Media Issue: Flight MH370

By: Donald Louch

Abstract

This paper is a media issue assignment. We had to choose a story and follow it for two weeks (fourteen days), then do a report on it. I chose to do the story about the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which in some way seemed to ‘vanish in thin air’ (see appendices a-p). From the two weeks that this story was reported on, there have been many conspiracies that the media has come up with which have been rather debunked or is still being investigated.

Analysis

The media stake holders with this issue contains people from all around the world, and they give to some degree they gave their own opinion on what actually happened to this airliner. However, most of the news sources that were chosen agreed on some of the main conspiracies which were heavily reported on, such as the a conspiracy of a hijacking, or a theory of pilot suicide, or that there was a bomb on board, to even failure of the airframe, to a failure of both engines, or that the weather was bad. There is even a conspiracy that this was a Hollywood promotional stunt for the remake of “Lost” (see appendix e). However, one of the most odd conspiracies would be that this was an alien abduction (see appendix f).

Furthermore, the perspective that essentially every media source that reported on this issue took was that of, a plane that has disappeared or crashed or even vanished into thin air. In addition, no one may ever know what truly happened to Flight MH370.

With the media sources that were chosen, there were really no sides that they chose which is most likely because no one really know what happened to the flight.

In the various media sources and platforms that were chosen, the main key points were that there was a plane that may have crashed, vanished or something else with 239 passengers on board (see appendix a). There were many different conspiracies that were also created by the media.

Over the two weeks of following this story, the issue didn’t really change or get solved since Flight MH370, is still missing. However, with that being said, some of the concepts have been able to be debunked.

One could say that the conclusion of mystery has been declared with this particular story. This is because in the two week period of reporting on the story no evidence really lead to a true conclusion. Therefore, with this story there is no way to really conclude it within the two week period of tracking.

With the way that the media covered this issue, they just proved to me that the media is truly careless and really doesn’t care how they effect the readers. For example they came up with many different concepts on what happened to this airline, and in addition, they didn’t give the families any breathing room.


A family member of a passenger on flight MH370. Photograph: Imaginechina/Rex (Appendix H)

This is not right no matter what you are reporting on. This is in my opinion poor journalism. One could argue that this type of journalism, is written the category of egalitarian ethic, because they did in someways give “all people […] an equal hearing and the same fair consideration” (Vivian & Maurin, 2012, p. 232), when it came to collecting the conspiracy theories. It can be argued that these media sources reported from both their own interruption and from other sources . As Vivian and Maurin pointed out, “[not] only do people in their […] lifestyle need mass media, but the industries that have built up around these media need an audience” (2012, p. 4). This can be said, because people need to know exactly what happened before this issue is going to be at the end. The industries (the media sources) make up all these conspiracies to interest the audience. In addition, at some points, they did give the families hope that their loved ones can still be found. However, that being said many of the sources that I found were taken from another source. After following this for two weeks it does still leave many of unanswered questions mainly, the airliner is still missing, and no one knows what on why or how it happened. In my personal opinion, I don’t feel that the general public has a good understanding of the issue because the media didn’t really answer any solid questions, or were they able to because of the unknown area of the whole matter.

At the beginning of this assignment I strongly believed that it was odd, how a plane could just go off the grid so quickly. In addition, as the weeks progressed I found it interesting on all the conspiracies that these news sources came up with.

Appendix

Two Canadians aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines plane identified (with video)

Vietnamese air force planes spotted two large oil slicks close to where the Boeing 777 went missing, the first sign that the aircraft had crashed
 BY EILEEN NG AND CHRIS BRUMMITT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS MARCH 14, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Two Canadian passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that went missing earlier in the day, have been identified. Xiaomo Bai and Muktesh Mukherjee were among the 239 passengers aboard the MH370 fell off radar screens less than an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday morning.

The Canadians were named in the flight manifest. An airline spokeswoman says company officials are not able to get in touch with their families but have contacted the Canadian embassy in Malaysia.

Vietnamese air force planes, that were part of a multinational search operation, spotted two large oil slicks on Saturday close to where the Boeing 777 went missing, the first sign that the aircraft had crashed.The air force planes launched the operation after Flight MH370 fell off radar screens less than an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday morning.

The oil slicks were spotted late Saturday off the southern tip of Vietnam and were each between 10 kilometres and 15 kilometres long, the Vietnamese government said in a statement. There was no confirmation that the slicks were related to the missing plane, but the statement said they were consistent with the kinds that would be produced by the two fuel tanks of a crashed jetliner.

Two-thirds of the missing plane’s passengers were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted his condolences.

“Our thoughts and deepest prayers are with those affected by the disappearance of the plane in Malaysia,” Harper said.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said there was no indication that the pilots had sent a distress signal, suggesting that whatever happened to the plane occurred quickly and possibly catastrophically.

Asked whether terrorism was suspected, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said, “We are looking at all possibilities, but it is too early to make any conclusive remarks.”

Foreign ministry officials in Italy and Austria said the names of two nationals from those countries listed on the flight’s manifest matched passports reported stolen in Thailand.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry said the Italian man who was listed as being a passenger, Luigi Maraldi, was travelling in Thailand and was not aboard the plane. It said he reported his passport stolen last August.

Austria’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that a name listed on the manifest matched an Austrian passport reported stolen two years ago in Thailand. It said the Austrian was not on the plane, but would not confirm the person’s identity.

At Beijing’s airport, authorities posted a notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather at a nearby hotel to wait for further information, and provided a shuttle bus service. A woman wept aboard the bus while saying on a mobile phone, “They want us to go to the hotel. It cannot be good.”
Relatives and friends of passengers were escorted into a private area at the hotel, but reporters were kept away. A man in a grey hooded sweatshirt later stormed out complaining about a lack of information. The man, who said he was a Beijing resident but declined to give his name, said he was anxious because his mother was on board the flight with a group of 10 tourists.

“We have been waiting for hours and there is still no verification,” he said.

The plane was last detected on radar at 1:30 a.m. (1730 GMT Friday) around where the South China Sea meets the Gulf of Thailand, authorities in Malaysia and Vietnam said.

Lai Xuan Thanh, director of Vietnam’s civil aviation authority, said air traffic officials in the country never made contact with the plane.
The plane “lost all contact and radar signal one minute before it entered Vietnam’s air traffic control,” Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese army, said in a statement.

The South China Sea is a tense region with competing territorial claims that have led to several low- level conflicts, particularly between China and the Philippines. That antipathy briefly faded Saturday as China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia all sent ships and planes to the region.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that Malaysia had dispatched 15 planes and nine ships to the area, and that the U.S. Navy was sending some planes as well. Singapore, China and Vietnam also were sending aircraft.

It’s not uncommon for it to take several days to find the wreckage of aircraft floating on the ocean. Locating and then recovering the flight data recorders, vital to any investigation, can take months or even years.

“In times of emergencies like this, we have to show unity of efforts that transcends boundaries and issues,” said Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, commander of the Philippine military’s Western Command.

After the oil slick was spotted, the air search was suspended for the night and was to resume Sunday morning, while the sea search was ongoing, Malaysia Airlines said.

The plane was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said. It said there were 152 passengers from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven from Indonesia, six from Australia, five from India, three from the U.S., two from Canada and others from Indonesia, France, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and the Netherlands.

In Kuala Lumpur, family members gathered at the airport, but were kept away from reporters.

“Our team is currently calling the next of kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support,” said Yahya, the airline CEO. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members.”
Fuad Sharuji, Malaysia Airlines’ vice-president of operations control, told CNN that the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,670 metres when it disappeared and that the pilots had reported no problem with the aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19- year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three passengers, all teenagers from China.

Airliner “black boxes” — the flight data and cockpit voice recorders — are equipped with “pingers” that emit ultrasonic signals that can be detected underwater. Under good conditions, the signals can be detected from several hundred miles away, said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. If the boxes are trapped inside the wreckage, the sound may not travel as far, he said. If the boxes are at the bottom of an underwater trench, that also hinders how far the sound can travel. The signals also weaken over time.

Air France Flight 447, with 228 people on board, disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, 2009. Some wreckage and bodies were recovered over the next two weeks, but it took nearly two years for the main wreckage of the Airbus 330 and its black boxes to be located and recovered.

Malaysia Airlines said the 53-year-old pilot of Flight MH370, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, has more than 18,000 flying hours and has been flying for the airline since 1981. The first officer, 27-year-old Fariq Hamid, has about 2,800 hours of experience and has flown for the airline since 2007.

The tip of the wing of the same Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200 broke off Aug. 9, 2012, as it was taxiing at Pudong International Airport outside Shanghai. The wingtip collided with the tail of a China Eastern Airlines A340 plane. No one was injured.

Malaysia Airlines’ last fatal incident was in 1995, when one its planes crashed near the Malaysian city of Tawau, killing 34 people. The deadliest crash in its history occurred in 1977, when a domestic Malaysian flight crashed after being hijacked, killing 100 people.

In August 2005, a Malaysian Airlines 777 flying from Perth, Australia, to Kuala Lumpur suddenly shot up 900 metres (3,000 feet) before the pilot disengaged the autopilot and landed safely. The plane’s software had incorrectly measured speed and acceleration, and the software was quickly updated on planes around the world.

Malaysia Airlines has 15 Boeing 777-200s in its fleet of about 100 planes. The state-owned carrier last month reported its fourth straight quarterly loss and warned of tougher times.

Chris Brummitt reported from Hanoi, Vietnam. Didi Tang and video producer Aritz Parra in Beijing, Stephen Wright in Bangkok, Colleen Barry in Milan, George Jahn in Vienna, Jim Gomez and Oliver Teves in Manila, Philippines, Joan Lowy in Washington, and Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.

— With files from The Canadian Press
© Copyright (c)


Faces of the missing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

Families tell of despair and anger at lack of information from airline
BY PATRICK SAWER AND MALCOLM MOORE, LONDON SUNDAY TELEGRAPH MARCH 14, 2014

LONDON/BEIJING — It was roughly an hour after the arrivals board at Beijing Capital airport had flashed up a “delayed” notice for Flight MH370 that the terrible news began to emerge.

The Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to the Chinese capital was missing and a search-and- rescue operation had begun.

In the arrivals hall, pandemonium broke out as waiting relations began to suspect the dreadful fate that may have befallen their loved ones.
Frantic for news of the 153 Chinese on board, they mobbed the travel information desk, but the two female attendants, dressed in bright red coats, could only smile and shrug their shoulders.

One woman in a white coat burst into tears in the middle of the concourse and was quickly surrounded by television cameramen and photographers.
Police began ushering relations into a staff area at the side of the hall, before moving them by minibus to the Lido Hotel in downtown Beijing, a half-hour drive from the airport.

There the long, agonizing wait for news began.

“When we got here, some people who said they were from the airport helped us to fill in forms with our personal details,” said one relation, who refused to give her name. “Then we just had to wait.”

Conflicting rumours began to circulate — one suggested the plane had made an emergency landing, another that passengers had been spotted in life vests floating in the sea.

A passenger manifest was leaked to a Chinese website, with one name oddly blurred out.

At noon, the red line at the top of the arrivals board for the delayed MH370 blinked off. But the smiling staff behind the desk still had no information.
Back at the hotel, tempers began to fray. “Malaysia Airlines has not told us a single thing. No one from the company has even been in to see us,” one relation said.

“They cannot keep hundreds of us here for hours without any information.”

As the light began to fade, the anger gave way to weariness. The hotel made up rooms for the group and said costs would be taken care of. Many vowed to wait until they had some resolution on the fate of their loved ones.

The air-rescue crews returned to their bases, unable to keep searching in the dark. They would begin again at daybreak, they said.
Then, slowly, as the hours passed, details began to emerge of the passengers who were now being classed as missing, feared lost.
Those on board came from across the world, with passengers from Malaysia, Australia, the United States, France and, of course, China.
Among the most poignant stories was that of two French teenagers, Hadrien Wattrelos, 17, and Zhao Yan, 18, who had enrolled together at the Lycee Francais International de Pekin, also known as the French School.

A picture of the couple posted on Wattrelos’s college page on July 29, 2013, was accompanied by the words “Je t’aime (I love you).”
“Haaaaaa mon amour, trooooop mignon” (Ha my love, too cute),” Zhao responded. The pair, both French citizens, gave Paris as their hometown.
Two other passengers on the flight, Laurence Wattrelos, 52, and Ambre Wattrelos, 14, were believed to be Hadrien’s mother and sister, respectively.
Ambre is also a student at the French School and Laurence is listed as vice-president of the Association des Parents D’Eleves du Lycee Francais International de Pekin, a French parent-teacher organization, on that group’s website.

As names emerged, so did more photographs of those feared dead. In Malaysia, Hamid Ramlan was handing out photographs of his daughter, Norliakmar Hamid, 34, and her husband Razahan Zamani, whom he said were both on board.

Norliakmar’s brother, Mohd Lokman Hamid, 31, said he learned that the couple were on the flight from her Facebook status, which she posted late Saturday night. He told reporters: “I know they had been planning to go to Beijing for a holiday, especially after she suffered a miscarriage. I immediately called (the airline) to verify the story, but they said they will call me back for confirmation.

“I’m terribly worried as too many speculations have been made about the incident. Some even say that the aircraft has issues with its global positioning system (GPS). I just hope that my sister and brother- in-law, as well as other passengers on board the aircraft, are safe.”
Chrisman Siregar showed a portrait of his son, Firman, dressed in his graduation robes, as his family gathered in tearful silence to watch news of the search-and-rescue operation.

The flight was carrying 227 passengers, including two children, and 12 crew members. They were made up of 153 Chinese nationals, 38 Malaysians, five Indians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, four French, three Americans, two each from New Zealand, Ukraine and Canada and one Russian, one Italian, one Dutch and one Austrian.

The pilot was Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a 53-year-old Malaysian who joined the airline in 1981 and had 18,000 hours flying time under his belt. His co-pilot was First Officer Fariq Ab. Hamid, 27, also from Malaysia, who joined the airline in 2007.

The three Americans were Philip Wood, 51, an IBM executive who worked in Kuala Lumpur, and two children, Leo Meng, 2, and Nicole Meng, 4. More than 20 Chinese artists and their family members, who were in Kuala Lumpur for an art exchange program, are also missing. The Sichuan provincial government said Zhang Jinquan, a well-known calligrapher, was on the flight.

