Missing MH370: It was a deliberate act

Missing MH370: It was a deliberate act

SEPANG - It is now official: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced it was no accident that MH370 went off radar and off course. It was done deliberately.

And while the authorities stopped short of calling it a hijack, an act of piracy, suspicion has fallen on the crew members of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 and passengers with technical expertise.

US media had reported, quoting military sources, that the plane's communication systems were systematically turned off. Experts say this could be done by someone trained to know where the switches were and how to do it.

In a prepared statement to the media here yesterday, Najib said the authorities were refocusing on the 239 crew and passengers.

This apparently includes the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah. Police went to his house in Shah Alam where he is reported to have a self-built cockpit simulator.

The Prime Minister said that someone aboard the jetliner deliberately turned off the aircraft's communications systems before the plane veered off course.

He said investigators found that the Aircraft Communications and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled just before the plane reached the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia after taking off at 12.41am on March 8 from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The transponder was switched off as MH370 neared the Malaysian and Vietnamese traffic control border, after which civilian radar lost contact with the plane at 1.30am.

The aircraft, which was supposed to be bound for Beijing, then turned back and was flown over Peninsular Malaysia, where it was last tracked by military radar 200 miles northwest of Penang at 2.15am.

"Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, these movements (of the aircraft) are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.

"In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board," said Najib.

The ACARS automatically sends out bursts of simple messages to ground stations via radio or satellite service data systems, while the transponder is an electronic device that responds to signals sent from the ground by air traffic control radar.

Najib said new data shared among the investigating teams from the various agencies confirmed that the last communication between MH370 and a communications satellite was at 8.11am, seven hours and 30 minutes after the plane took off.

The exact location of the aircraft during its last contact has yet to be confirmed, but Malaysian aviation authorities and their international counterparts have determined that MH370's last communication with the satellite occurred as the aircraft was in one of two possible areas.

"The first is at a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and the second a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean," Najib said.

Foreign media reports, quoting unnamed sources, said either one of the pilots or someone with knowledge of aviation had hijacked the aircraft.

Despite such media reports, Najib said he wished to be "very clear" that authorities were still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path.

In light of the new information, search operations in the South China Sea are being stopped and "we are reassessing the redeployment of our assets", he said.

The Prime Minister took no questions from the media, and the daily press conference at the same venue scheduled for 5.30pm yesterday was cancelled.

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