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Posts tagged ‘Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370’

Malaysian Airplane Probe Looks at Suicide as Possible Motive.


The co-pilot of a missing Malaysian jetliner spoke the last words heard from the cockpit, the airline’s chief executive said, as investigators consider suicide by the captain or first officer as one possible explanation for the disappearance.

No trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been found since it vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard. Investigators are increasingly convinced it was diverted perhaps thousands of miles off course by someone with deep knowledge of the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial navigation.

A search of unprecedented scale involving 26 countries is under way, covering an area stretching from the shores of the Caspian Sea in the north to deep in the southern Indian Ocean.

Airline chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya also told a news conference on Monday that it was unclear exactly when one of the plane’s automatic tracking systems had been disabled, appearing to contradict comments by government ministers at the weekend.

Suspicions of hijacking or sabotage had hardened further when officials said on Sunday that the last radio message from the plane – an informal “all right, good night” – was spoken after the tracking system, known as “ACARS”, was shut down.

“Initial investigations indicate it was the co-pilot who basically spoke the last time it was recorded on tape,” Ahmad Jauhari said on Monday.

That was a sign-off to air traffic controllers at 1.19 a.m., as the Beijing-bound plane left Malaysian airspace.

The last transmission from the ACARS system – a maintenance computer that relays data on the plane’s status – was received at 1.07 a.m. as the plane crossed Malaysia’s northeast coast.

“We don’t know when the ACARS was switched off after that,” Ahmad Jauhari said. “It was supposed to transmit 30 minutes from there, but that transmission did not come through.”

FOCUS ON CREW

The plane vanished from civilian air traffic control screens off Malaysia’s east coast less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian authorities believe that someone on board shut off its communications systems.

Malaysian police are trawling through the backgrounds of the pilots, flight crew and ground staff for any clues to a possible motive in what is now being treated as a criminal investigation.

Asked if suicide by the pilot or co-pilot was a line of inquiry, Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said: “We are looking at it.” But it was only one of the possibilities under investigation, he said.

Intensive efforts by various governments to investigate the backgrounds of everyone on the airplane had not, as of Monday, turned up any information linking anyone to militant groups or anyone with a known political or criminal motive to crash or hijack the aircraft, U.S. and European security sources said.

One source familiar with U.S. inquiries into the disappearance said the pilots were being studied because of the technical knowledge needed to disable the ACARS system.

Many experts and officials say that, while the jet’s transponder can be switched off by flicking a switch in the cockpit, turning off ACARS may have required someone to open a trap door outside the cockpit, climb down into the plane’s belly and pull a fuse or circuit breaker.

Whoever did so had to have sophisticated knowledge of the systems on a 777, according to pilots and two current and former U.S. officials close to the investigation.

Malaysian police searched the homes of the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, in middle-class suburbs of Kuala Lumpur close to the international airport on Saturday.

Among the items taken for examination was a flight simulator Zaharie had built in his home but a senior police official familiar with the investigation said there was nothing unusual in the flight simulator programmes. A second senior police official with knowledge of the investigation said they had found no evidence of a link between the pilot and any militant group.

Some U.S. officials have expressed frustration at Malaysia’s handling of the investigation. The Malaysian government still had not invited the FBI to send a team to Kuala Lumpur by Monday, two U.S. security officials said.

 

VAST SEARCH CORRIDORS

Police and the multi-national investigation team may never know for sure what happened in the cockpit unless they find the plane, and that in itself is a daunting challenge.

Satellite data suggests it could be anywhere in either of two vast corridors that arc through much of Asia: one stretching north from Laos to the Caspian, the other south from west of the Indonesian island of Sumatra into the southern Indian Ocean.

Aviation officials in Pakistan, India, and Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia – as well as Taliban militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan – said they knew nothing about the whereabouts of the plane.

China, which has been vocal in its impatience with Malaysian efforts to find the plane, called on its smaller neighbour to immediately expand and clarify the scope of the search. About two-thirds of those aboard MH370 were Chinese.

Australia has offered more resources in addition to the two P-3C Orion aircraft it has already committed.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin said diplomatic notes had been sent to all countries along the northern and southern search corridors, requesting radar and satellite information as well as land, sea and air search operations.

The Malaysian navy and air force were also searching the southern corridor, he said, and U.S. P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft were being sent to Perth, in Western Australia, to help scour the ocean.

At the same time, the U.S. Navy said the destroyer USS Kidd was ending its search operations in the Andaman Sea.

 

NORTH OR SOUTH?

Electronic signals between the plane and satellites continued to be exchanged for nearly six hours after MH370 flew out of range of Malaysian military radar off the northwest coast, following a commercial aviation route across the Andaman Sea towards India.

The plane had enough fuel to fly for about 30 minutes after that last satellite communication, Ahmad Jauhari said.

A source familiar with official U.S. assessments of satellite data being used to try to find the plane said it most likely turned south after the last Malaysian military radar sighting and may have run out of fuel over the Indian Ocean.