A man at Beijing airport, who only gave his name as Mr. Song, said: “My parents were on board. They were in Kuala Lumpur for an accountancy project for five days. I will wait here until I am told something. No one from Malaysia Airlines has told us anything all day.”

Two Australian couples, Rodney and Mary Burrows, and Catherine and Robert Lawton, from Brisbane, had been travelling on the flight together.
Lawton’s brother, Robert, said: “Dad phoned this morning and said ‘Bobby’s plane’s missing.’ I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. We just want to know where it is, where the plane’s come down, if there’s anything left.”

According to friends, the Lawtons were kindly neighbours and doting grandparents who enjoyed travelling. Similar things were being said of the Burrowses. Don Stokes said: “They are lovely people. They were excited about the trip.”

Another passenger, Paul Weeks, had left his wife Danica and sons Lincoln, 3, and Jack, 10 months, at home in Perth, Western Australia, to make his way to Mongolia, where he was due to start a new posting as a mechanical engineer in the region’s mining industry.
It was meant to be the start of a dream job. Now, his wife is left, like so many others, to try to come to terms with the tragic news.

© Copyright (c) The Daily Telegraph


Air search expands for objects that could be from missing Malaysian Airlines plane

‘Best lead’ prompts officials to scan rough seas in one of the remotest places on Earth
BY SCOTT MCDONALD AND KRISTEN GELINEAU, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS MARCH 20, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Search planes flying out of Australia on Friday began a difficult hunt through rough seas in one of the remotest places on Earth for objects that may be from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

In what one official called the “best lead” of the nearly 2-week-old aviation mystery, a satellite detected two large objects floating off the southwest coast of Australia about halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.

The area in the southern Indian Ocean is so remote is takes aircraft longer to fly there — four hours — than it allows for the search.

The discovery raised new hope of finding the vanished jet and sent another emotional jolt to the families of the 239 people aboard.

A search Thursday with four planes in cloud and rain found nothing, and Australian authorities said Friday efforts had resumed with two Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orion planes and an ultra-long- range Bombardier Global Express arriving at the area about 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) from western Australia.

A third Orion was in the air, while a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft was scheduled to leave at 4 p.m. (0600 GMT) — but like the other planes, it will have enough fuel for only two to three hours of search time before returning to Perth.

A New Zealand P-3 Orion plane took part in the unsuccessful search Thursday. Mike Yardley, an air commodore with New Zealand’s air force, said the plane was forced to duck below thick clouds and fog to a very low altitude of 60 metres (200 feet), hampering the operation.

But Yardley was optimistic that the searchers will find the objects. “We will find it — I’m sure about that piece of it. The only reason we wouldn’t find it was that it has sunk,” he said of the large unidentified object spotted by the satellite.

“I’ve been on these missions before when it’s taken a few days to come across it,” he said. Warren Truss, Australia’s acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is overseas, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that weather conditions in the search area were poor and may get worse.

“And so clearly this is a very, very difficult and challenging search. Weather conditions are not particularly good and risk that they may deteriorate,” Truss said.

Speaking at a news conference in Papua New Guinea, Abbott said, “We’ve been throwing everything we’ve got at that area to try to learn more about what this debris might be.”

He said that the objects “could just be a container that’s fallen off a ship — we just don’t know.”

Abbott spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he described as “devastated.” Of the 227 passengers on the missing flight, 154 were from China.

“It’s about the most inaccessible spot that you could imagine on the face of the earth, but if there is anything down there we will find it. We owe it to the families of those people to do no less,” Abbott said.

One of the objects on the satellite image was 24 metres (almost 80 feet) long — which is longer than a standard container — and the other was 5 metres (15 feet). There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from Australia, John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division, said Thursday.

“This is a lead, it’s probably the best lead we have right now,” Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a busy shipping route.

Truss said officials were checking more satellite images with stronger resolution to find out how far the objects might have shifted since the initial images were captured. “They will have moved because of tides and wind and the like, so the search area is quite broad,” Truss said.

The Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg, with a Filipino crew of 20, arrived in the area and used lights to search overnight before resuming a visual search Friday, said Ingar Skiaker of Hoegh Autoliners, speaking to reporters in Oslo.

The Norwegian ship, which transports cars, was on its way from South Africa to Australia, he said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said another commercial ship and an Australian navy vessel were also en route to the search area.

Three Chinese naval ships were heading to the area. China’s search and rescue agency also said it had asked the country’s Oceanic Administration to dispatch the icebreaker Xue Long (the Snow Dragon), which was in Perth following a voyage to the Antarctica in January, to take part in the search.

There have been several false leads since the Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and one analyst cautioned against rising hopes the objects are from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

“The chances of it being debris from the airplane are probably small, and the chances of it being debris from other shipping are probably large,” said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The development also marked a new phase for the anguished relatives of the passengers, who have been critical of Malaysian officials for what the relatives say has been the slow release of timely information. While they still hope their loved ones will somehow be found, they acknowledged that news of the satellite images could mean the plane fell into the sea.

“If it turns out that it is truly MH370, then we will accept that fate,” said Selamat Omar, the father of a Malaysian passenger. The jet carried mostly Chinese and Malaysian nationals.

But he cautioned that relatives still “do not yet know for sure whether this is indeed MH370 or something else. Therefore, we are still waiting for further notice from the Australian government.”

Malaysian officials met with the relatives Thursday night in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, but journalists were kept away. After the meeting, groups of people left looking distraught.

Hamid Amran, who had a child on Flight 370, said questions asked at the meeting made it “apparent that Malaysia’s military is incapable of protecting its own airspace.”

He believes “that my child and all the other passengers are still alive. I will not give up hope.”

The hunt has encountered other false leads. Oil slicks that were seen did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be sea trash. Chinese satellite images showed possible debris, but nothing was found.

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.
Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.
___
Gelineau reported from Sydney, Australia. Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk and Todd Pitman in Kuala Lumpur; Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand; and Julia Gronnevet in Oslo, Norway, contributed to this report.
© Copyright (c)


Malaysia Airlines: Last 54 minutes of Flight MH370

The Telegraph obtains transcript of exchanges between co-pilot and air traffic control
BY JONATHAN PEARLMAN AND ADAM WU, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH MARCH 24, 2014

Kuala Lumpur — The last 54 minutes of cockpit communication aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 can be disclosed today (Saturday) by The Daily Telegraph.

A transcript of conversations between the co-pilot and the control tower, and other air traffic controllers, runs from the time the Boeing 777 was taxiing to its last known position thousands of feet above the South China Sea.

It includes exchanges from a point at which investigators believe the plane had already been sabotaged, as well as the last words of Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, the co-pilot: “All right, good night.”

Last night analysts said the sequence of messages appeared “perfectly routine”. However two features, they said, stood out as potentially odd.
The first was a message from the cockpit at 1.07am, saying the plane was flying at 35,000ft. This was unnecessary as it repeated a message delivered six minutes earlier.

But it occurred at a crucial moment: it was at 1.07am that the plane’s Acars signalling device sent its last message before being disabled some time in the next 30 minutes, apparently deliberately. A separate transponder was disabled at 1.21am but investigators believe the Acars was shut down before Hamid’s final, 1.19am farewell.

The other odd feature, one reason for suspicions that the plane’s disappearance was no accident, was that its loss of communication and subsequent sharp turn west occurred at the handover from air traffic controllers in Kuala Lumpur to those in Ho Chi Minh City.
“If I was going to steal the aeroplane, that would be the point I would do it,” said Stephen Buzdygan, a former British Airways pilot who flew 777s.
“There might be a bit of dead space between the air traffic controllers … It was the only time during the flight they would maybe not have been able to be seen from the ground.”

The fresh details add to speculation over the fate of MH370, whether it was the victim of a sudden accident or a hijacking. The transcript also suggests that if the pilots were involved, they were very careful to hide their true intentions.

Last night, dozens of ships and aircraft continued to search an area off the Australian coast where
debris, potentially from MH370, was spotted by a spy satellite earlier this week.

Malaysia has begun contacting the handful of nations with deep sea detection equipment for help in what may be a long search for the aircraft’s black box. The area of interest spans 9,000 sq miles of waters up to 13,000ft deep with strong currents.

Warren Truss, Australia’s deputy prime minister, acknowledged that the apparent debris may never be found. “Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating,” he said. “Any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance, potentially hundreds of kilometres.”
Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transport minister, said the search was proving frustrating and cautioned: “This is going to be a long haul”.
Malaysia Airlines said yesterday that the aircraft was carrying lithium ion batteries, which are deemed “dangerous” cargo and can overheat and cause fires. But Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, the airline’s head, said the batteries – used in laptops and mobile phones – were packed in accordance with regulations and were unlikely to have posed a threat.

He would not comment on whether Hamid, the co-pilot, appeared to have been under duress during his final message.
The Daily Telegraph has repeatedly asked Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority and the office of Najib Razak, the Malaysian prime minister, to confirm the communications record; only the prime minister’s office responded, saying it would not release this data.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun



What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370?

Monday, March 10, 2014
Listen to the audio podcast at www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/03/10/what-happened-to-malaysia-airlines-flight-mh370/ (from 1:53 to 8:44)

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 not tracked to Malacca: air force Chief denies report that military tracked jet far from where it last contacted air traffic control

The Associated Press Posted: Mar 11, 2014 12:27 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 11, 2014 11:52 PM ET

Malaysia’s air force chief has denied an earlier media report that the military last tracked a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner over the Strait of Malacca, far west from where it last made contact with civilian air traffic control when it disappeared four days ago.

“I wish to state that I did not make any such statements,” Malaysian air force chief Rodzali Daud said in a statement on Wednesday.

Local newspaper Berita Harian had quoted Daud as saying radar at a military base had detected the airliner at 2:40 a.m. local time near Pulau Perak at the northern approach to the strait, a busy waterway that separates the western coast of Malaysia and Indonesia’s Sumatra island.

“After that, the signal from the plane was lost,” he was quoted as saying.

Reuters has now reported that Daud denied making such a statement.

A senior military official said earlier Tuesday that the Malaysian military had radar data showing the missing Boeing 777 jetliner changed course and made it to the Malacca Strait, hundreds of kilometres from the last position recorded by civilian authorities.

A high-ranking military official involved in the investigation confirmed the report and also said the plane was believed to be flying low. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Authorities had earlier said the plane, which took off at 12:20 a.m. and was headed to Beijing, may have attempted to turn back to Kuala Lumpur, but they expressed surprise that it would do so without informing ground control.

The search for the plane was initially focused on waters between the eastern coast of Malaysia and Vietnam, the position where aviation authorities last tracked it. No trace of the plane, which was carrying 239 people, has been found by the 40 planes and ships from at least 10 nations searching the area.
Earlier Tuesday, Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that search and rescue teams had expanded their scope to the Malacca Strait. An earlier statement said the western coast of Malaysia was “now the focus,” but the airline subsequently said that phrase was an oversight. It didn’t elaborate. Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the search remained “on both sides” of the country.

Also Tuesday, authorities said two people who boarded the flight using stolen passports were Iranians who had purchased tickets to Europe. Their appearance on the flight had raised speculation of a possible terrorist link.

Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said investigators had determined one was a 19-year-old Iranian, Pouria Nourmohammadi Mehrdad, and that it seemed likely he was planning to migrate to Germany.

“We believe he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group,” Khalid said.

Switched passports
Interpol identified the second man as Seyed Mohammed Reza Delavar, a 29-year-old Iranian, and released an image of the two boarding a plane at the same time. Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said the two men travelled to Malaysia on their Iranian passports, then apparently switched to their stolen Austrian and Italian documents.

Stunt man aboard
A stunt man whose credits include the acclaimed martial arts epic The Grandmaster and other films was among the passengers on a missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

Ju Kun also worked on The Forbidden Kingdom. He was scheduled to work on a joint Weinstein Co. and Netflix production, the pilot of a new series Marco Polo, at a studio in Malaysia before he boarded the Malaysia Airline flight to return home to Beijing.

He said speculation of terrorism appeared to be dying down “as the belief becomes more certain that these two individuals were probably not terrorists.” He appealed to the public for more information about the two.

Malaysia Airlines, meanwhile, said it is investigating an Australian television report that the co-pilot on the missing plane had invited two women into the cockpit during a flight two years ago.

Jonti Roos described the encounter on Australia’s A Current Affair. The airline said it wouldn’t comment until its investigation is complete.
Roos said she and her 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,” Roos said.
Roos didn’t immediately reply to a message sent to her via Facebook.

The missing plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, on the western coast of Malaysia, early Saturday en route to Beijing.
It flew across Malaysia into the Gulf of Thailand at 11,000 metres and then disappeared from radar screens.

Vast search area.

The hunt began on Saturday near the plane’s last known location. But with no debris found there, the search has been systematically expanded to include areas the plane could have reached with the fuel it had on board. That is a vast area in which to locate something as small as a piece of an aircraft.
China, where two-thirds of the passengers are from, urged Malaysian authorities on Tuesday to “speed up the efforts” to find the plane. It has sent four ships, with another four on the way.

A shopping mall in Beijing suspended advertising on its large outdoor LED screen to display a search timer — an image of an airplane along with a digital clock marking the time since contact with the flight was lost.

Assuming the plane crashed into the ocean or disintegrated in midair, there will likely still be debris floating in the ocean, but it may be widely spread out and much may have already sunk. In past disasters, it has taken days or longer to find wreckage.

© The Associated Press, 2014

Crowdsourcing the Search for Malaysia Flight 370

DENVER – As the mystery of what happened to the 239 people on board Malaysia flight 370 deepens, a Colorado satellite imaging company is launching an effort to crowdsource the search, asking the public for help analyzing high-resolution images for any sign of the missing airliner.
Longmont, Colo.-based DigitalGlobe trained cameras from its five orbiting satellites Saturday on the Gulf of Thailand region where Malaysia flight 370 was last heard from, said Luke Barrington, senior manager of Geospatial Big Data for DigitalGlobe.

The images being gathered will be made available for free to the public on a website called Tomnod. Anyone can click on the link and begin searching the images, tagging anything that looks suspicious. Each pixel on a computer screen represents half a meter on the ocean’s surface, Barrington told ABC News.
“For people who aren’t able to drive a boat through the Pacific Ocean to get to the Malaysian peninsula, or who can’t fly airplanes to look there, this is a way that they can contribute and try to help out,” Barrington said.

