KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - The final words from the missing Malaysian jetliner's cockpit gave no indication anything was wrong even though one of the plane's communications systems had already been disabled, officials said Sunday, adding to suspicions that one or both of the pilots were involved in the disappearance.
As authorities examined a flight simulator that was confiscated from the home of one of the pilots and dug through the background of all 239 people on board and the ground crew that serviced the plane, they also were grappling with the enormity of the search ahead of them, warning they needed more data to narrow down the hunt for the aircraft.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 took off from Kuala Lumpur at around 12:40 a.m. on March 8, headed to Beijing. On Saturday, Malaysia's government confirmed that the plane was deliberately diverted and may have flown as far north as Central Asia, or south into the vast reaches of the Indian Ocean.
Authorities have said someone on board the plane first disabled one of its communications systems - the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS - at 1:07 a.m. Around 14 minutes later, the transponder, which identifies the plane to commercial radar systems, was also shut down. The fact that they went dark separately is strong evidence that the plane's disappearance was deliberate.
On Sunday, Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference that that the final, reassuring words from the cockpit - "All right, good night'' - were spoken to air traffic controllers after the ACARS system was shut down. Whoever spoke did not mention any trouble on board, seemingly misleading ground control.
Air force Maj. Gen. Affendi Buang told reporters he did not know whether it was the pilot or co-pilot who spoke to air traffic controllers.
Given the expanse of land and water that might need to be searched, the wreckage of the plane might take months - or longer - to find, or might never be located. Establishing what happened with any degree of certainty will likely need key information, including cockpit voice recordings, from the plane's flight data recorders.
The search area now includes 11 countries the plane might have flown over, Hishammuddin said, adding that the number of countries involved in the operation had increased from 14 to 25.
"The search was already a highly complex, multinational effort. It has now become even more difficult,'' he said.
The search effort initially focused on the relatively shallow waters of the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, where the plane was first thought to be. Hishammuddin said he had asked governments to hand over sensitive radar and satellite data to try and help get a better idea of the plane's final movements.
"It is our hope with the new information, parties that can come forward and narrow the search to an area that is more feasible,'' he said.
Malaysia is leading the multinational search for the plane, as well as the investigation into its disappearance.
In the United States, Dan Pfeiffer, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, told NBC's "Meet the Press'' that the FBI was supporting the criminal probe.
Rep. Peter King, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, said on ABC's "This Week'' that so far "there's nothing out there indicating it's terrorists.''
Investigators are trying to answer these questions: If the two pilots were involved in the disappearance, were they working together or alone, or with one or more of the passengers or crew? Did they fly the plane under duress or of their own volition? Did one or more of the passengers manage to break into the cockpit, or use the threat of violence to gain entry and then pilot the plane? And what possible motive could there be for flying off with the plane?
Malaysia's police chief, Khalid Abu Bakar, said he requested countries with citizens on board the plane to investigate their background, no doubt looking for any ties to terrorist groups, aviation skills or evidence of prior contact with the pilots. He said that the intelligence agencies of some countries had already done this and found nothing suspicious, but that he was waiting for others to respond.
The government said police searched the homes of both pilots on Saturday, the first time they had done so since the plane went missing. Asked why it took them so long, Khalid said authorities "didn't see the necessity in the early stages.''
Khalid said police confiscated the elaborate flight simulator that one of the pilots, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had built in his home and reassembled it in their offices to study it for clues.
Zaharie, 53, who has three grown children and one grandchild, had previously posted photos online of the simulator, which was made with three large computer monitors and other accessories. Earlier this week, the head of Malaysia Airlines said this was not in itself cause for any suspicion.
Malaysian police are also investigating engineers and ground staff who may have had contact with the plane before it took off, Khalid said.
ACARS is used to send information about the plane's engines and other parts to the airline. Even though it was disabled on Flight 370, it continued to send out faint hourly pulses that were recorded by a satellite. The last "ping'' was sent out at 8:11 a.m. - 7 hours and 31 minutes after the plane took off. It placed the jet somewhere in a huge arc as far north as Kazakhstan in Central Asia or far into the southern Indian Ocean.
While many people believe the plane has crashed, there is a very small possibility it may have landed somewhere and be relatively intact. Affendi, the air force general, and Hishammuddin, the defence minister, said it was possible for the plane to "ping'' when it was on the ground if its electrical systems were undamaged.
Australia said it was sending one of its two AP-3C Orion aircraft involved in the search to remote islands in the Indian Ocean at Malaysia's request. The plane will search the north and west of the Cocos Islands, a remote Australian territory with an airstrip about 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) southwest of Indonesia, military chief Gen. David Hurley said.
