Wings Magazine

News
Search for missing Malaysia Airlines jet intensifies

March 17, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - The search for the missing Malaysian jet pushed deep into the northern and southern hemispheres Monday as Australia scoured the southern Indian Ocean and China offered 21 satellites to respond to Malaysia's call for help in the unprecedented hunt.


March 17, 2014
By CBC News

French investigators arriving in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur
to lend expertise from the two-year search for an Air France jet that
crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 said they were able to rely on
distress signals. But that vital tool is missing in the Malaysia
Airlines mystery because flight 370's communications were
deliberately severed ahead of its disappearance more than a week
ago, investigators say.

 

"It's very different from the Air France case. The Malaysian
situation is much more difficult," Jean Paul Troadec, a special adviser
to France's aviation accident investigation bureau, said in Kuala
Lumpur.

Advertisment

 

Malaysian authorities say the jet carrying 239 people was intentionally diverted from its flight path during an overnight
flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 and flew off-course for
several hours. Suspicion has fallen on the pilots, although Malaysian
officials have said they are looking into everyone aboard the flight.

 

Malaysian police confiscated a flight simulator from the pilot's home
on 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 their release of
information — issued a statement Monday contradicting that account by
saying police first visited the pilots' homes as early as March 9, the
day after the flight.

 

Investigators haven't ruled out hijacking or sabotage and are
checking backgrounds of all 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.

 

For now, though, Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said
finding the plane was still the main focus, and he did not rule out
finding it intact.

 

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

 

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

Malaysian officials earlier said those words came after one of the
jetliner's data communications systems — the Aircraft Communications
Addressing and Reporting System — had been switched off, sharpening
suspicion that one or both of the pilots may have been involved in the
plane's disappearance. 

 

However, Ahmad said Monday that 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. That opened the possibility that both ACARS and the
plane's transponders — which make the plane visible to civilian air
traffic controllers — were severed later and at about the same time. It
also suggests that the all-clear message delivered from the cockpit
could have preceded any of the severed communications.

 

Although Malaysian authorities requested that all nations with
citizens aboard the flight conduct background checks on them, it wasn't
clear how thoroughly they were conducting such checks at home. The
father of a Malaysian aviation engineer aboard the plane, Mohamad
Khairul Amri Selamat, 29, said police had not approached anyone in the
family about his son, though he added that there was no reason to
suspect him.

 

"It is impossible for him to be involved in something like this,"
said the father, Selamat Omar, 60. "He is a good boy … We are keeping
our hopes high. I am praying hard that the plane didn't crash and that
he will be back soon."

Malaysia's government in the meantime sent out diplomatic cables to
all countries in the search area, seeking their help in providing planes
and ships for the search, as well as to ask for any radar data that
might help narrow the task.

Some 26 countries are involved in the search, which initially focused
on seas on either side of peninsular Malaysia, in the South China Sea
and the Strait of Malacca.

 

Over the weekend, however, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak
announced that investigators determined that a satellite picked up a
faint signal from the aircraft about 7½ hours after takeoff. The signal
indicated that the plane would have been somewhere on a vast arc
stretching from Kazakhstan down to the southern reaches of the Indian
Ocean.

 

Hishammuddin said Monday that searches in both the northern and
southern stretches of the arc had begun, with countries from Australia
up north to China and west to Kazakhstan joining the hunt.

Had the plane gone northwest to Central Asia, it would have crossed
over countries with busy airspace, and some experts believe the person
in control of the aircraft would more likely have chosen to go south.
However, authorities are not ruling out the northern corridor and are
eager for radar data that might confirm or rule out that path.

 

The northern search corridor crosses through countries including
China, India and Pakistan — all of which have indicated they have seen
no sign of the plane so far.

China, where two thirds of the passengers were from, is providing
several planes and 21 satellites for the search, Premier Li Keqiang said
in a statement. 

 

"Factors involved in the incident continue to multiply, the area of
search and rescue continues to broaden, and the level of difficulty
increases, but as long as there is one thread of hope, we will continue
an all-out effort," Li said.

To the south, Indonesia focused on Indian Ocean waters west of Sumatra, air force spokesman Rear Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto said.

 

Australia agreed to Malaysia's request to take the lead in scouring
the southern Indian Ocean with four Orion maritime planes that also
would be joined by New Zealand and U.S. planes, Australian Prime
Minister Tony Abbott said.

 

"Australia will do its duty in this matter," Abbott told Parliament
in Australia. "We will do our duty to the families of the 239 people on
that aircraft who are still absolutely devastated by their absence, and
who are still profoundly, profoundly saddened by this as yet unfathomed
mystery."