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MISSING MH370: Probe zeroes in on pilots

Publication Date : 17-03-2014

 

The revelation that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370’s Aircraft Communications and Reporting System (ACARS) was switched off before its last radio message was sent has brought the focus of investigations back to the pilots.

Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein told the media yesterday that the ACARS was turned off before the message.

Previously, it was reported that the system was turned off after the last voice contact.

The pilot had said: “All right, good night” as Malaysian Air Traffic Control handed over the plane’s monitoring to Vietnam.

However, it was still not known whether it was the voice of flight captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah or co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid before the plane carrying 239 passengers and crew disappeared from radar and veered off course 10 days ago.

ACARs provides satellites detailed information about a plane’s movements and current status.

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said police had searched the home of Zaharie in Shah Alam.

He said the pilot’s self assembled flight simulator was being looked at by experts as part of the investigation, adding that investigators had also searched the co-pilot’s home.

The IGP said police had classified the investigation under Section 130C of the Penal Code, which allows for investigation into offences of hijacking, sabotage, act of terrorism and also crimes under the Aviation Offences Act, adding that procedures under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) would apply with the new classification of the probe.

“That means we have intensified our investigations. Our focus remains in the four areas — hijacking, sabotage, personal problems and psychological problems — and that includes the ground staff, everybody,” he said at yesterday’s press conference on MH370.

The IGP said police awaited replies from several foreign police agencies on the background checks of the passengers on the plane. However, all 227 had been cleared by several foreign intelligence agencies.

Asked if this brought the focus of the probe to the pilot and the co-pilot, he said: “Investigations would involve everyone on the plane.”

Earlier, Hishammuddin said all MAS ground staff involved in the handling of MH370 were also investigated, along with the airline’s engineers who were in contact with the aircraft before it took off.

The father of 29-year-old aviation engineer Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat, who was on the jet, refused to comment on speculations that someone aboard deliberately turned off its communications system.

“I cannot say if the aircraft was hijacked or not,” he said. “Let the authorities investigate the case. I have nothing else to say,” said Selamat Omar, when contacted yesterday.

 

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