Given that the northern route the plane may have taken would take it over countries with busy airspace, most experts say the person in control of the aircraft would more likely have chosen the southern route. The southern Indian Ocean is the world's third-deepest and one of the most remote stretches of water in the world, with little radar coverage.
Malaysian officials and aviation experts said that whoever disabled the plane's communication systems and then flew the jet must have had a high degree of technical knowledge and flying experience, putting one or both of the pilots high on the list of possible suspects.
Zaharie, the pilot, was a supporter of a Malaysian opposition political party that is locked in a bitter dispute with the government, according to postings on his Facebook page and a friend, Peter Chong, who is a party member.
Chong said that he last saw Zaharie a week before the pilot left on the flight for Beijing, and that they had agreed to meet on his return to organize a shopping trip for poor children.
"If I am on a flight, I would choose Captain Zaharie,'' he said. ``He is dedicated to his job, he is a professional and he loves flying.''
___Associated Press writers Ian Mader and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur and Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.
The Wall Street Journal reports on a potential clue in the plane investigation:
A “partial ping” received eight minutes after a final complete transmission between Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and an orbiting satellite began on the missing jet, in the latest clue that could help investigators unravel what happened to the jet before it stopped flying.
The final partial transmission from the missing Boeing Co. 777-200ER, which disappeared from civilian radar on March 8, “originates with the aircraft for reasons not understood,” said Chris McLaughlin, senior vice president of Inmarsat PLC, which operates the satellite.
Chicago-based law firm Ribbeck Law Chtd., representing the father of a passenger on MH370, filed a request in Illinois state court on Tuesday seeking Malaysia Airlines and Boeing's records on the missing plane, Bloomberg reports.
Januari Siregar, father of passenger Firman Chandra Siregar, has requested 26 types of data, including information about the maintenance of the jet, the crew's training, and any cargo on board, according to the report.
Read the full story here.
Wired explains that U.S. Navy underwater microphones may be essential to the MH370 search now that authorities are looking in an area of the southern Indian Ocean in places as deep as 23,000 feet.
The 70-pound tow fish, which is formally known in true Pentagon style as Towed Pinger Locator 25, is a hydrodynamic microphone designed specifically to listen for the acoustic signal of the data and cockpit voice recorders carried aboard all commercial and military aircraft. It can track the devices to depths of 20,000 feet.
The U.S. has deployed a pair of tow fish to a Royal Australian Navy Rescue Ship, which will drag them through the search area looking for pings from the missing plane's flight data recorder, according to Wired.
Read the full report here.
The Washington Post reports that Chinese officials are concerned that relatives grieving the disappearance of flight MH370 could redirect their anger from Malaysia onto China.
From The Washington Post:
At a meeting of provincial officials last week, according to people who were in the room, they discussed preventing a larger movement from forming out of the passengers’ families.
While the families' outrage and frustration is genuinely targeted at Malaysian authorities, China is taking care to make sure it stays that way, the Post notes.
At a rare-sanctioned protest at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on Tuesday, plainclothes men who did not appear to be family members came to rally the protesters, according to the Post:
In the meantime, in one bus, a man with a loudspeaker prepared the relatives. “We don’t have any contradictions with the Chinese government, right?” he yelled into the loudspeaker, waiting for them to yell back “right!” “We don’t have any contradictions with the media, right?”
Read the full story here.
Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
From the Associated Press:
Malaysia Airlines says it is providing comprehensive support for the families of the 239 people aboard Flight 370.
FOOD AND LODGING: Hotel, transportation, meals and other expenses have been provided for up to five family members per passenger since the flight disappeared March 8, and the airline intends to continue the support as long as families require it.
FINANCIAL HELP: The airline provided US,000 per passenger to the next of kin initially and will offer more payments as the search for the jetliner continues.
ROUND-THE-CLOCK CARE: It has assigned more than 700 caregivers — including two per family — to offer support and counseling to families on a 24-hour basis.
When Malaysia Airlines Flight #370 disappeared on March 8, it carried 227 passengers and 12 crew members. The youngest passenger was 2-year-old Yan Zhang, the oldest was 79-year-old Baotang Lou.
Click here to view the entire passenger/crew manifest.
By: Tan Sri Md Nor Md Yusof, Chairman of Malaysia Airlines
As you will be aware, last night the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najjib Razak, announced new evidence regarding the disappearance of MH370 on 8th March.
Based on this evidence, the Prime Minister’s message was that we must accept the painful reality that the aircraft is now lost and that none of the passengers or crew on board survived.
This is a sad and tragic day for all of us at Malaysia Airlines. While not entirely unexpected after an intensive multi-national search across a 2.24 million square mile area, this news is clearly devastating for the families of those on board. They have waited for over two weeks for even the smallest hope of positive news about their loved ones.
