Posts Tagged ‘Strait of Malacca’

Thailand Didn’t Share Its Flight 370 Radar Data for a Week — Possible worry that data could provide intelligence to potential attackers

March 19, 2014

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Image AP

AP

By Abby Ohlheiser
The Wire

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 Royal Thai Air Force  TPS-77 radar

As always with stories about leads for Flight 370, it’s important to proceed with caution. Given that current theories about the plane’s disappearance involve the assumption that it flew for hours without sending radar data, it’s not clear how helpful the Thai radar information can be. So for what it’s worth, the new radar information depicts a plane that might be Flight 370 taking a “twisting” path to the Strait of Malacca, outside of Thai airspace. The Thai military emphasized that they’re not sure whether this plane is Flight 370 or not. A week after the plane’s disappearance, Malaysian officials confirmed that their radar data indicates the plane did enter the Strait.

Montol responded to questions about the delay in his country’s data release by saying that the Air Force “did not pay any attention to” the plane on their radar. He added: “The 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.” He added:

“When they asked again and there was new information and assumptions from (Malaysian) Prime Minister Najib Razak, we took a look at our information again…It didn’t take long for us to figure out, although it did take some experts to find out about it.”

Right now, there’s plenty of speculation on why Flight 370 disappeared. But the search area for the plane is only expanding, as international teams appear no closer to finding the jet than they were days ago. Based on an assumption that the plane flew for a long while without sending out radar data, officials have expanded their search to an area of nearly 30 million square miles. 

Related:

Peace and Freedom comment: Nations are often reluctant to share radar data that may provide intelligence to potential attackers.

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Day 11: Why Did Thailand Withhold Data?

March 18, 2014

 

  • MH370 spotted at 1.28am, eight minutes after it stopped communicating
  • Turned towards Butterworth, a Malaysian city along the Strait of Malacca
  • Malaysia detected MH370 on their military radar at 2:14am heading to strait
  • Thai air force did not report contact because ‘it did not look like a threat’
  • It meant precious time was being wasted searching in the wrong area
  • 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
  • They said plane was white with red stripes like a Malaysia Airlines jet
  • It would mean the plane continued for 2,000 miles flying west

By Daniel Miller

Asian military officials may be staging a mass cover-up over missing flight MH370, because they do not want to expose gaping holes within their countries’ air defences, a leading aviation expert has suggested.

The Malaysian Airlines jet went missing 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.

Now Thailand’s military say they detected a plane at 1.28am, eight minutes after MH370′s communications went down, heading towards the Strait but didn’t share the information because they were not asked for it.

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. They said they did not come forward with the information because they were not specifically asked

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. They said they did not come forward with the information because they were not specifically asked

 

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.’

More…

 

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.

Aviation expert David Learmount has suggested some countries may be withholding radar information because they do not want to expose holes in their air defences

Aviation expert David Learmount has suggested some countries may be withholding radar information because they do not want to expose holes in their air defences

 

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.

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.

Regarding 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.

‘The 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.

‘Depending 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.

‘If 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?

‘Wouldn’t 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.’

For 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.

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

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

 

'Terrain masking', as illustrated here, is a technique used by pilots to avoid radar detection

‘Terrain masking’, as illustrated here, is a technique used by pilots to avoid radar detection

 

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

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

 

Today Malaysian authorities said they were ceding control to other countries in the hunt for the airliner as they announced the search area now 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  number.

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.

‘The 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.’

Clueless? Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, centre, director general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, right, and Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainudin during a  MH370 press conference near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport yesterday

Clueless? Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, centre, director general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, right, and Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainudin during a  MH370 press conference near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport yesterday

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

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

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.

‘When 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.’

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.

Montol 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  Australia.

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.

Missing plane search.jpg
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Search: Sailors from the U.S. destroyer USS Kidd prepare to launch a helicopter in the hunt for flight MH370

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.

With 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.

Read more:

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2583553/Thai-military-
says-missing-flight-MH370-followed-twisting-path-Strait-Malacca.html

Search for Flight 370 could end up encompassing nearly 300,000 square miles

March 17, 2014

By Richard C. Paddock, Andy Pasztor and Jon Ostrower
The Wall Street Journal

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 expanded by thousands of miles in an operation of unprecedented scale, marked by a series of twists that have made the least likely scenarios the most credible.

