Latest Update on Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane

Investigators hunting the missing Malaysia Airlines plane yesterday revealed it was the co-pilot who spoke the last words to ground controllers before it vanished.

First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, calmly said ‘All right, good night’ shortly before Flight MH370 vanished ten days ago.

The cockpit sign-off to air traffic controllers — not the recognised radio drill — came at 1.19am on March 8 as the jet left Malaysian airspace on a routine journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Around a minute later, the Boeing 777-200’s transponder, which sends out a signal to radar stations, was switched off — making the jet disappear.

Officials are considering if the unusual sign-off was a secret signal that there was something wrong on the flight deck.

The other possibility, of course, is that Hamid was by then in sole control.

The hunt for the missing plane has become the biggest search in aviation history, with the total area being examined amounting to 30 million square miles, or a tenth of the planet.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said finding the plane was still the main focus, and he did not rule out that it might be discovered intact.

'The fact that there was no distress signal, no ransom notes, no parties claiming responsibility, there is always hope,' Hishammuddin said at a news conference.

Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said an initial investigation indicated that the last words heard from the plane by ground controllers - 'All right, good night' - were spoken by the co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid.

Had it been a voice other than that of Fariq or the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, it would have clearest indication yet of something amiss in the cockpit before the flight went off-course.

Malaysian officials had said earlier that those words came after one of the jetliner's data communications systems - the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System - had been switched off, suggesting the voice from the cockpit may have been trying to deceive ground controllers.

Officials will ask friends of Mr Hamid if they think he was speaking normally.

Meanwhile, footage emerged showing the aircraft's pilots walking through security for the final time before take-off.

CCTV captured Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, pilot of the Boeing 777 flight, being frisked while walking through security at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

He is then joined by co-pilot Fariq Hamid who is also searched before the pair walk onto the plane.

Officials also said today that it is possible the aircraft could have landed and transmitted a satellite signal from the ground.

Shah, a father-of-three, described as 'loving and generous' in an online tribute video was said to be a 'fanatical' supporter of the country's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim - jailed for homosexuality just hours before the jet disappeared.

It has also been revealed that the pilot's wife and three children moved out of the family home the
day before the plane went missing.

Some senior US officials believe it is possible the plane was taken as part of a ‘dry run’ for a future terrorist attack – in order to find out whether a plane can be hidden from radar and satellites.

While investigators visited the homes of Shah and Hamid, it was also revealed by Malaysian police that the two pilots did not request to fly together, reported the Wall Street Journal.

It comes as FBI investigators say the disappearance of MH370 may have been ‘an act of piracy’ and the possibility that hundreds of passengers are being held at an unknown location has not been ruled out.

If the plane was intact and had enough electrical power in reserve, it would be able to send out a radar 'ping'.

'All right, good night' was spoken at 1.19am on Saturday March 8 from the Beijing-bound flight to air traffic controllers in Malaysia rather than the usual sign-off of ‘Roger and out’.

Whoever was talking did not mention a problem with the flight, suggesting an attempt was made to mislead ground control.

Two minutes later the transponder - which sends out an identifying signal - was switched off. Turning it off is simply a matter of flipping a switch in the cockpit.

Shortly afterwards the aircraft climbed to 45,000 feet and turned sharply to head back across the Malaysian peninsula. It later travelled some distance at 23,000 feet and even dipped down to 5,000 feet.

Authorities have said someone on board the plane a disabled one of its communications systems - the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS.

This is a message sent every 30 minutes to maintenance crews that indicates the plane's speed, altitude, position and fuel levels.

It made its last transmission at 1.07am, just before the last words from the co-pilot.

But it didn't send a transmission at 1.37am, so at some point in the preceding half an hour it had been switched off, a task that requires considerable expertise.

As authorities examined a flight simulator that was confiscated from the home of one of the pilots and dug through the background of all 239 people on board and the ground crew that serviced the plane, they also were grappling with the enormity of the search ahead of them, warning they needed more data to narrow down the hunt for the aircraft.

On Saturday, Malaysia's government confirmed that the plane was deliberately diverted and may
have flown as far north as Central Asia, or south into the vast reaches of the Indian Ocean.

Given the expanse of land and water that might need to be searched, the wreckage of the plane might take months - or longer - to find, or might never be located.

Establishing what happened with any degree of certainty will likely need key information, including cockpit voice recordings, from the plane's flight data recorders.

