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New timeline adds mystery to missing jet

March 18, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Officials revealed a new timeline Monday suggesting the final voice transmission from the cockpit of the missing Malaysian plane may have occurred before any of its communications systems were disabled, adding more uncertainty about who aboard might have been to blame.


March 18, 2014
By The Associated Press

March 18, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Officials revealed a new timeline Monday suggesting the final voice
transmission from the cockpit of the missing Malaysian plane may have
occurred before any of its communications systems were disabled, adding
more uncertainty about who aboard might have been to blame.

The search for Flight 370, which vanished early March 8 while flying
from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, has now been
expanded deep into the northern and southern hemispheres. Australian
vessels scoured the southern Indian Ocean and China offered 21 of its
satellites to help Malaysia in the unprecedented hunt.

 

With no wreckage found in one of the most puzzling
aviation mysteries of all time, relatives of those on the Boeing 777
have been left in an agonizing limbo.

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Investigators say the plane was
deliberately diverted during its overnight flight and flew off course
for hours. They haven't ruled out hijacking, sabotage, or pilot suicide,
and they are checking the backgrounds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew
members, as well as the ground crew, to see if links to terrorists,
personal problems or psychological issues could be factors.

 

Malaysian Defence Minister
Hishammuddin Hussein said finding the plane was still the main focus,
and he did not rule out it might be discovered intact.

 

"The fact that there was no distress
signal, no ransom notes, no parties claiming responsibility, there is
always hope," Hishammuddin said at a news conference.

 

Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari
Yahya said an initial investigation indicated the last words heard from
the plane by ground controllers — "All right, good night" — were
spoken by the co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid. Had it been a voice other
than that of Fariq or the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, it would have been
the clearest indication yet of something amiss in the cockpit before the
flight went off course.

 

Malaysian officials said earlier those
words came after one of the jetliner's data communications systems —
the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System — had been
switched off, suggesting the voice from the cockpit may have been trying
to deceive ground controllers.

 

However, Ahmad said while
the last data transmission from ACARS — which gives plane performance
and maintenance information — came before that, it was still unclear at
what point the system was switched off, making any implications of the
timing murkier.

 

The new information opened the
possibility both ACARS and the plane's transponders, which make the
plane visible to civilian air traffic controllers, were turned off at
about the same time. It also suggests the message delivered from the
cockpit could have preceded any of the severed communications.

 

Airline pilots cautioned against reading
too much into what little is known so far about the actions of the
Malaysia Airline crew.

 

"You can't take anything off table until
everything is on table, and we don't even have an aircraft," said Boeing
737 pilot Mike Karn, president of the Coalition of Airline Pilots
Associations.

 

Authorities have pointed
to the shutdown of the transponders and the ACARS as evidence someone
with a detailed knowledge of the plane was involved. But Bob Coffman, an
airline captain and former 777 pilot, said that kind of information is
probably available on the Internet.

 

"We really don't know what happened in the airplane at this point," he said.

 

Authorities confiscated a flight
simulator from the pilot's home Saturday and also visited the home of
the co-pilot in what Malaysian police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar initially
said was the first police visits to those homes.

 

But the government, which has come under
criticism abroad for missteps and foot-dragging in releasing
information, issued a statement Monday contradicting that account,
saying police first visited the pilots' homes as early as March 9, the
day after the flight disappeared.

 

"There are people for whom
flying is all-consuming in some way, shape or fashion," Coffman said,
including pilots who like to spend their off-duty hours on home
simulators, commenting online on pilot blogs or playing fighter-pilot
video games.