READ: US to Check Fingerprints of Malaysia Air Passengers With Stolen Passports

DigitalGlobe will use a computer algorithm to determine whether users start tagging certain regions more than others. In-house satellite imaging experts will follow up on leads, Barrington said.

“We’ll say, ‘Here are our top ten suspicious or interesting locations,’” Barrington said. “Is it really an aircraft wing that’s been chopped in half or is this some other debris floating on the ocean? We may not be 100 percent sure, but if this is where I had to go pick a location to go looking for needles in this big haystack, this is where I’d start.”

READ: What We Know Now About Missing Plane

The company runs a fee-based First Look Event Service that can compare before-and-after images for clients. In the past month, the company activated the service to observe wildfires in Australia, violence in Ukraine and the aftermath of ice storms in Atlanta, Ga.

In November, the company launched a similar crowdsourcing campaign after Typhoon Haiyan devastated Southeast Asia. The company says users placed more than 400,000 tags, identifying 38,000 damaged buildings and 101,000 damaged homes.

Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: What We Know Now

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur on the morning of March 8, but lost contact with air traffic control an hour later and disappeared off the radar.

No trace of the plane and the 239 people on board have been found and few details about what could have happened to the plane have been determined.
Here’s what we know now as of now about the investigation into missing flight MH370.
Check out ABC News’ photos of the search for the flight here, too.

Search Focuses on Indian Ocean off Australia, But Turns Up Nothing

Five Australian and U.S. aircraft searched a region of some 15,000 square nautical miles today for signs of the plane’s debris after satellite images showed a couple of objects,the largest about 78 feet long, floating in the ocean. Finding them, however, will not be easy and the search today came up empty.

Norway has a freighter in the area searching the waters.

Australia’s navy also has dispatched a ship to the area.

Japan has sent two search planes

China is sending several ships and three military planes

A British navy ship is heading into the region

Malaysia has asked the U.S. for “pinger locator hyrophones” to help locate the black boxes that are presumed to be at the bottom of the ocean by now. The sonar buoys are used to detect the “ping” of the black box.

The search is taking place in a span of the Indian Ocean between Australia and the Antarctic known as the “roaring forties” for its sharp westerly winds and rough waters, conditions that may have pushed debris far afield or caused it to sink quickly after a crash. “It is an extremely remote part of the southern Indian Ocean… about the most inaccessible spot that you could imagine on the face of the earth,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today.

The Investigation
Satellite pings have shown that the plane traveled some 7.5 hours after its last known contact with radar, and that it likely flew in a southern arc toward the Indian Ocean west of Australia.

Malaysian and U.S. investigators searched the at-home flight simulator of Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah but found no clues pointing toward a nefarious motive. U.S. officials are trying to recover files deleted from the flight simulator. Police are still looking into whether Shah and copilot Fariq Abdul Hamid could have had anything to do with the plane’s disappearance.

A British satellite company said Thursday that they had indications the plane was in the south Indian Ocean nearly two weeks ago, but the search for the plane did not move to that part of the world until nearly a week after the plane vanished. The revelation cast more doubt upon the investigative abilities of the Malaysian authorities.

Timeline of Events:

  • 12:41 a.m.: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 takes off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia heading for Beijing, China. The plane shows up on radar two minutes after taking off.
  • 1:07 a.m.: The last automated data transmission is sent from the plane. U.S officials told ABC News they believe that sometime after this transmission the data reporting system was shut down. Sometime after this transmission Kuala Lumpur’s air traffic control tells the plane’s pilot they are handing off to air traffic control based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The pilot responds, “All right. Good night.”
  • 1:21 a.m.: The plane’s transponder, which transmits location and altitude, shuts down.
  • 1:30 a.m.: The last moment that the plane was seen by Malaysian radar.
  • 1:38 a.m.: Air traffic control in Ho Chi Minh City informs Kuala Lumpur air traffic control about the signal loss.
  • 2:15 a.m.: Malaysian military defense radar picks up traces of a plane believed to be MH370 hundreds of miles west of its last contact point.
  • After 6 a.m., the Malaysian government announced it had lost flight MH370.

The Passengers and Their Families
Many of the passengers’ families have been huddled in a Beijing hotel where they have publicly complained about the lack of progress in finding the plane and accused the Malaysian government of withholding information and botching the investigation.
Lawyers have arrived at the hotel seeking to represent families in lawsuits against various stakeholders in the plane’s disappearance, including U.S. company Boeing.

239 people were on board the flight, including 227 passengers (including one infant and one toddler) and 12 crew members.
Three Americans, including two children, are among the missing. Philip Wood, 50, an IBM executive, had just come from Texas where he was visiting family on his way to Beijing.

A total of 14 nationalities, though 152 passengers were Chinese.

Twenty passengers on the plane worked for the Austin, Texas, company Freescale

Semiconductor. Another passenger, Chng Mei Ling, worked as an engineer for the Pennsylvania company Flexsys America LP.

Pilot Zahari Ahmad Shah, 53, was a veteran pilot who joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had over 18,000 flying hours.

Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: Theories range from possible to surreal

By Erika Tucker  Global News

TORONTO – It’s the sixth day of the international search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370—a plane that’s got more than 20 search vessels looking for it and as many conspiracy theories surrounding its disappearance.

Malaysian authorities, after initially denying a U.S. report, expanded their search Thursday after admitting the plane may have flown for several hours after its last contact with the ground.

We know there was no distress signal sent and that the plane’s transponders (which identify aircraft to radar systems and other planes by broadcasting its location) weren’t working. Experts say a massive electrical failure is one possibility, but the pilot or an informed passenger could’ve also switched them off in hopes of an undetected trip. When it emerged that two Iranian men boarded the plane with stolen passports, terrorism was also put forth as a possibility—though stolen passports don’t often mean hijacking, and in this case that was largely ruled out.

Past searches have shown that finding aircraft wreckage can take weeks or longer, but here are some of the theories put forward by experts, aviation chat rooms and the public so far.

Pilot disorientation
Ryerson University associate professor in aerospace engineering David Greatrix said pilot disorientation is possible with “night-time flight at play” and if instrument flight data display went awry or the flight crew became distracted.

Former U.S. Airways pilot and CEO of Safety Operating Systems Capt. John M. Cox said Saturday the pilots may have taken the plane off autopilot and not realized if it went off course (for another five or six hours from last point of contact) until it was too late. This is unlikely given the plane would probably have been picked up by radar elsewhere.

Hypoxia
Hypoxia is one of the theories presented in a Britain-based chat room with contributors identifying themselves as pilots and flight staff. It’s the sudden depressurization and resulting lack of oxygen that would leave a crew and passengers unconscious.

Another example of hypoxia was a Learjet carrying pro-golfer Payne Stewart and five others, which crashed in South Dakota in 1999 after flying for several hours on autopilot before running out of fuel. Reports cited investigators saying the plane lost cabin pressure and all on board died after losing consciousness for lack of oxygen.

Greatrix said the cause of the cabin pressure dropping in the 1999 incident was “not definitively identified in the follow-on investigation, but the maintenance records for that plane had identified fuselage sealing problems being looked at.”

“Whether a gradual or rapid depressurization might have occurred, one would surmise that the likelihood of a larger aircraft like the 777 being affected such as that all aboard would become unconscious seems substantially less likely than a smaller aircraft like the Learjet,” Greatrix said.
A bomb

Greatrix said bombs are a possibility, as they “have been placed on aircraft for a variety of reasons in the past; not necessarily a terrorist act.”
“Security procedures in that region of the world would be assumed to be reasonably effective, but the false passport issue raises flags,” he wrote in an email to Global News.

Pan Am Flight 103 between London and New York in December 1988, as well as an Air India flight in June 1985 between Montreal and London were brought down by bombs, and a plane in September 1989 flown by French airline Union des Transports Aeriens blew up over the Sahara Desert.

Failure of the airframe or an engine
Greatrix said airframe structural failure, perhaps due to a “conventional” cause “like fatigue causing rupture of a critical component” was possible, but less likely since the Boeing 777 in question was a younger airplane with a good track record.

“Structural failure due to a less conventional cause, say accidental/electrical fire/smoke breakout, possible but low likelihood,” he added.

Failure of both engines
Greatrix believes it’s more likely (but still rare) that one engine would fail versus both.

In January 2008, a British Airways 777 crashed about 1,000 feet short of the runway at London’s Heathrow Airport because the engines lost thrust due to ice buildup in the fuel system.

Such a scenario is possible, but the typical 20-minutes of gliding should give pilots plenty of time to make an emergency call.

When a US Airways A320 lost both of its engines in January 2009 after taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York, it was at a much lower elevation and Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger still had plenty of communications with air traffic controllers before ending the six-minute flight in the Hudson River.

Bad weather
While all indications show there were clear skies, Greatrix said high-altitude turbulence, hail or a lightning strike are possible, but with a “very low probability of leading to crash” at the cruise altitude of more than 35, 000 feet.

An Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed during a bad storm over the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009.  The airspeed indicators gave false readings, bad decisions were made by the pilots, and this led the plane into a stall, causing it to plummet into the sea. The pilots never radioed for help, and all 228 passengers and crew died.

Hijacking
Greatrix said after six days, it’s unlikely hijackers are holding passengers at an undisclosed location. Other experts agree a traditional hijacking seems unlikely since the captors typically land at an airport and have some type of demand.

“Hijacking leading to destruction of the aircraft, as in the 9/11 Pennsylvania crash or related scenario, less unlikely,” he wrote.

Pilot suicide
While Greatrix believed this to be unlikely, there were two large jet crashes in the late 1990s that investigators suspected were caused by pilots deliberately crashing the planes.

Secret U.S. strike or accidental shoot-down
Greatrix said there was no chance of a secret U.S. carrier strike, but in July 1988, the United States Navy missile cruiser USS Vincennes (above) accidentally shot down an Iran Air flight, killing all 290 passengers and crew. In September 1983, a Korean Air Lines flight was shot down by a Russian fighter jet.

Hollywood promotional stunt for the remake of “Lost”

“No comment, considering the lives that have likely been lost,” he wrote.

With files from The Associated Press

© Shaw Media, 2014

Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Alien Abduction Conspiracy Theory Goes Viral as no Solid Answers Emerge

The growing curiosity and mystery surrounding the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has now become a breeding ground for conspiracy theories, and the latest one doing the rounds in social media and internet claims the flight could have been abducted by alien entities.

Frenzied public awaiting for an answer have resorted to the theory after bizarre details have emerged on how the flight simply vanished into thin air, without leaving any trace of what had happened.

“Since 1947 our Government has been lying to us about aliens. Everyone sees them, UFOs are everywhere, in every nation. They are a threat to our sovereignty as a nation and as a world,” read an article in National Report, which has now been widely cited in the social media.
“Now a whole entire airplane has vanished into thin air.”

Various aviation analysts have revealed that the mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of the massive plane raises confusion. Perplexity has grown, as has frustration and curiosity, after it emerged that some family members who tried calling their loved ones who were in the plane heard the phone ringing, though no one answered them.

The flight has been presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast on Saturday, after losing contact with the air traffic controllers off the eastern Malaysia coast.

Flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 00:41am on Saturday (local time) and was due to arrive in Beijing at 06:30am (local time). Air traffic controllers reportedly lost contact at 01:30am.

As reports of a relative managing to make calls to one of the passengers spread, Malaysia Airlines repeatedly tried to call the same number but the call did not go through this time.

As no solid answers have been given by the authorities even days after the ill-fated flight mysteriously vanished, people are thinking of bizarre possibilities, such as an alien abduction.

Here are some people buzzing on Twitter with the conspiracy theory:
[View All The Twitter Conspiracy Theories HERE]

Tales From Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Life’s Small Moments Loom Large

A Closer Look at How Several Passengers Spent Final Hours Before Boarding Lost Plane
By TE-PING CHEN, CHUIN-WEI YAP, CHUN HAN WONG and NEWLEY PURNELL CONNECT
Updated March 13, 2014 8:54 p.m. ET

As night fell last Friday in Kuala Lumpur, businessman Philip Wood hurried to gather his bags for a trip to Beijing. He had confused the dates, but his girlfriend in China texted him to make sure he got on the plane.

A group of Chinese artists capped off their exhibition at a local cultural center in Malaysia’s capital city with a day of sightseeing and a banquet lunch of duck soup, fried shrimp and pork in brown sauce.

Norli Akmar Hamid finished packing for her long-overdue honeymoon and posted a photograph on Facebook of her cat trying to sneak into her suitcase. The cat chewed the lining near the administrative assistant’s neatly folded blue T-shirt and beige towel.

All of them boarded Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 late Friday night and flew away shortly after midnight in the tropical night sky toward Beijing. Soon after, the widebody Boeing 777 jet carrying 239 people vanished from radar screens.

The flight manifest included Americans, Australians, Indians and passengers from a host of other countries. There were more than 150 Chinese on board, many of them tourists who belong to China’s burgeoning middle class. A country between Thailand and Singapore, Malaysia has emerged in recent years as a major transit hub and tourist destination for globe-trotting travelers.

Flight 370 took off carrying 239 life stories, each filled with moments big and small, ordinary lives soon to be swept up in a tragic mystery. Now, as the hopes for a miracle fade by the day, memory transforms the random and routine into the meaningful and momentous.

Dozens of interviews with friends, relatives and colleagues show that some passengers fretted about whether to get on the plane—and then decided to. Other passengers were running late and rushed to the airport to make the flight. Still others changed their plans without knowing their decision would likely save their lives.

***

Flight 370 was supposed to carry 51-year-old Philip Wood to see his longtime partner, an expatriate schoolteacher in Beijing. They were making plans for their new life together in Malaysia.

Relatives of the missing passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speak about their loved ones. Photo: Getty Images.
Mr. Wood, a fit International Business Machines Corp. employee with blue eyes and salt-and-pepper hair, had moved to Beijing a few years earlier following stints in New York and Texas. A devout Christian, he raised two sons with a former wife, but Asia was his future now.
Known as Phil, he had a new post with IBM as a technical storage executive in Kuala Lumpur. His 48-year-old partner Sarah Bajc, a divorced mother of three from Atlanta, planned to join him in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur topped their list of potential places to move, a vibrant place full of new things to discover.

For now, the couple’s plan called for Mr. Wood to go back and forth between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing for the first six months of 2014, until Ms. Bajc’s move to the Malaysian capital, where she also had found a job.

