- Flight plan was altered on cockpit computer before verbal contact was lost
- Plotting alternative route on Flight Management System would need expert knowledge
- Malaysian cedes control to other countries in ongoing search operation
- Search area consists of 14 sections covering an area the size of Australia
- Witnesses in Maldives report seeing a ‘low-flying jumbo jet’ around 6.15am
Daily Mail Reporter
06:08 GMT, 19 March 2014
06:09 GMT, 19 March 2014
The abrupt U-turn made by the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger plane is believed to have been programmed into the on board computer before the last radio contact was made with the co-pilot.
The change in direction in the Kuala Lumpur to Beijing flight on March 9 was made about 12 minutes before Fariq Abdul Hamid told controllers: ‘All right, good night’, sources have claimed.
The timing of the change in Flight 370’s plan is the latest twist in the mystery of the missing aircraft, which was carrying 239 people.
Flight plan: The change of direction was entered into the cockpit computer before verbal communication was lost, sources say
Although it appears that the change in direction had been planned and executed in the cockpit before contact was lost with the plane, the information does not suggest a sinister motive.
‘Some pilots program an alternate
flight plan in the event of an emergency. We don’t know
if this was an alternate plan to go back to Kuala Lumpur or if this was
to take the plane from some place other than Beijing,’ Greg Feith, a former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board told NBC News.
The flight path change was first
confirmed by authorities on Saturday, who said the aircraft had veered
off course because of ‘deliberate action by someone on the plane’.
change a flight path, someone with knowledge of aircraft would have had
to enter navigation codes into the Flight Management System in the
guides the plane along the route chosen, in normal circumstances, by the
pilots, and information from the computer is sent back to the airline’s
the information was not relayed to the crew and it remains unclear
whether it was closed down before or after the last verbal contact with
the pilots, Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said.
Spotted: Thai military say they picked up an unidentified aircraft on radar bearing off the flight path, heading left over Malaysia and towards the Strait of Malacca
Former FAA spokesman Scott Brenner told Fox News however: ‘One of the pilots clearly had the intention … that he was going to take [the plane] in a different direction.
‘It’s 100 percent clear this pilot, or this co-pilot, was going to take this plane with the intent of doing something bad.’
added: ‘For a pilot or co-pilot to punch in a new waypoint in their
flight management system without the other one noticing would be hard to
Holding back: Aviation expert David Learmount suggested some countries may be withholding radar information
Ross Aimer, a retired United Airlines pilot, said it would have taken ‘extensive training’ to turn the plane round and reprogram the flight system.
than a week after the flight disappeared, a leading aviation expert has
suggested that Asian military officials may be staging a mass cover-up
because they do not want to expose holes within their countries’ air
Airlines jet went missing at 1.30am on Sunday, March 9. But it wasn’t until
the following Tuesday that the Malaysian Air Force reported they had
spotted the aircraft on radar over the Strait of Malacca at 2.15am.
Thailand’s military later claimed that they detected a plane at 1.28am, eight minutes after MH370’s communications went down, heading towards the Strait.
They said they didn’t share the information right away because they were not asked for it.
Writing on his blog, Aviation expert David Learmount said: ‘Maybe these states’ air defences, like Malaysia’s, are not what they are cracked up to be.
‘And maybe they wouldn’t want the rest of the world to know that.’
Mr Learmount, a former pilot and now operations and safety editor at the respected Flight Global publication, points out that MH370 might have flown over several Asian countries including Thailand, Burma, China, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.
He said said they may be withholding vital radar data about Flight MH370 for fear it would expose gaping holes in their multibillion pound air defences.
Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:40 a.m. Malaysian time and its transponder, which allows air traffic controllers to identify and track the airplane, ceased communicating at 1:20 a.m
Hunt: An Australian pilot scans the surface of the sea during the search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to the west of Peninsula Malaysia
If it emerges that an unidentified
aircraft had been able to fly over a territory undetected and
unchallenged it would amount to an embarrassing security failure.
the Malaysian sighting Mr Learmount wrote: ‘Clearly they had let an
unidentified aircraft pass through Malaysian sovereign territory without
bothering to identify it; not something they were happy to admit.