'The search was already a highly complex, multinational effort. It has now become even more difficult,' Malaysia Airline chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said.

The search effort initially focused on the relatively shallow waters of the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, where the plane was first thought to be.

Minister of Transport Hishammuddin said he had asked governments to hand over sensitive radar and satellite data to try and help get a better idea of the plane's final movements.

The search area now includes 11 countries the plane might have flown over, Hishammuddin said, adding that the number of countries involved in the operation had increased from 14 to 25.

It also emerged that Mr Hamid had his reputation called into question by a South African woman who accused him of inviting her to join him in the cockpit for a journey in 2011, in breach of security rules.

Malaysia Airlines said it was ‘shocked’ by the reported security violation, but could not verify the claims.

But those who knew him have described the son of a top state civil servant as a mild-mannered young man with a bright piloting future who is reported to have been engaged to wed a woman he met in flight school nine years ago.

His fiancée, Captain Nadira Ramli, 26, flies for Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia - Malaysia Airlines' fierce rival - and is the daughter of a senior Malaysia Airlines pilot, local media reports said

Mr Hamid regularly visited his neighbourhood mosque outside Kuala Lumpur where he also attended occasional Islamic courses, said Ahmad Sharafi Ali Asrah, the mosque's imam or spiritual leader, who called him ‘a good boy’.

Mr Hamid appeared in a CNN travel segment in February in which he helped fly a plane from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur.

It chronicled his transition to piloting the Boeing 777-200 after having completed training in a flight simulator.

CNN correspondent Richard Quest called Fariq's technique ‘textbook-perfect,’ according to the network's website.

The government has called on the public not to ‘jump to conclusions’ about the two men, saying they were not on record as asking to fly together on March 8.

Sympathetic tributes to them have poured out online with friends of Captain Shah posting a YouTube video that a contains a gallery of photographs of him and a soundtrack of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

At the end of the video a message appears that reads 'loving, reflective, generous, cool, sporting, intelligent, supportive... the list goes on and on'.

Malaysian media reports have quoted colleagues as calling Mr Shah a 'superb' and highly respected pilot, while acquaintances remember a gentle man who was handy both in the kitchen and around the house.

Meanwhile, footage has emerged of Hamid in a training session a month before the Malaysian Airlines flight disappeared.

Hamid joined the airline in 2007 while Captain Shah, 53, began working for Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had more than 18,000 hours of flying experience.

Former Concorde captain Jock Lowe told Sky News that a civilian airliner disppearing in Europe would be 'unthinkable' as military fighter jets would have been scrambled.

He said: 'In European airspace, if an aeroplane was out of communication, some military aircraft would be sent up very quickly to intercept it. It's unthinkable that it would have happened in Europe. It just couldn't happen in most places in the world.'

Pakistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Taliban all deny knowing plane's whereabouts

Satellite data suggests MH370 could be anywhere in either of two vast corridors that arc through much of Asia: one stretching north from Laos to the Caspian, the other south from west of the Indonesian island of Sumatra into the southern Indian Ocean west of Australia.

Aviation officials in Pakistan, India, and Central Asian countries Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan - as well as Taliban militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan - said they knew nothing about the whereabouts of the plane.

‘The idea that the plane flew through Indian airspace for several hours without anyone noticing is bizarre,’ a defence ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, who are seeking to oust foreign troops and set up an Islamic state, said the missing plane had nothing to do with them.

‘It happened outside Afghanistan and you can see that even countries with very advanced equipment and facilities cannot figure out where it went,’ he said. ‘So we also do not have any information as it is an external issue.’

A commander with the Pakistani Taliban, a separate entity fighting the Pakistani government, said the fragmented group could only dream about such an operation.

'We wish we had an opportunity to hijack such a plane,' he told Reuters by telephone from the lawless North Waziristan region.

China, which has been vocal in its impatience with Malaysian efforts to find the plane, called on its smaller neighbour to ‘immediately’ expand and clarify the scope of the search. About two-thirds of the passengers aboard MH370 were Chinese.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had spoken to Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak by telephone, and had offered more surveillance resources in addition to the two P-3C Orion aircraft his country has already committed.

Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said diplomatic notes had been sent to all countries along the northern and southern search corridors, requesting radar and satellite information as well as land, sea and air search operations.

The Malaysian navy and air force were also searching the southern corridor, he said, and U.S. P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft were being sent to Perth, in Western Australia, to help scour the ocean.

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