Mr. Wood recently made a return trip to the U.S. to see his parents, brothers and two adult children in Keller, Texas, near Dallas. Mr. Wood’s brother, James Wood, says Phil was excited about the place in Kuala Lumpur where the couple had chosen to live.

It was a little apartment near restaurants, shopping and both of their jobs. “It was kind of a new beginning for him,” James Wood says.
Soon, Phil Wood was back in Kuala Lumpur, settling into his new job. He bought a ticket for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to Beijing, where Ms. Bajc was packing their things in boxes for movers, who were scheduled to arrive early Saturday.

But there was a problem. He mistakenly thought he was supposed to leave on Saturday night. Ms. Bajc says she spotted the error Friday afternoon and set Mr. Wood straight. She says he was slightly discombobulated after his trip to the U.S. despite being a hardy, experienced traveler.

“Wow,” he replied in a text message to Ms. Bajc on Friday at about 3:30 p.m. “Crazy, so busy didn’t even realize…tonight!”

“Would have missed my flight,” he added.

She replied: “Go rush love.”

Mr. Wood moved quickly to get his things together. Ms. Bajc ordered a driver to meet Mr. Wood when Flight 370 landed at the Beijing airport.

***

After a successful trip to show their work in Kuala Lumpur, two dozen members of a Chinese artists’ tour group geared up last Friday for sightseeing, shopping and then a triumphant return home.

None of them had been to Malaysia. Their trip was organized by Chinese online commerce group IBICN and a Malaysian arts organization, Art Peninsular Enterprise, to promote ties between the two countries.

Some of the artists are considered heavyweights in the Chinese art scene. One of them has a soft spot for painting chickens with daubs of black ink that turn into tiny claws and wings. Another person on the trip is known for his mastery of portraiture, birds and flowers, particularly grapes and plum blossoms.

For most of the week, they hung out in the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, a two-story building with classical columns. Their work, a mixture of calligraphy, traditional Chinese ink drawing and oil paintings, was exhibited in a giant room festooned with red lanterns and drapes.
Some of the Chinese artists complained about the heat in Kuala Lumpur, which hit 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Some of them sweated profusely whenever they went outside the air-conditioned exhibition hall.

Older painters on the trip, hesitant about trying Malaysia’s food, sometimes asked for traditional Chinese steamed buns and soup for breakfast.

They had trouble communicating in English but enjoyed basking in the positive reception their work received. On Thursday night, several artists kicked back with a bottle of Xifengjiu, a brand of fiery Chinese liquor, to toast the end of the show.

On Friday morning, some members of the group wished they didn’t have to leave so soon. The day was unusually fresh and cool after a rain shower Thursday night. The rain left behind a perfectly blue sky that seemed far away from Beijing’s smog.

Dressed in short sleeves and T-shirts, the Chinese artists boarded a white-and-green tour bus and set off to see the sights of Kuala Lumpur.

They stopped at the Chinese embassy, where a cultural attaché honored them in a sweeping, single-story building. They visited the iconic Petronas Towers, briefly the world’s tallest buildings when completed in the late 1990s, and took pictures of red-uniformed cavalry at a royal palace.

The artists also went shopping, buying a local medicinal balm and key chains with scenes of Malaysia.

Zhu Junyan, a 41-year-old female painter from China’s western Xinjiang region, bought a loose yellow blouse and green trousers to wear on the plane home, recalls another artist, Zheng Wenbin. She told the group she wanted clothes with “local characteristics,” not made in China.

Mr. Zheng says lunch last Friday was their best meal in days. They ate duck soup, steamed fish and fried shrimp with salt and pepper, braised pork in brown sauce and Hakka tofu.

On the way to the airport, Liu Rusheng, 76, began singing snatches of Chinese songs on the bus to entertain everyone. At a dinner stop, Ms. Zhu talked about plans to stay in Beijing for a few days, where she hoped to fulfill a personal dream of visiting the Central Academy of Fine Arts.

The ride to the airport from dinner took about an hour. Some of the artists in the group took short naps.

***

Norli Akmar Hamid and her husband, Muhammad Razahan Zamani, were finally heading out for their honeymoon—and time to recover from a tragedy.
Ms. Norli, 33, and Mr. Razahan, 24, are part of Malaysia’s rising middle class. They met at AEON, a Japanese supermarket chain in Kuala Lumpur.

He worked there as a sales assistant and then moved on to another job. She moved on to a job as an administrative assistant at Prima Elite Technology, an aviation maintenance and repair company.

They got married Oct. 6, 2012, about a year after falling in love.

Mr. Razahan is tall and solidly built. He posted notes on Facebook attesting to his love of soccer and the film “Titanic,” and rode a motorcycle, according to a work colleague. Ms. Norli, a petite Muslim, wears a hijab, has at least five cats and watches crime dramas like “NCIS” and “Criminal Minds,” according to her Facebook page.

The couple originally planned to honeymoon in Cameron Highlands, a Malaysian resort area known for green, rolling hills. But Ms. Norli got sick, co-workers say. So Ms. Norli and Mr. Razahan started planning a trip to Beijing, where Ms. Norli told a friend she dreamed of bumping into Leon Lai, a Chinese actor and pop star she likes.

Then Ms. Norli got pregnant and began to worry about traveling, says a friend of hers. “She hesitated to go to Beijing because she was in an early stage of pregnancy,” says the friend.

Ms. Norli asked for advice. The friend says she told her to check with a gynecologist—and told Ms. Norli that she thought she should go.
Just weeks before boarding Flight 370, Ms. Norli had a miscarriage, she told friends and colleagues. “She was a bit lost,” the friend says. “She is dying to have a baby.”

Ms. Norli and Mr. Razahan decided to press ahead with the trip. She asked her boss for two weeks off. “She said that when she came back, she would start a new life,” says her boss, who asked to be identified by her middle name, Ediana.

As Friday neared, Ms. Norli posted a photo on Facebook of one of her cats sitting in the suitcase she was packing for Beijing. She had bought warm clothes, including socks and a shawl for Beijing, where nighttime temperatures were close to freezing.

Finally, it was time to go. Her parents, Sarah Mohamad Nor and Hamid Ramlan, drove the couple to the airport. The father made a wrong turn but then found his way, friends say. Ms. Norli and Mr. Razahan said goodbye. Neither of them had been on a plane before, according to two friends.

***

Passengers booked on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 sped down a brightly lighted highway past miles of palm trees. Kuala Lumpur has a futuristic international airport built in the 1990s as part of the country’s modernization.

A banner stretched across an overpass told travelers to enjoy a pleasant journey with Malaysia Airlines. Another said: “Selamat Jalan. See you again.”
The Chinese artists arrived shortly after 8 p.m. for the plane’s scheduled departure near 12:30 a.m. Daniel Liau, a Malaysian artist and gallery owner who helped organize their tour, helped them get their economy-class tickets and check in their luggage.

Around 9 p.m., a staff member from the Chinese organizer handed six of the artists a fresh itinerary. The smaller group, which included Mr. Zheng, had asked to take a different return flight because they lived far from Beijing. Members of the smaller group were told they now had seats on a Shanghai-bound flight leaving half an hour after the rest of the group.

The six artists heading for Shanghai said goodbye and promised to stay in touch with the artists still booked on Flight 370. They discussed setting up a common email account where all of them could post photos from the trip.

The 18 artists, seven relatives and four IBICN employees bound for Beijing continued to gate C1. Hou Bo, 33, a pale, bespectacled IBICN employee, helped shepherd them through immigration checks.

“I called Hou Bo at around midnight,” Mr. Liau says. “He said they were fine. They were just having their tickets checked before boarding. I wished them well.” The group thanked him for all his help in Kuala Lumpur.

***

Ms. Norli was stressing over work she had left undone before the trip. She was supposed to finish an important letter to a client, her boss recalls. The boss asked about the letter in a note sent through the messaging service WhatsApp.

At 10:47 p.m. last Friday, Ms. Norli replied: “Sorry, I forgot to do it.” She asked her boss to forgive the mistake and give her another chance, the boss recalls.

Before the flight took off, Mr. Wood kept exchanging messages with Ms. Bajc in Beijing. At 8:05 p.m., she updated him on the progress packing up their apartment to move.

“All prepped except my clothes. Kitchen, bar, knickknacks. Set out cleaned ready to pack,” she wrote. Her back ached from all the lifting.
“I’m ready to be there to help…Understand. Tomorrow I’ll rub your back … 🙂 thank you for working so hard! You are greatly appreciated and loved!” he replied.

She answered just after midnight: “Thank u baby.”

Soon, Flight 370 took off and began cruising toward the Gulf of Thailand and Vietnam. Movie choices for passengers on the same route this week included “Gravity” and “Dallas Buyers Club.” The in-flight magazine, titled “Going Places,” has articles about “Ethereal Istanbul” and an Australian version of the Grand Canyon.

On Saturday morning, Ms. Norli’s boss sent her a WhatsApp message saying it would be fine to finish the client letter later. Mr. Wood’s boxes were waiting in the apartment with Ms. Bajc.

—Miguel Bustillo, Ana Campoy, Fanfan Wang, Kersten Zhang, Celine Fernandez and Jake Maxwell Watts contributed to this article.

Flight MH370: a week of false leads and confusion in hunt for missing plane

Reports and theories have circulated since the Malaysia Airlines flight vanished on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing

When Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on a clear Saturday night from radar screens, no one could explain how the Boeing 777 had seemingly vanished into thin air. Seven days later, there is far more confusion and misinformation circulating than solid evidence, and the aircraft with 239 people on board is still missing.

Saturday, 8 March
Just hours after the 12.40am flight disappeared, the Malaysia Airlines chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said the plane was still in contact with air traffic controllers about two hours into the flight, pinning the last contact at about 2.40am at a point 120 nautical miles off the east coast of Malaysia. But FlightAware, a flight-tracking website, showed the plane climbing to 10,700 metres (35,000ft) before disappearing from records at 1am, about 20 minutes after it took off. At 1am, the plane was scheduled to enter Vietnamese air space while flying between Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh City and did not. No distress signal was issued.

Twelve hours after the plane vanished, search-and-rescue teams from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam began looking for debris or wreckage off Vietnam. China and the Philippines soon sent over their own ships and aircraft to help. A few hours later, a Vietnamese admiral told media the aircraft could have crashed in Vietnamese waters near an island – with reports of a giant oil slick and column of smoke emerging. Soon, questions over whether terrorism was involved began circulating after an Italian and an Austrian came forward to say they had not flown on the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, despite being listed in the flight’s manifest.

Sunday
Teams from the US began aiding search efforts. Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, said terrorism was a possibility as authorities began investigating reports that as many as four people on board MH370 may have been using stolen passports. Later that day, a Japan-bound pilot from another Boeing 777 claimed to have made contact with MH370 at 1.30am, minutes before it disappeared, saying he had asked the aircraft if it had entered Vietnamese airspace yet, but received only static and mumbling in return. Vietnam claimed to have found more debris, while the Malaysian transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, told reporters the aircraft may have turned back towards Malaysia. Later that day it emerged that the Italian and Austrian men believed to be on board the flight had had their passports stolen in Thailand within the past two years, prompting fears that the men using their passports were terrorists.

Monday
Malaysia’s aviation chief Aharuddin Abdul Rahman stoked fears of a terrorist plot when he said five passengers had checked in but never boarded the flight. Authorities denied Vietnamese reports that debris had been found, with the oil slick believed to belong to the plane revealed to be from a ship, while the “life raft” spotted off the coast of Vietnam turned out to be a moss-covered cable reel. CCTV footage of the two men travelling on stolen European passports prompted Malaysian officials to describe them as resembling the black Italian striker Mario Balotelli. Razak demanded a review of Kuala Lumpur’s security measures.

Tuesday
Malaysia Airlines said the pilots may have tried to turn the plane back towards Malaysia as the country widened its search-and-rescue hunt to include a wider trajectory and more teams. In a bizarre twist, Malaysia’s air force chief Tan Sir Rodzali Daud said the plane had been detected at 2.40am near Pulau Perak, an island in the Malacca strait – indicating the plane had indeed flown back and was accounted for a whole hour later after it initially disappeared. He would later deny this claim. Earlier fears of terrorism were slightly assuaged as Interpol said that as more information emerged about the men it sounded less and less like terrorism. Interpol named the two as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, and Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza, 29, both from Iran. Reports suggested they were asylum seekers rather than terrorists.

Wednesday
Daud said the last radar signal from the missing aircraft was received 200 miles north-west of Penang at 2.15am on Saturday – a third potential last sighting. This would put the last signal at 45 minutes after authorities had initially said they lost contact. However, Daud said the data had not been received in real time, so it could have belonged to another aircraft. “I’m not saying this is MH370. We are still corroborating this,” he told a press conference. “There is a possibility of the aircraft making a comeback. It remains as a possibility … It is very difficult to say for sure it is the aircraft.”

Unconfirmed reports also emerged of Malaysian fishermen spotting what looked like a life raft with the word “Boarding” on it floating off the east coast of Malaysia, although it is believed to have sunk when authorities attempted to bring it back to shore, while the Beijing News claimed that a dead body was seen in the Malacca strait wearing a life vest. There were still no confirmed reports of any sightings of passengers or debris as night fell.

Thursday
Sources “familiar with the details” of the missing Boeing 777 told the Wall Street Journal Sources that US investigators believed the plane had flown for a total of five hours, indicating that the plane may have been diverted “with the intention of using it later for another purpose”. The theory was apparently based on data downloaded in real time and “sent to the ground” straight from the Boeing’s engines, which are manufactured by the British company Rolls-Royce. The data-retrieval system is said to be standard procedure for maintaining and monitoring the engines and is loaded with information regarding the jet’s performance, altitude and speed, which is then “compiled and transmitted in 30-minute increments”, according to the Journal. A New Scientist report on the Boeing engine data-retrieval system also indicated that Rolls-Royce had received two data summaries from MH370 – one while it was taking off from Kuala Lumpur, and the second as it was climbing towards Beijing.

However, Malaysian officials denied that the engines transmitted any data past 1.07am. “We have contacted both the possible sources of data – Rolls-Royce and Boeing – and both have said they did not receive data beyond 1.07am,” Ahmad, the Malaysia Airlines chief executive, told reporters on Thursday afternoon. “The last transmission at 1.07am stated that everything was operating normally.”

