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AEROSPACE
Central Asian states report no sightings of Malaysian jet
by Staff Writers
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (AFP) March 17, 2014


Timeline: last known moments of flight MH370
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) March 17, 2014 - More than a week after a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet vanished, a clearer picture is emerging of the events leading up to and immediately after its disappearance.

Much of the new information was revealed in a globally televised statement by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on March 15, which came after a week of false leads and dashed expectations during an intensive search in the South China Sea.

Najib revealed that the plane was apparently deliberately diverted and flown for hours after vanishing from radar -- to the west of Malaysia, far from the South China Sea, where the search has now been abandoned.

However, the mystery surrounding the eventual fate of the Boeing 777, and the 239 people on board, remains as planes and boats from an array of nations scour a huge swathe of the Indian Ocean for any sign of wreckage.

Here is a timeline of the plane's known last moments on March 8:

-- TAKE-OFF: Flight MH370 takes off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 am (1641 GMT Friday) bound for Beijing.

-- ACARS SHUTDOWN: The Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), which transmits key information on the plane's mechanical condition, is manually switched off some time between 1:07 am -- when it sends its last data transmission -- and 1:37 am, when the next transmission would have been expected.

-- LAST WORDS: An apparently relaxed final voice communication -- "All right, good night" -- comes from the cockpit at 1:19 am, as the plane passes from Malaysian to Vietnamese air traffic control over the South China Sea. The airline believes it was the co-pilot speaking.

-- TRANSPONDER SWITCHES OFF: The plane's transponder -- which relays radar information on the plane's location and altitude -- stops transmitting 14 minutes after the last ACARS transmission, at 1:21 am.

-- LAST RADAR CONTACT: The plane slips off Malaysian civilian radar screens at 1:30 am. While it continues to blip on military radars until 2:15 am, that sighting is only identified later as Flight MH370.

-- ROUTE CHANGE: The plane is believed to have turned sharply from its intended route after losing contact with civilian radar, flying west -- back over peninsular Malaysia -- before turning northwest.

-- LAST SATELLITE COMMUNICATION: Final, automated, satellite communications with the plane come at 8:11 am -- suggesting it may have flown on for hours after the ACARS system and transponder cut out.

The satellite data cannot pinpoint a location for the plane at 8:11 am. It places it anywhere on one of two huge arcs -- one stretching north from Malaysia up to central Asia, and the other south, deep into the Indian Ocean towards Australia.

A total of 25 countries are now involved in the massive hunt for any sign of the plane, with Australia announcing on March 17 that it is taking charge of the search in the southern arc.

In the first weekend of the plane's disappearance, it emerged that two passengers were travelling on stolen EU passports, fuelling speculation of a terrorist attack. Police then concluded that the pair were illegal Iranian immigrants.

But the terrorism thesis is now back in the spotlight along with possible hijacking or deliberate action by one or other of the pilots, who are now under investigation by Malaysian authorities along with the cabin crew, the passengers and ground engineers.

The Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan on Monday said there had been no sightings of the missing Malaysian passenger jet following reports that it may have reached their airspace.

According to one of the possible scenarios, the Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane that mysteriously went missing on March 8 could have flown north as far as the ex-Soviet country of Kazakhstan.

"There was no unsanctioned use of Kazakhstan's airspace on that day," the head of the country's civil aviation authority, Serik Mukhtybayev, told the Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency.

Mukhtybayev said that "Kazakhstan could be seen as one of the extreme points of this flight," but added that the plane would already have been spotted on the way.

"Before reaching Kazakhstan, the plane would have to cross the territory of other countries en route, where the air zone is also carefully monitored."

He said that Malaysia had not made an official request to Kazakhstan to look for the plane but that it was ready to help.

"Currently the aviation authorities of Kazakhstan have not received any request from our Malaysian colleagues on organising a rescue or other kind of operation, but if we get a request, we will react."

In Kyrgyzstan, which lies south of Kazakhstan, President Almazbek Atambayev agreed to "show cooperation in the search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777," the government press service said.

The country's civil aviation authority and air defence forces "will provide all the necessary information to our Malaysian colleagues," the statement said.

