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MISSING MH370: 'All right, goodnight' came from co-pilot

Publication Date : 18-03-2014

 

As the search widened to 26 nations, Malaysia revealed that the last words heard from the missing MH370 came from the co-pilot, but could not say whether he signed off before or after a communications system was disabled.

This appeared to be backtracking from an earlier assertion that the system was disabled before the pilot signed off, which had raised the question of whether one or both pilots were responsible for it, and if not, why they had not reported the situation to air traffic control.

Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had said on Sunday that the system was switched off before the pilot signed off.

But Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya yesterday clarified that investigators did not know if the system stopped working before or after the co-pilot uttered "all right, goodnight".

He said the last transmission from the system - called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) - which sends out data automatically was at 1:07am on March 8.

It indicated that everything was normal. The next update, due 30 minutes later, never came.

Investigators believe the system was switched off between 1:07am and 1:37am, while the last pilot communication was at 1:19am. "We don't know when the ACARS was switched off," Ahmad Jauhari said.

What emerged at yesterday's media conference was that it was co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid who signed off with "all right, good night" at 1.19am when control was handed over from Malaysia to Vietnam's air traffic control.

Two minutes after that, the transponder which communicates with the control tower was disabled. The plane then turned back from its easterly route to Beijing, and flew west until it vanished.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Saturday that investigators believe the ACARS and transponder were turned off deliberately.

The Boeing 777-200ER jet has not been found despite a 10-day multinational hunt. The search is now focused on the Indian Ocean and Central Asian region, based on the plane's last communication with a satellite at 8.11am on March 8.

According to Ahmad Jauhari, the plane had another 30 minutes of fuel at that point.

Asked if Malaysia was investigating pilot suicide, Hishammuddin said "yes, we are looking at it", among other possibilities.

Police earlier said it was investigating the backgrounds of the 12 crew, 227 passengers and ground staff of the Beijing-bound plane.

Some foreign intelligence agencies have cleared all the passengers, but Malaysia has asked China to relook its list of 153 nationals on board. "The manifest given to Chinese authorities was cleared earlier. But a few hours ago, I asked Chinese intelligence authorities to relook the list following the new development," Hishammuddin said, without saying what the development was.

Asked if the flight's disappearance was linked to the internal unrest in China, he said: "At the moment, we don't find anything that corroborates that."

Hishammuddin insisted that Malaysia is working closely with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Interpol and other agencies, refuting media reports that it was keeping them at arm's length.

With the search now focused on a wide swathe of land and sea, from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean, Malaysia has requested satellite and radar data from 14 countries in the search area. Most have agreed to provide the information.

"There is hope against hope," Hishammuddin said when asked if family members should be prepared for the worst. "The fact that there were no distress signals, no ransom, no parties claiming to be responsible means there is always hope."

 

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