Malaysian authorities have also stated that the plane was again caught on radar at 2.30am (this was later denied), and on military radar at 2.15am near the Malacca strait, indicating the plane had turned away from its flight path towards Beijing.

Officials are still verifying whether the “blip” on the military radar at 2.30am was actually the MH370, Hishammuddin reiterated on Thursday, and he refused to answer whether that blip had also dropped off the military radar.

Friday
After a week of no plane and no real leads, a dramatic storyline emerged after radar-trafficking data suggested MH370 may have flown deliberately off course towards the Andaman Islands after it last made contact with air traffic control, indicating that foul play was behind the jet’s disappearance. Sources told Reuters the flight path of an unidentified aircraft investigators believed to be MH370 was following a route with specific navigational waypoints, suggesting someone with aviation training was at the helm, zigzagging the plane from its flightpath towards Beijing out west towards the Bay of Bengal. “What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards,” a senior Malaysian police official told Reuters.

The revelations emerged the same day as reports that the aircraft’s two communications systems were “systematically shut down” and that “manual intervention” was the probable cause. According to two US officials who spoke to ABC News, the 777’s data reporting system was shut down at 1.07am, while the transponder – which sends back information to civilian radar regarding performance, location and altitude – was turned off at 1.21am. American authorities have since decided to move their search operation towards the Indian Ocean after an undisclosed suggestion the plane may have crashed there. “We have an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean,” a senior Pentagon official said.

At a press conference late on Friday afternoon, Hishammuddin, Malaysia’s acting transport minister, said authorities were investigating the possibility that the plane’s communications systems had been deliberately shut down and said there were “four or five possibilities” why.

“It could have been done intentionally. It could be done under duress. It could have been done because of an explosion,” he said. “That’s why I don’t want to go into the realm of speculation. We are looking at all the possibilities.”

Hishammuddin confirmed that MH370’s “whole passenger manifest”, including crew, was being looked into and added: “If investigation requires searching the pilots’ homes, it will be done.”

The Wall Street Journal also changed its earlier report about “engine data” to “satellite pings”, which are believed to also send back data regarding a plane’s location. Malaysian authorities said they were working with US officials regarding this satellite data.

MH370: what the air traffic controllers knew about how to stop ‘flying blind’
No matter where it is, the Malaysia Airlines jet suffered from outdated technology. Eyes in the tower saw this coming
Ronald Ruggeri has seen it all. He was in the tower on 9/11 and in 1993, when a Cairo-bound Lufthansa Flight 592 was commandeered out of Frankfurt by an Ethiopian man who ordered the pilot at gunpoint to fly to New York. He was working at JFK that February day and made contact with the pilot as he entered US airspace over Maine. The plane landed safely, and the air-traffic control tower was nothing like that scene in Breaking Bad: “After all, the planes don’t stop coming – this isn’t like a train track or a road that can be shut down,” says Ruggeri. “The person dealing with the emergency – normally he’s dealing with that plus other planes. If it gets to be too much, it’s incumbent upon the controller to say, Hey, I can’t take any more traffic.”
Ronald Ruggeri has never seen anything like the mystery of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. But he and others with a view from the tower – their perspectives largely missing from the lineup of “experts” and pundits bombarding the airwaves over the past 11 days – can agree that when it comes to the surveillance of planes flying people, too much is not enough: the current air-traffic control system is a patchwork of conventional radar and satellite coverage that can have gaps in coverage.

“If something goes wrong, like a pilot losing radio contact, the plane could be flying blind – literally,” said one controller who, like several interviewed for this article, requested anonymity because of their employers’ policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations.

It has come as a shock to the general public to learn that commercial flights aren’t monitored constantly by the high-tech GPS tracking systems we’ve come to expect in our cars and smartphones. The bulk of flights over land are still monitored by World War II-era radar beacons, which can take several sweeps of a plane to get an accurate reading of its location. Or if planes are over the ocean, pilots stay in touch via radio or datalink and follow pre-ordained air corridors – except on some of the most modern aircraft, equipped with expensive but improved systems for spottier, often polar routes. And all over the Earth, location is also pinpointed using a string of waypoints with funny names (“Vampi”, ”Crazy Woman”) that sound like a throwback to the post-Lindbergh era, not the post-9/11 one.

But as the frustrating search for the missing plane fans far out over the Indian Ocean, the drawbacks of the current system are painfully clear. It didn’t have to be this way.

Between oceans and mountains, a long-standing solution

“Radar really only goes out about 150 or 200 miles offshore,” says Ruggeri, who retired from the FAA in 2005 and now teaches at New York City’s Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology. “That’s why planes have to be spaced so far apart over the sea. Over land, we have about three to five miles between two airplanes, but when you transition out over to the ocean, you go anywhere from 30 miles to 120 miles lateral separation to ensure safety.”

The errant Malaysian jetliner clearly didn’t stick to any prescribed flight paths. But what if it isn’t even in the ocean? What if it’s somewhere else entirely? The latest revelations over the weekend – that the Boeing 777 could have taken a northerly route over rugged terrain, flying at a low altitude of 5,000 feet to evade detection – sound like something out of a spy novel, but Ruggeri says it’s possible. “Between mountains, radar might not pick it up,” he tells me.

Flying over water and mountains present unique air traffic control challenges, which is why the US has performed tests in both Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico of satellite based technology that could ultimately replace antiquated ground-based radar. Called ADS-B, for Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, the system uses signals from GPS satellites and the aircraft’s transponders to transmit data to receivers on the ground; one advantage is that it’s more precise than radar because there are no gaps between sweeps of a moving plane.

In Australia, where there was minimal ground radar in the interior of the country to begin with, air-traffic control has switched over entirely to ADS-B. Early results indicate the benefits are worth the investment, says Scott Shallies, executive vice president, professional, for the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations. “It allows for a smaller separation between aircraft, so it saves time, and it’s more fuel efficient.”

Most airliners around the world are adapting to the system but it also depends on having the ground-based receivers in place, and the US is lagging behind in that effort.

The FAA says it is working on expanding ADS-B under its NextGen air traffic modernization plan by 2020, but budget cuts could slow that down.
In ‘black altitude’ and basic procedures, a chance of vanishing

NextGen and other air traffic upgrades, however, probably couldn’t stop a determined and skilled saboteur from taking a plane off road and disabling its transponder. But most controllers know a plane can get “lost” for a variety of reasons, not all of them straight out of the plot of Lost: a mechanical malfunction, radio outages, a medical emergency in the cockpit.

“We had emergencies all the time,” Ruggeri says. A British Airways Concorde out of New York once had engine trouble at 55,000 feet – a safe altitude for a supersonic jet, but well beyond the reach of civilian radar, in what’s known as an envelope-pushing “black altitude”. The pilot knew to descend to a lower altitude that wasn’t being used by other flights, where he made contact with air-traffic control before returning to JFK.

But during that brief interval, Ruggeri says, it was as if the jet had vanished.

If a plane drops off radar for any reason, controllers first try to raise the captain by radio, and if that doesn’t work, they contact other control centers along the route to see what they’ve heard. But that system has serious flaws as well: when Air France flight 447 plunged into the Atlantic in 2009, confusion reigned, with controllers in Dakar and Casablanca erroneously reporting at several points that they had had contact with the plane.

From ‘all night, good night’ to ‘good night and godspeed’

At 1:19am on March 8, someone in the cockpit of Malaysia MH370 – now identified as the co-pilot– said the words now echoing, eerily, around the world:
All right, good night.

He would have been saying those words to air traffic controllers in Subang, just outside of Kuala Lumpur, who were handing off the plane to the next control center along its route, like passing along a baton in relay race.

The routine sign-off was likely in response to a reminder to check in with Ho Chi Minh City, the next aerial port of call on the flight’s journey to China. But Vietnamese controllers reportedly never heard a word from the plane, probably because the aircraft had already made a sharp turn off its original course. Ruggeri says if a plane drops off the grid, controllers usually know to contact other towers and ask for help. “On 9/11,” he says, “it was on the tapes – we knew what was being said,” because the hijackers on one plane had inadvertently left the radio on. “Here we have no indications at all.”

Military radars did pick up flight 370 at around 2:15am, but it’s unclear how they responded, if at all. And the latest news this morning that Thai military controllers also spotted the plane on their radar screens only adds to the mystery of what, if any, response was triggered.

More sophisticated tracking – the kind of long-existing technology that finally brings air-traffic control into the 21st century – won’t solve everything, least of all slow human response late at night. And the long-awaited ADS-B system won’t cover every corner of the globe.

Of course, the benefits for human souls and the environment – allowing planes to fly closer together saves not only time but fuel – would undoubtedly be worth the costs of installation, organization and regulation. And the overdue air-traffic updates could be done in tandem with another advance that many safety experts argue should have been installed years ago: live-streaming of the black-box recorders, so their precious data could become instantly available to accident investigators.

Sadly, all this may come too late for the families of the 239 people aboard that flight. But the eyes in the tower could have seen that problem many miles away. Why weren’t we asking earlier?

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: plane ‘was piloted for hours’ after losing contact with ground

US and Malaysian investigators say they believe “human intervention” could have played a role in the disappearance
By Raf Sanchez, in Washington and Tom Phillips in Kuala Lumpur
10:39PM GMT 14 Mar 2014

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 may have been “an act of piracy”, investigators said, as new radar data suggested the aircraft was still being piloted hours after losing contact with the ground.

Seven days after the Boeing 777 vanished en route to Beijing with 239 people on board, officials are examining the possibility the flight was deliberately steered off course by an unknown hijacker.

There have been claims that the plane flew on for more than five hours after it disappeared in the early hours of Saturday. In theory, MH370 could have flown more than 2,200 nautical miles, meaning it may have reached as far as the Indian border with Pakistan.

As an international fleet of more than 50 ships pushed further into the Indian Ocean to search for signs of a crash, US and Malaysian investigators said they believed “human intervention” could have played a role in the disappearance.

Records from Malaysian military radar appear to show the aircraft repeatedly turning over the west coast of Malaysia, hundreds of miles off its intended course northeast to China, according to the New York Times.

The military radar, more powerful than its civilian counterparts, suggests that the plane may have been following a series of established “waypoints”, geographic turning points used by pilots to navigate their course.

Records also appear to show the Boeing 777 climbing to 45,000 feet, well above cruising altitude, and then falling to 23,000 feet.

The changes in course and in altitude suggest that someone – either the pilot or a hijacker – remained in control of the aircraft for several hours after contact with the ground was severed.

US officials have reportedly discounted the idea that the 250-tonne airliner could have landed safely and undetected, concluding it was more likely to have crashed into the Indian Ocean.

Hishammuddin Hussein, the Malaysian transport and defence minister, refused to comment on the military radar reports but said his country was “following all leads”. He said that police had not yet searched the home of Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the experienced Malaysia airlines captain of MH370.

The respected aviator built a personal flight simulator at his house on the edge of Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

The hijacking theory is just one of many competing possibilities as investigators remain baffled how the airliner could have disappeared without trace.

While the naval search for the MH370 began in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, evidence that the flight remained airborne for hours after it was last seen has led to a massive expansion of the search grid.

A fleet of 57 ships is now actively hunting through the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, where the average depth is 13,000 feet – nearly 10 times deeper than the Gulf of Thailand – and in waters on the other side of the Malay peninsula.

The Indian navy is taking the lead on the land and water search around the Andaman Islands. The population of 380,000 is spread across only 37 of the islands, making it possible that the aircraft crashed on land without being noticed. Many of the islanders have little contact with the outside world and some of its tribes are considered among the most isolated people on the planet.

US authorities said they were also looking whether lithium batteries in the cargo hold might have overheated and burned into the aircraft’s frame, CNN reported. Batteries were blamed for the crash of a UPS cargo plane in Dubai in 2010, which killed two people.

Ships seek ‘large object’ in new satellite image

By Kathianne Boniello
March 22, 2014 | 6:30am

A Chinese satellite spotted a possible piece of the missing ¬Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in the same remote area of the Indian Ocean that has been the focus of the search for the vanished jet.

The 74- by 43-foot object was detected Tuesday, but the discovery was not announced until Saturday.

It could be one of the same two objects that an Australian satellite picked up just 75 miles to the north March 16, or it could be a third piece of debris.

And very early Sunday a wooden pallet with strapping belts — equipment commonly used in the airline and shipping industries — was found in the search area, CNN said, quoting an unidentified Australian official.

“We have now had a number of very credible leads, and there is increasing hope — no more than hope, no more than hope — that we might be on the road discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot said as the search resumed Sunday.

The Australians have been searching for Flight 370 in one of the most remote places on Earth, a virtually landless 14,000-square-mile swath of ocean 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia — to no avail.

Word of the new lead in the hunt for the Boeing 777 was dramatically delivered to Malaysian officials during a Saturday news briefing on the search for the plane, which took off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8 and hasn’t been seen since.

Eight planes from the US, New Zealand, Australia and China were set to scour the seas Sunday, Australian officials said.

The area of ocean is consistent with the plane’s location at the time of its last automatic “ping” to a tracking satellite.

Confirmation that wreckage from Flight 370 was floating in such a remote area would lend credence to speculation that a pilot could have steered it into the middle of the ocean in a suicide plot, or that no one was at the controls.

Also Saturday, Britain’s Daily Mail revealed that a mystery call to the doomed jet’s captain — made shortly before take-off — came from a burner phone purchased by a woman in Kuala Lumpur who used a false identity.

The call to veteran pilot Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, lasted two minutes, the Mail reported.
Investigators are probing all of the plane’s 12-member crew, seizing their bank statements, credit-card bills, phone records and computer and Internet history, The Sunday Times of London reported.

But the probe is focusing most intensely on Shah and his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, and is exploring whether “domestic issues” made either man vulnerable to psychological or financial pressure, the paper said, citing sources in Malaysia who would not elaborate.

And Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported that “senior sources in the investigation” believe the most plausible explanation is that one or both pilots hijacked the flight, steering it ¬toward a watery doom.

“It is a very remote area, but we intend to continue the search ¬until we’re absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile — and that day is not in sight,” said Warren Truss, Australia’s acting prime minister.

Meanwhile, tempers again flared among the frustrated relatives of the missing 239 passengers, with some accusing Malaysian officials of ¬lying about the fate of Flight 370.