The Malaysian government-controlled New Straits Times on Monday quoted sources close to the investigation as saying data collected was pointing instead towards the northern corridor.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

FBI Joins Possible Terror Probe for Missing Malaysia Jet.


Vietnamese authorities searching waters for the missing Boeing 777 jetliner spotted an object Sunday that they suspected was one of the plane’s doors, as international intelligence agencies joined the investigation into two passengers who boarded the aircraft with stolen passports.

More than a day and half after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing, no confirmed debris from the plane had been found, and the final minutes before it disappeared remained a mystery. The plane, which was carrying 239 people, lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam after leaving Kuala Lumpur early Saturday morning for Beijing.

The state-run Thanh Nien newspaper cited Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnam’s army, as saying searchers in a low-flying plane had spotted an object suspected of being a door from the missing jet. It was found in waters about 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of Tho Chu island, in the same area where oil slicks were spotted Saturday.

“From this object, hopefully (we) will find the missing plane,” Tuan said. Thanh Nien said two ships from the maritime police were heading to the site.

The missing plane apparently fell from the sky at cruising altitude in fine weather, and the pilots were either unable or had no time to send a distress signal — unusual circumstances under which a modern jetliner operated by a professional airline would crash.

Malaysia’s air force chief, Rodzali Daud, said radar indicated that the plane may have turned back, but did not give further details on which direction it went or how far it veered off course.

“We are trying to make sense of this,” Daud said at a news conference. “The military radar indicated that the aircraft may have made a turn back, and in some parts this was corroborated by civilian radar.”

Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said pilots are supposed to inform the airline and traffic control authorities if the plane does a U-turn. “From what we have, there was no such distress signal or distress call per se, so we are equally puzzled,” he said.

Authorities were checking on the identities of the two passengers who boarded the plane with stolen passports. On Saturday, the foreign ministries in Italy and Austria said the names of two citizens listed on the flight’s manifest matched the names on two passports reported stolen in Thailand.

“I can confirm that we have the visuals of these two people on CCTV,” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference late Sunday, adding that the footage was being examined. “We have intelligence agencies, both local and international, on board.”

Hishammuddin declined to give further details, saying it may jeopardize the investigation.

“Our focus now is to find the aircraft,” he said, adding that finding the plane would make it easier for authorities to investigate any possible foul play.

Interpol confirmed that at least two stolen passports used by passengers on the plane were registered in its databases. It said no one had checked the databases, but added that most airlines and countries do not usually check for stolen passports.

Hishammuddin said only two passengers had used stolen passports, and that earlier reports that the identities of two others were under investigation were not true.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said the U.S. was looking into the stolen passports, but that investigators had reached no conclusions.

In addition to the plane’s sudden disappearance, which experts say is consistent with a possible onboard explosion, the stolen passports have strengthened concerns about terrorism as a possible cause. Al-Qaida militants have used similar tactics to try and disguise their identities.

Still, other possible causes would seem just as likely at this stage, including a catastrophic failure of the plane’s engines, extreme turbulence, or pilot error or even suicide. Establishing what happened with any certainty will need data from flight recorders and a detailed examination of any debris, something that will take months if not years.

European authorities on Saturday confirmed the names and nationalities of the two stolen passports: One was an Italian-issued document bearing the name Luigi Maraldi, the other Austrian under the name Christian Kozel. Police in Thailand said Maraldi’s passport was stolen on the island of Phuket last July.

A telephone operator on a China-based KLM hotline on Sunday confirmed that “Maraldi” and “Kozel” were both booked to leave Beijing on a KLM flight to Amsterdam on March 8. Maraldi was then to fly to Copenhagen, Denmark, on KLM on March 8, and Kozel to Frankfurt, Germany, on March 8.

She said since the pair booked the tickets through China Southern Airlines, she had no information on where they bought them.

Having onward reservations to Europe from Beijing would have meant the pair, as holders of EU passports, would not have needed visas for China.

Meanwhile, the multinational search for the missing plane was continuing. A total of 34 aircraft and 40 ships have been deployed to the area by Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, China and the United States, in addition to Vietnam’s fleet.

Vietnamese air force jets spotted two large oil slicks Saturday, but it was unclear whether they were linked to the missing plane.

Two-thirds of the jet’s passengers were Chinese. The rest were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.

After more than 30 hours without contact with the aircraft, Malaysia Airlines told family members they should “prepare themselves for the worst,” Hugh Dunleavy, the commercial director for the airline, told reporters.

Finding traces of an aircraft that disappears over sea can take days or longer, even with a sustained search effort. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, wreckage can be scattered over many square kilometers (miles). If the plane enters the water before breaking up, there can be relatively little debris.

A team of American experts was en route to Asia to be ready to assist in the investigation into the crash. The team includes accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as technical experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, the safety board said in a statement.

Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed last July in San Francisco, killing three passengers, all Chinese teenagers.

© AFP 2014
Source: Newsmax.com

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