Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Missing Plane: Officials Not Sure Which Way Jet Was Headed (VIDEO/LIVEBLOG)

from  huffpost

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — More than four days after a Malaysian jetliner went missing en route to Beijing, authorities acknowledged Wednesday they didn't know which direction the plane carrying 239 passengers was heading when it disappeared, vastly complicating efforts to find it.
Amid intensifying confusion and occasionally contradictory statements, the country's civil aviation authorities and the military both said the plane may have turned back from its last known position between Malaysian and Vietnam, possibly as far as the Strait of Malacca, a busy shipping lane on the western side of Malaysia.
How it might have done this without being clearly detected remains a mystery, raising questions over whether its electrical systems, including transponders allowing it to be spotted by radar, were either knocked out or turned off. If it did manage to fly on, it would challenge earlier theories that the plane may have suffered a catastrophic incident, initially thought reasonable because it didn't send out any distress signals.
Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage or terrorism in the disappearance of the plane. Both the Boeing 777 and Malaysia Airlines have excellent safety records. Until wreckage or debris is found and examined, it will be very hard say with any level of certainty what happened.
The search for the missing aircraft was begun from the spot it was last reported to be over the ocean between Malaysia and Vietnam. But they have also said search operations were ongoing in the Strait of Malacca. Scores of planes and aircraft have been scouring waters in both locations.
The country's air force chief, Gen. Rodzali Daud, released a statement denying remarks attributed to him in a local media report saying that military radar had managed to track the aircraft turning back from its original course, crossing the country and making it to the Malacca strait to the west of Malaysia. The Associated Press contacted a high-level military official, who confirmed the remarks.
Rodzali referred to a statement he said he made March 9 in which he said the air force has "not ruled out the possibility of an air turn back" and said search and rescue efforts had been expanded to the waters around Penang Island, in the northern section of the strait.
It is possible that the radar readings are not definitive or subject to interpretation, especially if a plane is malfunctioning.
"There is a possibility of an air turn back. We are still investigating and looking at the radar readings," the country's civilian aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said Wednesday.
The Strait of Malacca that separates Malaysia from Indonesia's Sumatra Island is some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from where the plane was last known to have made contact with ground control officials over the Gulf of Thailand at a height of 35,000 feet (almost 11,000 meters) early Saturday.
Adding to the confusion, Indonesia air force Col. Umar Fathur said the country had received official information from Malaysian authorities that the plane was above the South China Sea, about 10 nautical miles from Kota Bharu, Malaysia, when it turned back toward the strait and then disappeared. That would place its last confirmed position closer to Malaysia than has previously been publicly disclosed.
Fathur said Malaysian authorities have determined four blocks to be searched in the strait, which Indonesia was assisting in.
Vietnam continued to search for the plane on land and sea. In its area of responsibility, some 22 aircraft and 31 ships from several countries were involved, according to Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnamese People's Army.
Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar, who has been ordered to look at possible criminal aspects in the disappearance of the plane, said hijacking, sabotage and issues related to the pilots' psychological health were being considered.
An Australian TV station reported that the first officer on the missing plane, Fariq Abdul Hamid, had invited two women into the cockpit during a flight two years ago. One of the women, Jonti Roos, described the encounter on Australia's "A Current Affair."
Roos said she and a friend were allowed to stay in the cockpit during the entire one-hour flight on Dec. 14, 2011, from Phuket, Thailand, to Kuala Lumpur. She said the arrangement did not seem unusual to the plane's crew.
"Throughout the entire flight, they were talking to us and they were actually smoking throughout the flight," said Roos, who didn't immediately reply to a message sent to her via Facebook. The second pilot on the 2011 flight was not identified
Malaysia Airlines said they took the allegations seriously.