When those officials declined to take questions from the relatives Saturday, the family members erupted in fury.

“You’ve seen now how the Malaysian government treats us!” screamed one relative of a passenger. “How do you think they will treat our families on board the flight?” d has budgeted another $1.5 million for the efforts.

Missing jetliner deliberately diverted, Malaysian prime minister says

Someone deliberately diverted Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and shut down communications with the ground, and the jetliner continued flying for six hours, Malaysia’s prime minister said Saturday. The announcement shifted the focus of the investigation to the crew and passengers on the plane, which has now been missing for more than a week.

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s statement also meant the flight path of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to Beijing could have strayed as far as the southern Indian Ocean or northwest to Kazakhstan, complicating the work of search crews who already have been scouring vast stretches of ocean seeking the plane’s 12-person crew and 227 passengers.

“Clearly the search for MH370 has entered a new phase,” Najib said at a televised news conference. “It is widely understood that this has been a situation without precedent.”

Experts have previously said that whoever disabled the plane’s communication systems and then flew the jet must have had a high degree of technical knowledge and flying experience. One possibility they have raised was that one of the pilots wanted to commit suicide.

Mike Glynn, a committee member of the Australian and International Pilots Association, said he considers pilot suicide to be the most likely explanation for the disappearance, as was suspected in a SilkAir crash during a flight from Singapore to Jakarta in 1997 and an EgyptAir flight from Los Angeles to Cairo in 1999.

“A pilot rather than a hijacker is more likely to be able to switch off the communications equipment,” Glynn said. “The last thing that I, as a pilot, want is suspicion to fall on the crew, but it’s happened twice before.”

Najib stressed that investigators were looking into all possibilities as to why the Boeing 777 deviated so drastically from its original flight path, saying authorities could not confirm whether it was a hijacking.

He said the jetliners “movements are consistent with the deliberate action of someone on the plane,” BBC News reported.

Earlier Saturday, a Malaysian official said the plane had been hijacked, though he added that no motive had been established and no demands had been made known, despite an earlier report by the Associated Press that investigators had concluded that one of the pilots or someone else with flying experience hijacked the jetliner.

“In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board,” Najib told reporters, reading from a written statement but not taking any questions.

Najib also said that the search in the South China Sea, where the plane first lost contact with air traffic controllers, would be ended. He said the new search corridors were based on the latest satellite data.

Najib also confirmed that Malaysian air force defense radar picked up traces of the plane turning back westward, crossing over Peninsular Malaysia into the northern stretches of the Strait of Malacca. Authorities previously had said this radar data could not be verified.

Police on Saturday went to the Kuala Lumpur homes of both the pilot and co-pilot of the missing plane, according to a guard and several local reporters. Authorities have said they will investigate the pilots as part of their probe, but have released no information about how they are progressing.

A Malaysian government official involved in the investigation told the Associated Press on Saturday that no motive has been established, and it is not yet clear where the plane was taken.

The plane departed for an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing at 12:40 a.m. on March 8. Its communications with civilian air controllers were severed at about 1:20 a.m., and the jet went missing — heralding one of the most puzzling mysteries in modern aviation history.

China, where the bulk of the passengers were from, expressed irritation over what it described as Malaysia’s foot-dragging in releasing information about the search.

Investigators now have a high degree of certainty that one of the plane’s communications systems — the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) — was partially disabled before the aircraft reached the east coast of Malaysia, Najib said. Shortly afterward, someone on board switched off the aircraft’s transponder, which communicates with civilian air traffic controllers.

Although the aircraft was flying virtually blind to air traffic controllers at this point, onboard equipment continued to send “pings” to satellites.

A source familiar with the investigation but not authorized to speak on the record told Fox News that flight 370 continued to send “periodic pushes” of data after the transponder went dark for about four hours after contact was lost with the aircraft, suggesting the jet continued to fly. This was described to Fox News as signals data that, in isolation, would not provide location data.

While the systems were no longer transmitting maintenance data, the satellite communication link was still active. Once an hour, the system sent out a “handshake” — a form of reset, like a cell phone searching for an antenna tower.

The “handshake” allows the satellite to work out how much tilt or arc was needed to be in range of the plane’s signal. It therefore provides a scope or range for the aircraft, but it does not provide altitude, speed or location.

If the plane had disintegrated during flight or had suffered some other catastrophic failure, all signals — the pings to the satellite, the data messages and the transponder — would be expected to stop at the same time.

The northern route might theoretically have taken the plane through China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan — which hosts U.S. military bases — and Central Asia, and it is unclear how it might have gone undetected. The region is also home to extremist Islamist groups, unstable governments and remote, sparsely populated areas.

U.S. aviation safety experts say the shutdown of communications systems makes it clear the missing Malaysia Airlines jet was taken over by someone who knew how the plane worked.

To turn off the transponder, someone in the cockpit would have to turn a knob with multiple selections to the “off” position while pressing down at the same time, said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. That’s something a pilot would know, but it could also be learned by someone who researched the plane on the Internet, he said.

The Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System has two aspects, Goglia said. The information part of the system was shut down, but not the transmission part. In most planes, the information section can be shut down by hitting cockpit switches in sequence in order to get to a computer screen where an option must be selected using a keypad, said Goglia, an expert on aircraft maintenance.

That’s also something a pilot would know how to do, but that could also be discovered through research, he said.

But to turn off the other transmission portion of the ACARS, it would be necessary to go to an electronics bay beneath the cockpit. That’s something a pilot wouldn’t normally know how to do, Goglia said. The Malaysia plane’s ACARS transmitter continued to send out blips that were recorded by satellite once an hour for four to five hours after the transponder was turned off. The blips don’t contain any messages or data, but the satellite can tell in a very broad way what region the blips are coming from.

Malaysia’s prime minister said the last confirmed signal between the plane and a satellite came at 8:11 a.m. — 7 hours and 31 minutes after takeoff. This was more than five hours later than the previous time given by Malaysian authorities as the possible last contact.

Airline officials have said the plane had enough fuel to fly for up to about eight hours.

“The investigations team is making further calculations which will indicate how far the aircraft may have flown after this last point of contact,” Najib said.

He said authorities had determined that the plane’s last communication with a satellite was in one of two possible arcs, or “corridors” — a northern one from northern Thailand through to the border of the Central Asian countries Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and a southern one from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

Flying south would have put the plane over the Indian Ocean, with an average depth of 12,762 feet and thousands of miles from the nearest land mass.

Earlier Friday, a senior U.S. official told Fox News that the search effort would be broadened deep into the Indian Ocean, based on new intelligence assessments that there is a “higher probability” the aircraft went down in that region.

As a consequence of shared U.S.-Malaysian intelligence assessments, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Kidd is expected to expand its search into a southern quadrant of the ocean, while Indian authorities will cover a northern quadrant.

Goglia said that if Malaysian military radar tracked the plane turning west, it then followed a standard route across the peninsula until it was several hundred miles (kilometers) offshore and beyond military radar range. Airliners generally keep to such highways in the sky to avoid colliding with other planes, but the routes are not straight lines, he said. That means it’s likely someone was still guiding the plane, Goglia said.

Britain-based aviation security consultant Chris Yates thought it was highly unlikely the plane would have taken the northern route across land in Asia.

“In theory, any country that sees a strange blip is going to get fighter planes up to have a look,” he said. “And if those fighter planes can’t make head or tail of what it is, they will shoot it down.”

Indian officials said navy ships supported by long-range surveillance planes and helicopters scoured Andaman Sea islands for a third day Saturday without any success in finding evidence of the missing jet.

In a stinging commentary on Saturday, the Chinese government’s Xinhua News Agency said the Malaysian information was “painfully belated,” resulting in wasted efforts and straining the nerves of relatives.

“Given today’s technology, the delay smacks of either dereliction of duty or reluctance to share information in a full and timely manner,” Xinhua said. “That would be intolerable.”

Najib said he understood the need for families to receive information, but that his government wanted to release only fully corroborated reports. He said his country has been sharing information with international investigators, even when it meant placing “national security concerns” second to the search. U.S., British and Malaysian air safety investigators have been on the ground in Malaysia to assist with the investigation.

In the Chinese capital, relatives of passengers who have anxiously awaited news at a hotel near Beijing’s airport said they felt deceived at not being told earlier about the plane’s last signal. “We are going through a roller coaster, and we feel helpless and powerless,” said a woman, who declined to give her name.

Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, family life and connections of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men

Zaharie joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had more than 18,000 hours of flying experience. His Facebook page showed an aviation enthusiast who flew remote-controlled aircraft, posting pictures of his collection, which included a lightweight twin-engine helicopter and an amphibious aircraft.

Fariq was contemplating marriage after having just graduated to the cockpit of a Boeing 777. He has drawn scrutiny after the revelation that in 2011, he and another pilot invited two women aboard their aircraft to sit in the cockpit for a flight from Phuket, Thailand, to Kuala Lumpur.

Fourteen countries are involved in the search for the plane, using 43 ships and 58 aircraft.

A U.S. P-8A Poseidon, the most advanced long-range anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft in the world, was to arrive over the weekend and sweep parts of the Indian Ocean, the U.S. Defense Department said in a statement.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Justin Fishel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 search grows as pilots face increased scrutiny

By Steve Almasy, Chelsea J. Carter and Jim Clancy, CNN
updated 4:30 PM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CNN) — Where do you even begin to look, when the search area covers vast swaths of land and water, stretching thousands of miles, from Kazakhstan to the Indian Ocean?

That’s the question for Malaysian officials and authorities from 24 other nations as people search for a ninth day, trying to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people on board.

As the search area grows bigger, authorities are also increasing their scrutiny of the pilots, searching their homes in the quest for clues. That includes a flight simulator from the captain’s home.

It also includes interviewing the engineers who were in contact with MH370 before it took off, according to a statement from acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein to BERNAMA, Malaysia’s official news agency. The transport minister characterized the interviews as “normal procedure.”

“Police are still working on it. … Nothing conclusive yet,” a senior police official who has direct knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Sunday night, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the press.

With news that the Boeing 777-200ER might have flown for six and a half hours after its transponder stopped sending signals March 8, officials said the expanding search area extends over 11 countries, stretching as far north as Kazakhstan, a large nation in Central Asia far from any ocean.

“This is a significant recalibration of the search,” Malaysia’s acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Sunday.

There are still more questions than answers about the missing flight. Figuring out the motive of whoever apparently steered the plane off course is key, analysts told CNN Sunday.

“I think they had an end game in mind from the very beginning,” CNN aviation analyst Jim Tilmon said, “and they have executed a lot of things that have led us down a road. Are we going to the right place? I’m not sure.”

The plane disappeared on March 8, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Airline CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said Sunday the missing passenger jet took off with its normal amount of fuel needed for the roughly six-hour flight and did not have extra fuel on board that could have extended its range.

One of the nations involved in the search, Pakistan, said Sunday that the plane never showed up on its civilian radars and would have been treated as a threat if it had.

The Times of India reported that India’s military also said there was no way the plane could have flown over India without being picked up on radar.

A study of the flight’s cargo manifest showed there were no dangerous materials on board that concerned investigators, he told reporters.

Investigators are still looking into the backgrounds of the passengers to see whether any of them were trained pilots.

“There are still a few countries who have yet to respond to our request for a background check,” said Khalid Abu Bakar, inspector general of the Royal Malaysian Police Force. “But there are a few … foreign intelligence agencies who have cleared all the(ir) passengers.”

U.S. intelligence officials are leaning toward the theory that “those in the cockpit” — the captain and co-pilot — were responsible for the mysterious disappearance, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the latest thinking told CNN.

The official emphasized no final conclusions have been drawn and all the internal intelligence discussions are based on preliminary assessments of what is known to date.

Other scenarios could still emerge. The notion of a hijacking has not been ruled out, the official said Saturday.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters on Saturday that the plane veered off course due to apparent deliberate action taken by somebody on board.

‘Someone acting deliberately’
The first clue that the captain or co-pilot may have been involved stems from when the plane made a sharp, deliberate turn just after it last communicated with Kuala Lumpur air traffic controllers, and before it would have to communicate with Vietnamese controllers, according to the U.S. official with knowledge of the latest intelligence thinking.

“This is the perfect place to start to disappear,” the official said.

Adding to the intrigue, ABC News reported that the dramatic left turn was preprogrammed into the plane’s navigation computer. It’s a task that would have required extensive piloting experience.

Two senior law enforcement officials also told ABC that new information revealed the plane performed “tactical evasion maneuvers” after it disappeared from radar. CNN was unable to confirm these reports.

Military radar showed the jetliner flew in a westerly direction back over the Malaysian Peninsula, Najib said. It is then believed to have either turned northwest toward the Bay of Bengal or southwest elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, he said.

“Evidence is consistent with someone acting deliberately from inside the plane,” the Prime Minister said, officially confirming the plane’s disappearance was not caused by an accident. “Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, we are investigating all major possibilities on what caused MH370 to deviate.”

The unconfirmed possibility that the plane could be on land means authorities need to answer that question — and fast, analysts said.

“Time is even more of the essence. If this airplane has been taken to be used as a weapon, then the time that has been taken to prepare the aircraft for whatever deed is the plan, obviously to thwart that, it’s all about time,” said Shawn Pruchnicki, who teaches aviation safety and accident investigation at The Ohio State University.

Tilmon said whoever deliberately steered the plane off course likely did it with help. But what’s next is anyone’s guess, he said.

“We have been behind them all along, so now, if they had a plan, and if that plan included being able to set down someplace and refuel a little bit, we are looking at something that we may never see the end of,” he said.

The pilots

On Saturday, Malaysian police searched the home of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53. Zaharie lives in an upscale, gated community in Shah Alam, outside Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The Ministry of Transport said Sunday that police were examining a flight simulator found at the pilot’s house.

It’s somewhat common among aviation enthusiasts to use online flight simulator programs to replicate various situations. Simulators allow users to virtually experience scenarios in various aircraft. Programs can simulate flight routes, landings and takeoffs from actual airports.

Two vans were loaded with small bags, similar to shopping bags, at the home of the co-pilot, 27-year-old Fariq Ab Hamid, according to a CNN crew who observed activities at the residence. It was unclear whether the bags were taken from the home, and police made no comment about their activities there.

Najib made clear in a news conference that in light of the latest developments, authorities have refocused their investigation to the crew, ground staff and passengers on board.