Atambayev expressed his sympathy for the relatives and said he hoped the jet would be located soon.

Last words from missing Malaysian jet spoken by co-pilot
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) March 17, 2014 - The last words from a Malaysian passenger jet missing for 10 days were apparently spoken by the co-pilot, the airline said Monday, providing a glimpse into the crucial period when the plane was deliberately diverted.

Clarification that the voice was most likely that of First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid came during a press conference at which Malaysian officials hit back at "irresponsible" suggestions that they had misled the public -- and passengers' relatives -- over what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and Fariq, his co-pilot, have become a primary focus of the investigation, with one of the key questions being who was in control of the aircraft when it veered off course about an hour into its flight to Beijing.

The nonchalant-sounding last message from the cockpit -- "All right, good night" -- came around the time that two of the plane's crucial signalling systems were manually disabled.

"Initial investigations indicate it was the co-pilot who basically spoke," said Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya.

The last signal from the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was received 12 minutes before the co-pilot's final words.

The transponder -- which relays a plane's location -- was switched off just two minutes after he spoke, and a few minutes later the aircraft turned back on its flight path.

Yahya said it was not clear precisely when the ACARS system, which sends a signal every 30 minutes, was disabled. Officials had previously maintained it was manually turned off before the final cockpit message.

The Malaysian authorities have stressed that the backgrounds of all the passengers and crew were being checked, as well as engineers who may have worked on the plane before takeoff.

But Michael McCaul, chair of the US House Homeland Security Committee, said US intelligence briefings had seemed to lead "towards the cockpit, with the pilot himself, and co-pilot".

The plane went missing early on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard, spawning a massive international search across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean that has turned up no trace of wreckage.

- 'Contradictory information' -

China's damning assessments of Malaysia's crisis management continued Monday.

Premier Li Keqiang, in a phone conversation, asked his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak to provide more detailed information about the missing flight "in a timely, accurate and comprehensive manner", state news agency Xinhua reported.

The state-controlled China Daily said the "contradictory and piecemeal information Malaysia Airlines and its government have provided has made search efforts difficult and the entire incident even more mysterious".

Relatives of the Chinese passengers also voiced anger and frustration after a meeting with airline officials in Beijing.

"Only the Malaysia government knows the truth. They've been talking nonsense since the beginning," said Wen Wancheng, whose son was on Flight 370.

At Monday's press briefing, Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein reacted angrily when a foreign journalist suggested Malaysia should apologise for its handling of the crisis.

"I think it is very irresponsible of you to say that," he shot back.

Twenty-six countries are now involved in searching for the jet after satellite and military radar data projected two dauntingly large corridors the plane might have flown through.

The northern corridor stretches in an arc over south and central Asia, while the other swoops deep into the southern Indian Ocean towards Australia.

Satellite and radar data from countries in the northern corridor should allow investigators to confirm within "two or three days" whether it crashed in that area, a foreign member of the investigative team told AFP.

On Monday, the central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan said there had been no sightings in their airspace.

Malaysia announced that it was deploying its navy and air force to the southern corridor, where Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his country would take the lead in searching a vast area off its west coast.

The United Arab Emirates said it was joining the search, providing two planes, according to WAM state news agency.

Three officials from France's civil aviation accident investigation agency arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Monday to share their experiences of the search for Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.

The "black boxes" from that crash were eventually recovered nearly two years later from a depth of more than 3,800 meters (12,500 feet).

- Political dimension? -

Malaysian police have searched both pilots' homes and are examining a flight simulator that Captain Zaharie, 53, had assembled at his home.

Associates say Zaharie was an active supporter of Malaysia's political opposition headed by veteran politician Anwar Ibrahim.

In a highly controversial case, Anwar was convicted of sodomy -- illegal in Muslim Malaysia -- just hours before MH370 took off.

But friends said Zaharie exhibited no extreme views.

Fariq, meanwhile, was accused in an Australian television report of allowing two young South African women into the cockpit of a plane he piloted in 2011, breaching security rules imposed after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

But acquaintances have attested to his good character, and reports said he planned to wed his flight-school sweetheart.

.


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