3:04 AM – Today
India's Search Help Sought
Malaysia is seeking help from India to find the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, Reuters reported.
However, a spokesman for India's foreign ministry said it has not yet been decided what area India would search.
For more, click here.
Hugh Dunleavy, the commercial director of Malaysia Airlines, told Reuters that the airline does not believe the crew's actions caused the plane to disappear over the weekend.
"We have no reason to believe that there was anything, any actions, internally by the crew that caused the disappearance of this aircraft," Dunleavy said.
He also described Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah as a season pilot with an excellent record.
"There have been absolutely no implications that we are aware of that there was anything untoward in either his behavior or attitude," Dunleavy said.
Click here for more.
According to Reuters, China is broadening its search efforts and adding two planes, while Vietnam scales back its search.
Malaysia's air force chief is denying reports that the plane was last tracked over the Strait of Malacca, according to Reuters.
TIME reports on Iranian teenager Pouria Nourmohammadi, who is thought to have been trying to reach Germany as an asylum seeker. TIME writes, "Due to dire economic circumstances as well as restrictions on social freedoms at home, some Iranian youth opt to make such risky trips."
A friend of the two MH370 passengers traveling with stolen passports told BBC South East Asia Correspondent Jonathan Head that they bought the European documents in Iran, Head wrote on Twitter.
As authorities continue the search for any part of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, others in the airline industry have begun to wonder if the ubiquitous black box has ceased to be the best option.
Civil aviation experts agree that live-streaming technology of in-flight recordings could replace the long-used black box. But the cost of new technology means airlines--always looking at the bottom line--are wary to implement the streaming devices.
"There are no technical barriers ... and the cost barriers can be addressed," said Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board. "But the reality is that air carriers don't want to do anything unless they're ordered to do it."
Read the entire AFP report here.
From the NYT:
The Malaysian authorities now believe that a jetliner missing since Saturday may have radically changed course around the time that it stopped communicating with ground controllers. But there were conflicting accounts of the course change and what may have happened afterward, adding to the air of confusion and disarray surrounding the investigation and search operation.
Read more here.
From the NYT:
Mikael Robertsson, the co-founder of Flightradar24, said the transponder on the jet never sent a signal to that receiver, which means that if the plane did fly that way, its transponder had either been knocked out of service by damage or had been shut off.
“We see every aircraft that flies over there, even if it’s very, very low, so if it flew over there, the transponder was off,” he said.
A pilot can turn off the transponder, Mr. Robertsson said, and the fact that the last contact from the Malaysia Airlines flight’s transponder came at roughly the same time that the cockpit crew stopped communicating with ground controllers by radio suggests that that is what happened, Mr. Robertsson said. “I guess to me it sounds like they were turned off deliberately.” The plane disappeared from Flightradar24’s tracking system at 1:21 a.m. Saturday while flying at 35,000 feet over the Gulf of Thailand; Malaysia Airlines has said that the last radio communication with the pilots was at about 1:30 a.m., but has not given a precise time.
Read more here.
10:22 AM – 03/11/2014
CIA Head Won't Rule Out Terrorism
From AFP:
The head of the US Central Intelligence Agency said Tuesday that terrorism could not be ruled out in the disappearance of a Malaysian airliner, describing the plane's fate as a "mystery."
CIA Director John Brennan said there had been reports of claims of responsibility for downing the missing jet, but stressed that these were far from confirmed.
"I think there's a lot of speculation right now -- some claims of responsibility that have not been, you know, confirmed or corroborated at all," he said.
"We are looking at it very carefully."
Brennan provided no further details, but his comment was the first reference by a US official to any alleged claim of responsibility over the jet's fate.
When asked if he could rule out a terrorist link, Brennan said: "No, I wouldn't rule it out."
Read more here.
8:01 AM – 03/11/2014
New Lead
Malaysia Airlines said on Tuesday that it is investigating Jonti Roos' claim that the one of the pilots on the missing plane had earlier invited women to stay in the cockpit.
Jonti Roos spoke about her flight on the program "A Current Affair," which aired multiple still photographs from Roos that showed the women inside the cockpit and the pilots apparently working the plane's controls.
The airline said late Tuesday it wouldn't comment about the report until its investigation into it is complete.
Roos said she and her friend were allowed to stay in the cockpit during the entire one-hour flight in December 2011, from Phuket, Thailand, to Kuala Lumpur. She said the arrangement did not seem unusual to the plane's crew.
Fariq Abdul Hamid and the other pilot talked to the women, smoked and posed for photos during the flight, she said.
"Throughout the entire flight they were talking to us, and they were actually smoking throughout the flight," Roos said.
-- Eline Gordts
malaysia airlines
Commander Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar (left), Lieutenant General Dato' Sri Ackbal bin Hj Abdul Samad (2nd left), Malaysian Defence Minister & (Acting) Minister of Transport Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (2nd right), and Malaysian Defence Forces chief Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin discuss their strategy during a search and rescue mission flight on March 11, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Officials have expanded the search area for the missing plane to include more of the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam and land along the Malay Peninsula. (Photo by Angkatan Tentera Malaysia via Getty Images)
A new report suggests Fariq Ab Hamid, the co-pilot of missing flight MH370, may have had a lax attitude to security in the past. South African Jonti Roos, who flew with Hamid on a 2011 Malaysia airlines flight, tells the Wall Street Journal that he and the captain of that earlier flight invited her and a friend into the cockpit with them:
"My friend and I were I invited into the cockpit by (the) pilot and co-pilot, Fariq Ab Hamid, and sat there for the duration of the flight from takeoff until landing," Ms. Roos said in a Facebook message sent to The Wall Street Journal. She said at least one of the pilots was smoking during the flight.
"My friend and I were allowed to take photos in the cockpit without intervention, but didn't in any way distract the pilots from their duties," she said.
Ms. Roos said she didn't question the flight crew's professionalism and didn't feel unsafe during the flight. She said she wasn't trying to imply that Mr. Fariq had any role in the disappearance of Flight MH370 and expressed sympathy to the families of those aboard.
--Braden Goyette

No comments:

Post a Comment