Hishammuddin, the transportation minister, told reporters the pilots didn’t request to work together.

Peter Chong, a friend of Zaharie’s, said he had been in the pilot’s house and tried the simulator.

“It’s a reflection of his love for people — because he wants to share the joy of flying with his friends,” Chong said.

He was bothered by speculation about the captain’s credibility and questions about possible ties to terrorism.

“I think it is a little bit insensitive and unfair to the family,” he said, adding he thought there was no evidence to suggest any ulterior motives on Shah’s part.

A senior U.S. law enforcement official told CNN that investigators are carefully reviewing the information so far collected on the pilots to determine whether there is something to indicate a plan or a motive.

“In any criminal investigation, the most important analysis is what’s the motive,” said Mary Schiavo, a CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation. “I think right now, they have to look for it, and they have to rule it out, if they can, with their own pilots, so they can start looking for motives elsewhere.”

Undoubtedly, authorities will scour through the flight manifest and look further to see whether any of the passengers on board had flight training or connections to terror groups.

According to The New York Times, one of the passengers was an aviation engineer on his way to Beijing to work for a private-jet company.

Kazakhstan to Indian Ocean
As the focus of the investigation has shifted, so, too, has the focus of the search.

Information from international and Malaysian officials indicates the jet may have flown for more than seven hours after the last contact with the pilots.

Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. March 8. The last satellite communication from the plane occurred at 8:11 a.m., Najib said, well past the scheduled arrival time in Beijing. It is possible this contact could have been made from the ground, as long as the airplane still had electrical power, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said Sunday.

That last communication, Najib said, was in one of two possible traffic corridors shown on a map released to reporters. A northern arc stretches from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and a southern arc spans from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

“Due to the type of satellite data, we are unable to confirm the precise location of the plane when it last made contact with the satellite,” Najib said.

Because the northern parts of the traffic corridor include some tightly guarded airspace over India, Pakistan and even some U.S. installations in Afghanistan, U.S. authorities believe it more likely the aircraft crashed into waters outside of the reach of radar south of India, a U.S. official told CNN. If it had flown farther north, it’s likely it would have been detected by radar.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said Sunday that both the northern and southern corridors are being treated with equal importance. Malaysian officials are working with 25 countries, many of them along the corridors. They include Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Transport said it has joined the search, but said there is no evidence the plane flew over Afghan soil.

Separately, India has “temporarily halted” its search for the missing plane while Malaysian authorities reassess the situation, according to a top military official.

“We are conserving our assets for now,” Rear Adm. Sudhir Pillai, the chief of staff of India’s joint Andaman and Nicobar command, said Sunday. “We are on a standby.”

He said the Malaysians are reviewing India’s deployment.

Families at boiling point
For the families and loved ones of those aboard Flight 370, tensions boiled over Sunday in Beijing at the daily briefing by Malaysia Airlines.

Nine days after the plane went missing, patience is running thin with officials.

Before a packed room, one man told them that the families have already lost faith.

“A liar can lie once, twice or three times, but what’s the point (to) keep lying?” he said. “What we ask for is the truth. Don’t hide things from us.”

In the face of mounting criticism over its handling of the situation, Malaysia Airlines has defended its actions, saying it took time to verify satellite signals and give authorities a chance to analyze their significance before releasing information.

But at Sunday’s Beijing briefing, a majority of the people in the room stood up when the man asked how many had lost trust in the airline and the Malaysian government.

Another man rushed the front of the room and tried to throw a punch but was stopped.

The airline has been picking up the tab for families of the Chinese passengers to stay in Beijing during the ordeal.

China is sending technical experts to join the investigation, and two Chinese search vessels headed for the Strait of Malacca, according to Xinhua.

People are across the world have shown their support for those involved.

During his weekly Sunday message following prayers at the Vatican, Pope Francis asked the crowd to pray for the crew members and passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane and their families. “We are close to them in this difficult moment,” Pope Francis said.

Possible debris from missing Malaysian jet seen on Australian satellite images

20/03 08:17 CET

Australian authorities say they have found two objects on satellite images that could be debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

The objects were spotted approximately 2,500 km south of Perth in the southern Indian Ocean.

“The satellite image has a blob (shape) with an assessment of 24 metres against it which is the assessment that’s been made by the expert that assessed it. Further images are expected after commercial satellites were redirected to take high resolution images of the areas of interest,” John Young from the Australian Marine Safety Authority told a news conference.

Four search aircraft have been sent to the area and a merchant ship and Australian navy vessel are also on their way. The water there is said to be several thousand metres deep and poor visibility is likely to hamper the operation.

Australia has been in charge of searching in the southern Indian Ocean for the aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared 12 days ago with a total of 239 people on board.

Investigators believe it was intentionally diverted off course, and that somebody turned off vital data links before redirecting the plane west.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

Flight 370 Pilot Backed Opposition, Showed Aviation Passion

By Shamim Adam – Mar 17, 2014

Investigators stepping up scrutiny of the crew of the missing Malaysian Air passenger jet are piecing together a profile of the pilot, whose Facebook and YouTube postings show a man passionate about aviation, handy at repairs and supportive of the country’s political opposition.

Police on March 15 searched Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s house and that of first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid after Prime Minister Najib Razak said the plane was intentionally diverted en-route to Beijing on March 8. They spoke to Zaharie’s family members, and the airline said the two of them didn’t ask to fly together.

Flight 370 lost contact and disappeared from radar screens less than an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur with Zaharie, 52, at the command. About eight hours earlier, a Malaysian court sentenced opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, whom Zaharie supported, to five years in jail after overturning a 2012 acquittal of a sodomy charge. It isn’t known how much investigators are focusing on Zaharie compared with the rest of the crew, and Anwar’s sentencing wouldn’t have been likely to trigger a deadly response, political consultants said.

“Political contests have not grown to the stage where there is such a level of hostility and Malaysia does not have a history of political violence of that nature,” said Khoo Kay Peng, an independent consultant based near Kuala Lumpur. “He wasn’t even in the close circle of Anwar’s political supporters and there is no right-wing faction” in the People’s Justice Party, he said.

Pilot Training
Zaharie joined Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS) in 1981 after training for about two years in Manila, and had accumulated 18,365 flying hours since. The father of three displayed a deep passion for the Boeing Co. 777-200 jetliner, building his own six-screen flight simulator at his home in a gated community outside of Kuala Lumpur. He also had a passion for cooking and posted videos offering home-repair tips.

The pilot was a jovial man who was quick to cheer others up and liked to joke around, said Mohd Nasir Othman, a friend of about four decades since their school days in Malaysia’s Penang state. He had a sharp mind and enjoyed tinkering with motorcycles during their teenage years, Mohd Nasir said in an interview.

Mohd Nasir said Zaharie was a “moderate Muslim” who performed the daily rituals. Even so, Zaharie’s YouTube page linked to videos on atheism and subscribing to an official channel of Richard Dawkins, the author of “The God Delusion,” a bestseller defending atheism. After the Boston Marathon bombings, Zaharie expressed condolences for the victims.

Zaharie’s family members didn’t respond to e-mailed requests for comment.

Opposition Leaders
On his Facebook page, Zaharie also “liked” some key Malaysian political opposition leaders. Among them were former deputy prime minister Anwar and his daughter Nurul Izzah. He also followed the pages of the Democratic Action Party, a member of Anwar’s People’s Alliance coalition.

Anwar’s People’s Justice Party urged the government not to politicize the possibility of a hijacking and said allegations the pilots played a role in the plane’s disappearance are “totally speculative and it is irresponsible to make insinuations without verified information,” according to an e-mailed statement from Tian Chua, the party’s vice president.

We are “committed to a peaceful and constitutional means of political struggle,” Chua said. “We have consistently denounced violence and any form of terrorism.”

People’s Justice Party spokesman Fahmi Fadzil, who was at the court house when Anwar was sentenced last week, said he did not see anyone who looked like Zaharie there.

No Clue
Focus on the pilots of the plane increased after Malaysian authorities yesterday said the 777’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, which transmits text messages and data to and from planes, was disabled before the last voice transmission from the cockpit.

Initial investigations indicated it was the co-pilot who spoke the last words at about 1:19 a.m., Malaysian Air Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told reporters today. The words heard were “alright, good night,” as Malaysian air traffic controllers prepared to hand the plane over to Vietnamese counterparts.

Malaysia’s transport ministry today said police investigations on all crew members, including the pilot and the co-pilot, as well as all ground staff handling the aircraft, started on March 8.

Too Early
While authorities need to follow all leads, “it’s a bit early to make conclusions” by linking political leanings to the missing plane, said Ibrahim Suffian, a political analyst based near Kuala Lumpur at the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research. “As observers, we have no clue what’s going through the minds of the crew, the passengers, the pilots.”

Zaharie’s Facebook posts also show a disdain for the ruling National Front coalition that has been in power since 1957. In elections in May last year, the National Front won a parliamentary majority, its 13th straight election victory, even though it secured only 47 percent of the popular vote. Anwar repeatedly alleged electoral fraud.

Legal Setback
Anwar’s sentencing this month was the latest legal setback for the opposition chief, in a saga that began in 1998, when he was ousted as deputy prime minister and heir apparent to the premiership held by Mahathir Mohamad after calling for reforms during the Asian Financial Crisis. He was arrested and spent the next six years in prison on convictions for abuse of power and sodomy. He was released in 2004 after Mahathir retired and a judge overturned the guilty verdict for having sex with a man.

The Court of Appeal on March 7 overturned an acquittal of the sodomy charge from a second trial that delivered a verdict in 2012. Sodomy carries a maximum sentence of as many as 20 years in prison in Malaysia. Anwar has maintained that the charges and convictions were politically motivated.

In the weeks before the 2013 election, Zaharie shared a video of Hishammuddin Hussein, who was at that time home affairs minister and is now acting transportation minister, at a press conference with a caption “real joker.” In another post featuring a doctored picture of Najib, he used the word “moron.”

Fostering Democracy
Zaharie once posted that the opposition offers the only hope to foster democracy in Malaysia.

“Fifty years in power by a single party (coalition) does not say much about democracy in the country,” Zaharie wrote on Jan. 18, 2013. If opposition leaders are “willing to stand in the line of fire, the least we could do is support them. They might not be perceived to be the best candidate, but sacrifice is necessary to achieve the goal of free democracy.”

He signed up as an observer at a polling station during the national elections, and in the following weeks encouraged his friends to attend rallies to protest results.

“There is a rebel in each and everyone of us…let it out!” he wrote more than two weeks after the May 2013 vote.
Zaharie is an alumnus of Penang Free School, which describes itself as an institution for scholars, sportsmen and gentlemen and counts Malaysia’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, among former students. On its website, the school encouraged visitors to pray for Zaharie and the crew and passengers of the missing plane.

The married pilot excelled in physics and chemistry and was a keen soccer player, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing his classmates.

Flight Simulator
Zaharie posted videos of himself on YouTube fixing a broken Whirlpool ice maker for a refrigerator with parts he ordered from the U.S., and fixing a window seal at his son’s house. In another, he sat in front of his flight simulator before giving viewers technical directions on how to optimize their air conditioners.

In an online forum for flight simulator enthusiasts in November 2012, he said he was looking for “buddies to share this passion” and showed a picture of his creation. His Facebook account also had photos of him with remote-controlled aircraft.

“As far as pilots are concerned, anyone is actually free to do their own hobbies,” Malaysian Air’s Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told reporters March 14. “Quite a few pilots do have flight simulators at home.”

Machine Removed
The government said today the machine has been removed from Zaharie’s home with his family’s assistance and assembled at its headquarters for experts to examine. Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar said yesterday they didn’t see the “necessity at the earlier stage” to seize the pilot’s possessions, including the flight simulator.

Zaharie also loved to cook. He posted pictures of food he prepared such as fried noodles, chili tofu and broccoli and said he preferred to cook than eat out.

“If I eat out it has to be way beyond my capability,” he wrote in February 2013. “Has to be the best restaurant.”

Friends of Zaharie do not buy the theory he is behind the missing plane. The pilot was the type who would take care of his passengers, Mohd Nasir said, citing discussions with acquaintances.

“No matter what his beliefs may be, he is still a professional,” Mohd Nasir said. “He may have his own political views, but to bring down an airplane? That is out of the question. Not Zaharie.”

Missing Plane MH370: Maldives Island Residents Report ‘Low Flying Jet’

The Huffington Post UK  |  Posted: 18/03/2014 16:13 GMT  |  Updated: 19/03/2014 10:59 GMT

Maldives islanders saw a “low flying jumbo jet” on the day the Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared, according to reports.

The Haveeru news website has reported that witnesses saw a plane flying low at around 6.15am on March 8.

It was flying north to south-west, according to the report.

“I’ve never seen a jet flying so low over our island before,” a witness told the organisation.

“We’ve seen seaplanes, but I’m sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly.

“It’s not just me either, several other residents have reported seeing the exact same thing. Some people got out of their houses to see what was causing the tremendous noise too.”

The news came as it emerged that investigators have discovered the runways of five airports near the Indian Ocean loaded into Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s home-made flight simulator.

An unnamed source told the local paper the Berita Harian that while it was too early to make any conclusions on the new finding, it was still considered an important element in the probe on the whereabouts of the plane and its 239 people.

“The simulation programmes are based on runways at the Male International Airport in Maldives, an airport owned by the United States (Diego Garcia), and three other runways in India and Sri Lanka, all have runway lengths of 1,000 metres.

“We are not discounting the possibility that the plane landed on a runway that might not be heavily monitored, in addition to the theories that the plane landed on sea, in the hills, or in an open space,” the source was quoted as saying.

MAR 21, 2014 4:27PM ET / MALAYSIAN AIR FLIGHT 370 CRASH

A Complete Timeline of the Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
DANIELLE WIENER-BRONNER

At 12:40 a.m. local time in Saturday, March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 left Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing. Roughly one hour after takeoff, the aircraft lost contact with ground control and then disappeared from radar. The Boeing 777, and its 239 passengers and crew, have not been seen since.

Fourteen days later, that is still essentially all we know about what happened to MH370. More than two dozen countries have joined in the search for the missing aircraft, not to mention the countless amauter investigtors online, and despite the massive region-wide search, spanning across oceans and continents, with watchers on land, sea, air, and even space, there is no trace of the missing aircraft or any answer to the cause of its disappearance.

