yesterday.
Moments after the ACARS link was lost, the plane’s transponder was switched off at 1.22am on March 8, rendering it invisible to commercial radar as it turned around off the coast of Kelantan and made its way back—as military radar has confirmed—across the peninsula and into the Straits of Malacca.
The sequence is reinforcing the hypothesis that MH370 went missing due to possible hijacking, after the Malaysian government said on Saturday that it was all but certain that the plane was diverted from its flight path to Beijing through “deliberate action”.
The government said it was now directing its investigation towards the two pilots, 10 crew members and 227 passengers onboard the flight.
On Saturday, police searched the Shah Alam homes of MH370 pilots Zaharie Ahmad Shah and Fariq Abdul Hamid, taking a flight simulator the former hand-built to mimic that of the Boeing 777-200ER that is now the subject of an international hunt by 25 countries.
But investigators refused to say if they were narrowing down the probe to the two aviators, even as more law enforcement voices across the globe conclude that the technical knowledge of the Boeing and the “tactical evasive manoeuvres” it made after it went dark was likely available only to one or both men at the helm.
During yesterday’s press conference at the Sama Sama Hotel in Sepang, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar appeared to suggest that investigators were ready to discount foul play on the part of the passengers, saying that all 227 were cleared by “some” security agencies, notably those from India and China.
Khalid also said the investigation was now classified under Section 130C of the Penal Code that deals with hijacking, sabotage, and other acts of terrorism.
As pressure grew on detectives to focus their attention on the pilots, however, Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein volunteered a possibly crucial fact: Malaysia Airlines said the two men did not request to fly on MH370.
Colleagues of both pilots also vehemently protest their innocence, rejecting outright any possibility that either man may have anything to do with the plane’s disappearance.
As investigations into the motive for the plane’s disappearance accelerated, so did the search for the aircraft now gone for more than a week.
Already an “unprecedented” undertaking before yesterday, Hishammuddin announced that search and rescue efforts — as the operation remains — now encompassed 25 countries and were headed by Malaysia.
The size and scope of the search promises to be a diplomatic challenge that will put Malaysia’s leadership and mettle to the test.
On Saturday, Malaysia revealed that satellite data indicated that the plane could be in one of two corridors: a northern arc from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in central Asia, or a southern one from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
Commercial satellite firm Inmarsat confirmed that one of its satellites was pinged approximately once an hour by MH370 between the time it severed communications with ATC and the final “electronic handshake” at 8.11am on March 8.
MAS yesterday confirmed that MH370 was fuelled to stay in the air until the time of the final time MH370 pinged Inmarsat’s satellite.
Following the discovery, SAR operations in the South China Sea that had been the site of much of the initial search was terminated, with the assets redeployed to the Indian Ocean.