This has been an unprecedented event requiring an unprecedented response. The investigation still underway may yet prove to be even longer and more complex than it has been since March 8th. But we will continue to support the families – as we have done throughout. And to support the authorities as the search for definitive answers continues. I will now ask our Group Chief Executive¸ Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, to provide you will with fuller details of our support for the families.
By: Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, Group Chief Executive Officer, Malaysia Airlines
I stand before you today not only as the Group Chief Executive Officer of Malaysia Airlines, but also as a parent, as a brother, as a son. My heart breaks to think of the unimaginable pain suffered by all the families. There are no words which can ease that pain. Everyone in the Malaysia Airlines family is praying for the 239 souls on MH370 and for their loved ones on this dark day. We extend our prayers and sincere condolences.
We all feel enormous sorrow and pain. Sorrow that all those who boarded Flight MH370 on Saturday 8th March, will not see their families again. And that those families will now have to live on without those they love. It must be remembered too that 13 of our own colleagues and fellow Malaysians were also on board.
And let me be very clear on the events of yesterday evening. Our sole and only motivation last night was to ensure that in the incredibly short amount of time available to us, the families heard the tragic news before the world did. Wherever humanly possible, we did so in person with the families or by telephone, using SMS only as an additional means of ensuring fully that the nearly 1,000 family members heard the news from us and not from the media.
Ever since the disappearance of Flight MH370 Malaysia Airlines’ focus has been to comfort and support the families of those involved and support the multi-national search effort. We will continue to do this, while we also continue to support the work of the investigating authorities in the Southern Indian Ocean.
Like everyone else, we are waiting for news from those authorities. We know that while there have been an increasing number of apparent leads, definitive identification of any piece of debris is still missing. It is impossible to predict how long this will take. But after 17 days, the announcement made last night and shared with the families is the reality which we must now accept. When Malaysia Airlines receives approval from the investigating authorities, arrangements will be made to bring the families to the recovery areas if they so wish. Until that time, we will continue to support the ongoing investigation. And may I express my thanks to the Government and all of those involved in this truly global search effort.
In the meantime, Malaysia Airlines’ overwhelming focus will be the same as it has been from the outset – to provide the families with a comprehensive support programme. Through a network of over 700 dedicated caregivers, the loved ones of those on board have been provided with two dedicated caregivers for each family, providing care, support and counsel. We are now supporting over 900 people under this programme and in the last 72 hours, we have trained an additional 40 caregivers to ensure the families have access to round-the-clock support.
In addition, hotel accommodation for up to five family members per passenger, transportation, meals and others expenses have been provided since 8th March and that will continue.
Malaysia Airlines has already provided initial financial assistance of USD 5,000 per passenger to the next of kin. We recognize that financial support is not the only consideration. But the prolonged search is naturally placing financial strain on the relatives. We are therefore preparing to offer additional payments as the search continues.
This unprecedented event in aviation history has made the past 18 days the greatest challenge to face our entire team at Malaysia Airlines. I have been humbled by the hard work, dedication, heartfelt messages of concern and offers of support from our remarkable team. We do not know why, and we do not know how this terrible tragedy happened. But as the Malaysia Airlines family, we are all praying for the passengers and crew of Flight MH370.
For past statements, click here.
Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya was asked at a press conference whether he would resign following the disappearance of Flight #370. Yahya said it was a personal decision, and one he would make at a later date, Reuters reported.
Click here for more.
Malaysia Airlines CEO says the airline is 'now supporting' 900 relatives of those on board flight 370.
— Keir Simmons (@KeirSimmons) 5 years ago
Malaysia Airlines CEO says the Australian Government will only grant visas to family members of #MH370 once evidence of the plane is found.
— Karen Barlow (@KJBar) 4 years ago
'@MAS CEO: Have provided initial support of ,000 USD per passenger to each next of kin, prepared to offer more as search continues.
— CNBCWorld (@CNBCWorld) 5 years ago
Malaysia Airlines CEO said Tuesday during a press conference, "We do not know why. We do not know how. We do not know why this terrible tragedy happened."
An Australian official said Tuesday in a press conference: "We're not looking for a needle in a haystack, we're still trying to define where the haystack is."
Australia's Defense Minister said Tuesday that at this point, no debris has been successfully identified or recovered.
"The Prime Minister announced visa fees will be waved for the families" Australian Defense Minister David Johnston on #MH370. #AC360
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) 3 years ago
AFP reports that relatives of Chinese passengers are marching in protest to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing seeking information about the crash:
Around 200 family members, some in tears, linked arms and shouted slogans including "The Malaysian government are murderers" and "We want our relatives back".
