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A woman leaves a messages of hope for the passengers
of the missing plane in central Kuala Lumpur.

Co-pilot said 'all right, good night'

Kuala Lumpur, March 17, 2014

The co-pilot of the missing Malaysian jetliner spoke the last words heard from the cockpit, the airline's chief executive said on Monday, 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 unprecedented in its scale is now under way for the plane, covering a 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 that it was unclear exactly when one of the plane's automatic tracking systems had been disabled, appearing to contradict the weekend comments of government ministers.

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 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, when asked who it was believed had spoken those words.

That was a sign-off to air traffic controllers at 1.19 am, 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 - had been received at 1.07 am, as the plane crossed Malaysia's northeast coast and headed out over the Gulf of Thailand.

"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."

Police and a 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 west of Australia.

Kazakhstan, at the end of the northern arc, said it had not detected any "unsanctioned use" of its air space on March 8.

"Even if all on-board equipment is switched off, it is impossible to fly through in a silent mode," the Kazakh Civil Aviation Committee said in a statement sent to Reuters. "There are also military bodies monitoring the country's air space."

Asked if pilot or co-pilot suicide was a line of inquiry, one official said: "We are looking at it." But he added it was only one of the possibilities under investigation. - Reuters




Tags: China | Malaysian | Search | Missing plane |

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