Malaysian government has called upon all the countries to the
north-west as far as Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea to check their
primary radar records for unidentified contacts in their airspace in the
seven hours after the 777 went missing.
on the actual track the aircraft followed, if it had headed
approximately north-west this could include some–if not all–of the
following countries: Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, China, Bangladesh, Bhutan,
India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan.
the aircraft had gone that way, surely military primary radar in one of
those countries–or several–would have picked up the signal from this
unidentified aircraft, and the vigilant radar operator would have
scrambled a fighter to intercept the intruder?
s/he? Or maybe not. Maybe these states’ air defences, like Malaysia’s,
are not what they are cracked up to be. And maybe they wouldn’t want the
rest of the world to know that.’
the critical first three days the seach was focused on the South China
Sea. So when the Malaysian military reported the sighting over the the
Strait of Malacca, it became clear that was the wrong search area.
Malaysian authorities are ceding control to other countries in the hunt for the airliner as they announced the search area consists of 14 huge sections covering an area the size of Australia.
Witnesses in the Maldives reported seeing what they described as a ‘low-flying jumbo jet’ around 6.15am.
Maldivian news website Haveeru said the residents on the remote Maldives island of Kuda Huvadhoo in Dhaal Atoll said they saw a white aircraft, with red stripes across it like the planes operated by Malaysia Airlines.
It would mean that MH370 continued for a further 2,000 miles flying westwards.
Air Vice Marshal Montol Suchookorn of the Royal Thai
Air Force said an unidentified aircraft was detected at 1.28am, eight
minutes after MH370’S transponder stopped communicating.
He said the plane was following a twisting path, turning towards
Butterworth, a Malaysian city along the Strait of Malacca. The radar
signal was infrequent and did not include any data such as the flight
He said he didn’t know exactly when Thai
radar last detected the plane. Malaysian officials have said Flight 370
was last detected by their own military radar at 2:14 a.m. heading toward the strait.
When asked why it took so long to release the information, Montol said, ‘Because we did not pay any attention to it.
Royal Thai Air Force only looks after any threats against our country,
so anything that did not look like a threat to us, we simply look at it
without taking actions.’
A man stands in front of a board with messages of hope and support for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport
The final picture: The missing jet is pictured here in February this year above Polish airspace
He said the plane never entered Thai
airspace and that Malaysia’s initial request for information in the
early days of the search was not specific.
they asked again and there was new information and assumptions from
(Malaysian) Prime Minister Najib Razak, we took a look at our
information again,’ Montol said.
‘It didn’t take long for us to figure out, although it did take some experts to find out about it.’
370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:40 a.m. Malaysian time and its
transponder, which allows air traffic controllers to identify and track
the airplane, ceased communicating at 1:20 a.m.
said that at 1:28 a.m., Thai military radar ‘was able to detect a
signal, which was not a normal signal, of a plane flying in the
direction opposite from the MH370 plane,’ back toward Kuala Lumpur.
The search area for the plane initially focused on the South China Sea, where ships and planes spent a week searching.
Pings that a satellite detected from
the plane hours after its communications went down have led authorities
to concentrate instead on two vast arcs — one into central Asia and the
other into the Indian Ocean — that together cover an expanse as big as
Thai officials said radar equipment in southern Thailand detected the plane.
Malaysian officials have said the plane
might ultimately have passed through northern Thailand, but Thai Air
Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong told reporters Tuesday that the country’s
northern radar did not detect it.
Search: Sailors from the U.S. destroyer USS Kidd prepare to launch a helicopter in the hunt for flight MH370
Thailand’s failure to quickly share
possible information regarding the fate of the plane, and the 239 people
aboard it, may not substantially change what Malaysian officials know,
but it raises questions about the degree to which some countries are
sharing their defense information, even in the name of an urgent and
mind-bending aviation mystery.
only its own radar to go on, it took Malaysia a week to confirm that
Flight 370 had entered the strait, an important detail that led it to
change its search strategy.
The U.S. Navy says that it will use long-range naval aircraft to look for the plane, and send its destroyer, the USS Kidd, back to normal duties. Australia is leading the search efforts in the southern Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, furious Chinese families threatened to go on hunger strike until the Malaysian government tells
them the truth about the fate of their relatives.
days after the airliner vanished an hour into its flight, hundreds of
family members are still waiting for information in a Beijing hotel.
Around two thirds of the passengers on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are Chinese.
vented their pain and anger on Chinese representatives sent by the
airline to meet them on Tuesday and demanded to see the Malaysian
‘What we want is the truth. Don’t let
them become victims of politics. No matter what political party you
are, no matter how much power you have, if there isn’t life, what’s the
point? Where is compassion?’ asked one middle-aged woman angrily.
always going back and forth. I think your government knows in their
heart why we want you to answer us. Because you’re always tricking us,
telling us lies,’ added one man.
has repeatedly called on the Malaysian side to do a better job at
looking after the relatives of the Chinese passengers, and to provide
them with updated information.