Many are calling the loss of MH370 one of the greatest aviation mysteries ever. Some say it is even more difficult than the hunt for an Air France flight that disappeared en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009, the closest thing we have to a precedent for this case. It took nearly two years to find the remains of that flight. Unfortunately, the past two weeks give us little reason to believe that the search for MH370 will end any easier.

Since March 8 (or March 7 in the United States), a number of theories have been offered and dismissed as to what possibly could have led the plane to disappear. Some have been contested; others accepted, then summarily debunked; and still more remain open questions for the increasingly frustrated investigators to solve. With so many false reports, bad leads, and contradictory evidence, a full revisiting of the timeline of the last two weeks might help sort out what we know, what we thought we knew, and what everyone hopes will not be their worst fears coming true.

The First Hours
On the day the flight disappeared, Malaysian officials offered very little information beyond the fact that there was no distress call from the plane, or any other reason to suspect that something had gone awry. Aside from the fact that the plane had disappeared off the airline’s radar.

At the time, data from the radar showed that MH370 was last detected at the normal cruising height of 35,000 feet, and so the search would begin near its last known location in the South China Sea. According to a Vietnamese official, the plane was last seen on radar about 140 miles southwest of Vietnam’s southernmost province. At first, officials said they’d lost contact two hours after the plane took off, but soon revised that figure to less than an hour.

The oil slick
Within 24 hours of the plane’s disappearance, Vietnamese officials reported that they spotted an oil slick on the water in the general vicinity of where the plane was last spotted. According to the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam’s Director Lai Xuan Tanh:

The assumption of most investigators at that point, was that MH370 went down soon after losing contact with ground control, leaking fuel as it crashed into the water, though they still had no guesses as to what caused the malfunction.

In less than a day, however, that theory was dismissed, when lab results showed that the fuel causing the oil slick actually came from a ship, and could not have left there by a plane.

The stolen passports
About 48 hours after the plane disappeared, officials revealed that two of the passengers on Flight 370 used stolen EU passports to board the flight. Speculation immediately turned to thoughts of terrorism. Some experts said that it was not unheard of for passengers to board flights with false identification — airport security often fails to check IDs against Interpol’s database of stolen passports, as was the case in Kuala Lumpur.

That concern only increased when it was learned that both men, who were indeed traveling together, were Iranian nationals. However, further investigation over the next severals found that officials were not able to link either man to terrorist groups. It was ultimately concluded that based on their history and travel itinerary, they were more than likely immigrants seeking asylum, and had purchased the passports as way to reach Europe safely.

The turn-around
On March 11, four days after the disappearance, Malaysian officials first revealed to a local paper that they had radar evidence suggesting the plane had turned around mid-flight, heading back towards the busy Malacca Strait. This marked the first major departure from the catastrophic crash scenario. The Malacca Strait, located on Malaysia’s west coast is hundreds of miles away from the initial search zone, and there were indiciations that the plane had quickly dropped by 1,000 feet when it was spotted, at 2:40, by military radar. This was the first mention of military radar data on the missing plane, and the first evidence that it had no simply vanished forever.

The information was later partially retracted by the official, who denied making the statement, but did not contradict the story. Other officials stood by the development and this week, Thai officials said their radar essentially confirmed that path. The news makes catastrophic plane failure, which presumably would have caused the pilots to lose control of the plane soon after losing contact with ground control, seem unlikely.

Chinese satellite images
On the Wednesday following the disappearance, China released satellite images of three large pieces of debris floating in the South China Sea, that they thought may have been a part of the missing plane. The Los Angeles Times reported at the time:

The Chinese military agency described the site as “a suspected crash area,” based on its location along the jet’s flight path and the size of three, light-colored debris pieces spotted on the water’s surface, the largest estimated to measure more than 70 feet in length and width. The Chinese agency gave coordinates of 105.63 east longitude, 6.7 north latitude, in the South China Sea between the Malaysian peninsula and Vietnam.

The images were released around the same time that investigators began to widen their search parameters. However, after nearly a week of misdirections, officials were at least somewhat prepared to find that this was yet another false lead.
China said later that the release of the images was a mistake.

The eyewitness
Also that Wednesday,  a letter appeared on social media, originally written by a worker aboard an oil rig in the South China Sea and send his bosses. The man said he believed he may have witnessed a plane plunging toward the water while on fire, and according to the time and location he believed it to have been MH370. If true, his story (along with the then promising Chinese satellite images), would have turned the investigation back toward the South China Sea. Once the satellite images proved unhelpful, however, the account largely dismissed as a false ID.

Flying the wrong way
From that point forward, investigators began to settle on the idea that plane, for reason that remain unclear, definitely changed direction, mostly likely intentionally. The first reports, given U.S. officials to the Wall Street Journal claimed that the plane continued to fly normally for several hours after it was last spotted on civilian radar screens, but in an unknown direction. This was coupled with a theory, floated to Reuters by, again, unnamed officials, that the movement of the plane revealed an intentional off-course flight. The anonymous sources explained, respectively, that the plane was unintentionally pinging satellite data that revealed its location for at least four hours after losing contact with ground control, even though transponders and all cockpit communications had ceased. The new flight path followed programmed waystations; or geographical markers identifiable only to experienced pilots.

This all meant that, as of last week, MH370’s flight path most likely looks something like this:
Soon after, officials told the New York Times that not only had the plane shifted directions drastically after its’ data transmitter was switched off, but that it had also drastically changed altitudes — first reaching 45,000 feet and then dropping to about 23,000. The rapid shift in altitude could have knocked passengers unconscious, intentionally, or not making them unable to fight (or help) against a hostile crew or hijackers.

Now, officials are primarily considering two possible flight paths for the plane based on the new information, per the Guardian. The renewed paths take into consideration data collected from radar screens, the amount of fuel remaining in the plane’s tank, and the possibility that the plane flew for as much six hours following the last official message received.

The pilots
As the investigation moved into the second phase, people began to look to the crew for answers. On Tuesday, reports emerged that someone in the cockpit programmed the new, erratic flight path into the plane’s Flight Management System at least 12 minutes before signing off. Officials also raided the home of the plane’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and found that some information had been deleted from the home-made flight simulator before he left for his fateful flight. However, neither of these reports indicate foul play. It’s not unusual for pilots to reprogram the flight path to avoid air traffic or weather conditions, just as it’s not unusual for pilots to hone their skills on flight simulators when not on duty.
Desperate to find any kind of motive, Shah’s politics even came into question, as it was learned that he was a supporter of Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s primary opposition leader, who has been accused (falsely) of corruption and trying to violently overthrow the government.
At this point, many still believe that pilot suicide or hijack is the most likely scenario. Yet, there’s no other evidence that either pilot had a motive or inclination to to undertake such a drastic move.

Deep water
The last several days of the search have been mostly uneventful, aside from one potentially significant development, that has ultimately proved fruitless. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced early on Thursday that two objects that could be debris from flight MH370 were discovered 1,500 miles southwest of Perth.

Even if they were part of the plane, the location of the debris is so remote; the time elapsed before ships could reach it was so great; and the water in that area is so deep, the odd recovering anything in that area are remarkably low. More than 24 hours later, there remains no sign of the plane.
Amateur analyses

With no wreckage, no witnesses, no signal, and no evidence, all anyone can seem to do is guess about what could have happened to Flight 730. As the world’s best investigators continue to grasp at straws, some amateur sleuths have offered up their own interpretations of what might have happened. Some of them seem to be hitting a nerve with a public desperate for answers, or at least a plausible explanation of what could have happened.
Attempted emergency landing

Pilot Chris Goodfellow postulated that the pilots of MH370 were probably attempting an emergency landing at Malaysian airport after a fire broke out in the cockpit. He wrote in an essay posted on his Google Plus account that “the left turn is key here,” adding that the plane’s experienced pilot was reacting to the crisis by veering towards the Palau Langkawi airport, which is equipped with a 13,000-foot landing strip — enough to accommodate the Boeing. He also argued that fire would explain the lack of communication.  Goodfellow continued:

It was probably a serious event and they simply were occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, Navigate and lastly communicate… What I think happened is that they were overcome by smoke and the plane just continued on  the heading probably on George (autopilot) until either fuel exhaustion or fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed.

He added that the pilot “was a hero struggling with an impossible situation,” adding that “a hijack would not have made that deliberate left turn with a direct heading for Langkawi.” The theory was embraced by media outlets (several of whom republished it) and readers, who found the explanation straightforward and convincing, especially as investigators fail to find any blemishes on the records of the pilot or co-pilot. But as Slate’s Jeff Wise points out, the theory is hampered by the fact that the plane didn’t continue flying in a straight line after making that initial turn. According to Wise:

While it’s true that MH370 did turn toward Langkawi and wound up overflying it, whoever was at the controls continued to maneuver after that point as well, turning sharply right at VAMPI waypoint, then left again at GIVAL. Such vigorous navigating would have been impossible for unconscious men.

Even with an on-board fire, it still seems unlikely that there would be zero communication from the pilots or anyone on board attempting to call home.

A shadow plane
Keith Ledgerman, a self-described aviation enthusiast, offered another theory that has piqued the interest of readers online, even thought it sounds ridiculous on its face. According to Ledgerman, the missing plane avoided radar by flying in the shadow of Singapore Airlines Flight 68, which was giving off normal signals throughout its flight. By doing so, he argues, the plane would have successfully avoided the radar of countries like India and Pakistan, who have said there’s no way the plane could have landed on their territory undetected. In Ledgerman’s words, “it is my belief that MH370 likely flew in the shadow of SIA68 through India and Afghanistan airspace.”

He adds that SIA38 wouldn’t have picked up signals from MH370 because the planes’ transponder was turned off by the time it started following the Singapore Airlines flight. Ledgerman concluded that MH370 eventually landed somewhere north of India or Afghanistan:

Once MH370 had cleared the volatile airspaces and was safe from being detected by military radar sites in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan it would have been free to break off from the shadow of SIA68 and could have then flown a path to its final landing site.  There are several locations along the flight path of SIA68 where it could have easily broken contact and flown and landed in Xingjian province, Kyrgyzstan, or Turkmenistan. Each of these final locations would match up almost perfectly with the 7.5 hours of total flight time and trailing SIA68.

Though the theory is enticing, The Atlantic’s James Fallows (who, it should be noted, was cautiously interested in Goodfellow’s idea) countered that the idea is neither likely nor plausible:

Apart from the general rococo-ness of the plotting, this interpretation rests on a piece of evidence that I view in a very different way from what’s implied in the post. Keith Ledgerwood notes that the two planes followed exactly the same course across a series of aerial way points (“intersections” with 5-letter names like IGREX and VAMPI) at very close to the same time. Isn’t this suggestive of something strange? Actually, not. On many heavily traveled air corridors, planes will be sent along exactly the same sequence of way points at intervals of a few minutes.

If the pilot did shadow SIA38 as Ledgerwood suggested, according to an expert who spoke to the New Strait Times, he would have pulled off a near-impossible feat. “You need to know the aircraft routes, the type of aircraft and what speed the aircraft is flying on that day, which can be affected by weather, change of flight plan or technical aspect,” said the expert, adding that “For MH370 to go under the military radar, the aircraft would have to be flying directly beneath SQ68. It has to be precision flying so that military radar can’t pick it up.” All of which is unlikely.

Black hole
On Wednesday, CNN’s Don Lemon said on-air that some viewers had wondered if the plane could have been swallowed up by a black hole. He asked the former Department of Transportation Inspector General Mary Schiavo to address the concern, saying: “I know it’s preposterous, but is it preposterous?” Schiavo, rather generously, said this was impossible, but added “I think it’s wonderful that the whole world is trying to help with their theories.”

Astrophysicists questioned by The Wire confirmed that this is indeed a preposterous theory. Columbia University astronomy professor David J. Helfand said “black holes comparable to the mass of an airplane or somewhat bigger that could attract and swallow a plane do not exist,” and Stanford University physics professor Peter Michelson added that if the plane had been swallowed up by a black hole, “a lot of other things would be missing as well,” like “probably the Earth.” So we can safely put that theory to rest.

Lingering Questions
So far, none of the explanations have offered a comprehensive answer to where the plane is, or what caused it to disappear. Some wonder why passengers didn’t attempt to call friends or family at any time. Others question the Malaysian government’s hesitance to reveal information or why has it taken so long for certain pieces of the puzzle to come to light? Chinese citizens, who made the majority of the passengers have lost patience with the lack of information and answers. Some see fault in other governments and their level of cooperation, wondering why Thailand waited a week before revealing their own data on the flight. Many have questioned why it’s even possible to turn off a plane’s data transmitter and if a full re-thinking of airline safety is in order

But of course, the prevailing question remains, how can an airplane in this day and fly so completely off the grid and why can’t we figure out where it is? Unfortunately, no answers are forthcoming. So we continue to watch and wait.

Update 3/24: Over the weekend, China and France joined Australia in reporting that they had satellite images of objects that could be related to the plane. On Saturday, China said that the images showed “suspicious” objects along the plane’s possible southern path. Later, Malaysian officials added that France also had satellite images suggestive of debris.

On Saturday, Australia said that one of its missions had spotted what looked like a wooden pallet and strapping belts, possible debris from the plane. But by Sunday the investigators had lost sight of the object, concluding, in the words of Australia’s transport minister, yet another “fruitless day” with no news.

Early Monday, both China and Australia announced that they had seen, again, items floating in the Indian Ocean that could possibly, again, be related to MH370.

By later Monday, however, all earlier news of floating objects and satellite images was forgotten when the Malaysian Prime Minister issued a harrowing announcement: new analysis shows that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed into the Indian Ocean.

In his statement, PM Najib Razak explained that the conclusion was reached based on new analysis from the UK :

This evening I was briefed by representatives from the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB). They informed me that Immarsat, the UK company that provided the satellite data which indicated the northern and southern corridors, has been performing further calculations on the data. Using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort, they have been able to shed more light on MH370’s flight path. Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth. This is a remote location far from possible landing sites. It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

The Malaysian government informed the families of the news before the official announcement, reaching some via text message.
No further information has been given with regard to the floating objects, although another press conference is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. local time. Najib said that more details will revealed at that time.


References

Vivian, J. & Maurin, P. J. (2012). The media of mass communication. 6th ed. Toronto, ON: Pearson/Allyn And Bacon.
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