The embassy is about four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the Lido Hotel, where meetings have been taking place throughout the drama.
China wants to know how Malaysia drew the conclusion that the plane was lost with no survivors, AP reports:
China's official Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng as telling the Malaysian ambassador to Beijing that China wanted to know the specific facts that led Malaysia to announce Monday night that the plane had been lost.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority suspends Flight 370 search operations due to adverse weather. http://t.co/tSl8FYM5UJ
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) March 24, 2014
Britain's Inmarsat used a wave phenomenon discovered in the 19th century to analyze the seven pings its satellite picked up from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to determine its final destination.
The new findings led Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to conclude on Monday that the Boeing 777, which disappeared more than two weeks ago, crashed thousands of miles away in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board.
The pings, automatically transmitted every hour from the aircraft after the rest of its communications systems had stopped, indicated it continued flying for hours after it disappeared from its flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
From the time the signals took to reach the satellite and the angle of elevation, Inmarsat was able to provide two arcs, one north and one south that the aircraft could have taken.
Inmarsat's scientists then interrogated the faint pings using a technique based on the Doppler effect, which describes how a wave changes frequency relative to the movement of an observer, in this case the satellite, a spokesman said.
The Doppler effect is why the sound of a police car siren changes as it approaches and then overtakes an observer.
Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch was also involved in the analysis.
"We then took the data we had from the aircraft and plotted it against the two tracks, and it came out as following the southern track," Jonathan Sinnatt, head of corporate communications at Inmarsat, said.
The company then compared its theoretical flight path with data received from Boeing 777s it knew had flown the same route, he said, and it matched exactly.
The findings were passed to another satellite company to check, he said, before being released to investigators on Monday.
The paucity of data - only faint pings received by a single satellite every hour or so - meant techniques like triangulation using a number of satellites or GPS (Global Positioning System) could not be used to determine the aircraft's flight path.
Read the full story here.
Searchers are racing to find the plane's black boxes, AP reports:
By law, the boxes must be able to send those signals for at least 30 days following a crash. But experts say they can continue making noise for another 15 days or so beyond that, depending upon the strength of the black box battery at the time of the crash.
Without the black boxes — the common name for the voice and data recorders normally attached to a fuselage — it would be virtually impossible for investigators to definitively say what caused the crash.
The text message immediately set off a firestorm, with many on the Internet quick to criticize the airliner for not reaching out to relatives by more appropriate means.
In reality, the decision to text the families may not be as egregious as it seems.
MH370 families have chided Malaysia Airlines, as well as Malaysian government authorities, in part because the news media has continuously received new information about the missing plane before the families over the past two weeks.
Read the rest here.
Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng told Malaysia's ambassador in Beijing on Monday that China was demanding Malaysia hand over all relevant satellite data analysis on the missing Malaysian airliner, the Foreign Ministry said.
Xie met the ambassador after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, citing new satellite data, said Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared over two weeks ago en route to Beijing, crashed thousands of miles away in the southern Indian Ocean.
A committee representing families of #MH370 passengers accuses the Malaysian government of deliberate delays and cover-ups, CCTV reports.
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) March 24, 2014
Boeing is saddened by today's announcement by the prime minister of Malaysia regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies continue to be with the families and loved ones of those aboard. Boeing continues to serve as a technical advisor to the U.S. National Transportation Board.
Malaysia Airlines says
they told "the majority" of families in person or on phone,
the text msg was just an extra. MH370
Inmarsat, the company whose analysis undergirds today's announcement on flight MH370, explained to SkyNews how it was able to locate the flightpath of the missing plane.
As the company had already announced earlier, its satellites kept receiving hourly signals from the plane despite the fact that the jet's communication systems were switched off. Inmarsat then analyzed data from flights that took a similar path to MH370.
Inmarsat's senior vice president Chris McLoughlin said:
"What we did two weeks ago was say it could be north or it could be south, and what we've done is refined that with the signals we got from other aircraft and that gives you a very good fit."
"Previous aircraft provided a pattern, and that pattern to the south is virtually what we got in our suggested estimate. The fit is very, very strong."
"We passed the information on after it had been peer reviewed by others in the UK air industry and after it had been compared with Boeing."
Head over to SkyNews for the full story.
— Mark Stone (@Stone_SkyNews) March 24, 2014
BBC Transport Correspondent Richard Westcott tweets from the offices of British satellite company Inmarsat, who provided data analysis to Malaysia on the location of missing flight MH370.
The room where the MH370 data would have been received http://t.co/g2RmJJ8Xx8
— Richard Westcott (@BBCwestcott) March 24, 2014