The number of countries searching for the flight, which fell off radar March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, doubled to roughly two dozen over the weekend. Searchers are now looking for debris more than 3,200 miles away from the point at which they believe the plane’s transponders and another signaling system were deliberately turned off about an hour into the flight.

Malaysian authorities now say they believe foul play was behind the plane’s vanishing, and police are investigating all crew and passengers on the flight as well as engineers who may have had contact with the aircraft before takeoff. Police searched the pilots’ homes over the weekend, but Malaysia’s transport ministry said there was no evidence so far linking the pilots to the plane’s disappearance.

However, on Sunday, Malaysia’s transport minister said key communication equipment that keeps the ground updated about the health of a flying aircraft and its engines was disabled on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 before the last recorded conversation with the cockpit.

“Yes, it was before,” Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference Sunday in response to a reporter’s question about whether the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS, of Flight 370 was disabled before someone said, “All right, good night” from the cockpit.

The ACARS system being disabled before the last voice message from the cockpit backs up thinking by experts that somebody with intricate understanding of the Boeing 777-200 jet and its systems tampered with communication equipment on board. The system apparently could only have been disabled by someone in the cockpit, according to an executive of Rockwell Collins, which bought ARINC, the firm that invented the ACARS system. The executive spoke to The Wall Street Journal on condition of anonymity.

On Thursday, Mr. Hishammuddin said the last automated message was sent out by the ACARS system at 1:07 a.m. Malaysia time. But he didn’t say then whether the system was disabled before or after the last comment from the cockpit.

The identity of the person making the last statement— ” All right, good night”—has not been confirmed.

The  transponder signal from Flight 370 was lost at 1:21 a.m. All radar contact with the aircraft was lost a few minutes afterwards, according to Malaysian investigators. Transponders are another set of communication devices on aircraft that help identify individual flights to controllers on the ground.

Satellite tracking suggests the plane likely traveled for hours and ended up along one of two possible corridors: one that stretches from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and the other from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

“At this stage, both the northern and southern corridors are being treated with equal importance,” Malaysian Defense Minister and Acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.

Air-safety experts said there has never been a search for remnants of an aircraft spanning such a vast area.

“The enormous size of the air and sea fleet searching, and the number of countries involved—I haven’t seen anything like it,” said Harro Ranter, president of the Aviation Safety Network, a service that tracks air accidents.

Depending on how long the effort lasts and how extensive a region leaders of the search eventually want to cover, some early estimates are that it could end up encompassing nearly 300,000 square miles.

Air-safety investigators rely heavily on precedent to solve mysteries that surround air accidents. But in Flight 370′s case normal procedures and investigative practices aren’t applicable, several air-safety experts said, because the probe is focused on apparent deliberate acts by someone or a group whose motives remain unknown. And at this point, investigators have no clear-cut clues from any wreckage or debris.

“I’ve never heard of anything as wild as some of the data” coming out of this investigation, said Jim Hall, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

According to Mr. Hall, “the only consistent thing is that every expert has changed his mind at least once” during the course of the investigation.

In a development that could help narrow the search, five Asian nations over the weekend said their radar systems hadn’t detected any sign of the Malaysia Airlines aircraft that has been missing for nine days. Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, India and Pakistan—which all might have been on the flight path of the wayward Boeing 777—said there was no sign the plane had flown over their territories.

“Such a large object could not have gone undetected,” said one Indian military official in Port Blair in the Andaman Islands.

Still, investigators weren’t willing to rule out the possibility that the plane and its 239 passengers and crew traveled over or near those countries.

The twin possible paths of the errant jetliner were derived from calculations using the jet’s last known position, speed and likely fuel consumption allowing investigators to determine where Flight 370 was last seen and where it might have later exhausted its fuel.

The only aviation search that even approached the scope of the current effort, according to government safety officials and independent experts, was the hunt for debris after the 2003 breakup of the space shuttle Columbia as it re-entered the atmosphere over Texas. Debris collected from the Columbia disaster, which killed seven astronauts, amounted to 84,000 separate pieces. Remnants of one liquid oxygen tank weren’t found until eight years later.

Malaysian officials called together representatives of 22 countries Sunday and asked for assistance in tracking the plane’s movements, including the countries along the two corridors where the search is now under way.

“The nature of the search has changed,” Mr. Hishammuddin said. “From focusing mainly on shallow seas, we are now looking at large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries, as well as deep and remote oceans.”

The U.S. Navy over the weekend added more-advanced aerial surveillance assets and intensified the round-the-clock work from a Navy destroyer involved in the effort. Cmdr. William Marks, the spokesman for the U.S. Seventh Fleet, said an American P-8 Poseidon jet did a reconnaissance mission Sunday into the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The P-8, which can fly 575 miles an hour, flew about 1,200 miles out into the search area and then began looking for about four hours, Cmdr. Marks said.

Australia’s Chief Defense Force chief General David Hurley said Malaysian authorities coordinating the search had diverted an Australian AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft to begin searching for the plane to the north and west of the Cocos Islands, an atoll midway between Australia’s west coast and Sri Lanka.

Establishing definitive information about what transpired on the plane may not end even if the so-called black box is recovered. The plane’s digital cockpit-voice recorder saves only the last two hours of conversation and sounds inside the cockpit, so there won’t be any data going back to the instant the transponder was turned off and the plane deviated from off its original flight plan.

Since the 1970s, the only other instance of someone in the cockpit shutting off an onboard signaling system related to a crash was the 1997 disaster involving a SilkAir Boeing 737 in Indonesia, which killed all 104 people on the plane. NTSB investigators concluded the most likely cause was that the captain pulled a circuit breaker that disabled the flight-data recorder and cockpit-voice recorder, before deliberately sending the plane into its fatal dive from 35,000 feet. Indonesian investigators concluded the probable cause was some type of mechanical failure.

Investigators have entered uncharted territory in trying to piece together what happened on Flight 370, melding information from satellite data and military data to figure out where the plane went. As that analysis began to illustrate the jet’s sharp turn to the west, search teams expanded the search to into the Strait of Malacca toward the Andaman Sea, more than doubling the search area within days of the disappearance.

A week after the jet vanished, investigators had concluded the plane flew for more than six and a half hours from its last verified location.

Satellite data picked up from Flight 370 wasn’tt released until days after the aircraft went missing. The WSJ’s Deborah Kan speaks to imagery analyst Tim Brown about why it may be years before investigators find out what happened the Boeing 777.

 

—Gaurav Raghuvanshi and Daniel Michaels contributed to this article.

Write to Andy Pasztor at andy.pasztor@wsj.com and Jon Ostrower at jon.ostrower@wsj.com

Read the rest:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB100014240527023
04914904579441812954932236?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http
%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB100014240
52702304914904579441812954932236.html

 

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Significant changes in altitude after it lost contact with ground control; altered its course more than once as if still under the command of a pilot

March 14, 2014

 A Royal Malaysian Air Force aircraft participated in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet over the Strait of Malacca on Friday. Credit Mohd Rasfan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By MICHAEL FORSYTHE and
The New York Times

SEPANG, Malaysia — Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 experienced significant changes in altitude after it lost contact with ground control, and altered its course more than once as if still under the command of a pilot, American officials and others familiar with the investigation said Friday.

Radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military appear to show the missing airliner climbing to 45,000 feet, above the approved altitude limit for a Boeing 777-200, soon after it disappeared from civilian radar and made a sharp turn to the west, according to a preliminary assessment by a person familiar with the data.

The radar track, which the Malaysian government has not released but says it has provided to the United States and China, then shows the plane descending unevenly to 23,000 feet, below normal cruising levels, as it approached the densely populated island of Penang, one of the country’s largest. There, the plane turned from a southwest-bound course, climbed to a higher altitude and flew northwest over the Strait of Malacca toward the Indian Ocean.

Investigators have also examined data transmitted from the plane’s Rolls-Royce engines that shows it descending 40,000 feet in the space of a minute, according to a senior American official briefed on the investigation. But investigators do not believe the readings are accurate because the aircraft would most likely have taken longer to fall such a distance.

“A lot of stock cannot be put in the altitude data” sent from the engines, one official said. “A lot of this doesn’t make sense.”

The data, while incomplete and difficult to interpret, could still provide critical new clues as investigators try to determine what happened on Flight 370, which disappeared early last Saturday carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Malaysian and international investigators have said in recent days that the plane may have departed from its northerly flight route toward Beijing and headed west across the Malaysian peninsula just after it disappeared from civilian radar, its pilots stopped communicating with ground controllers and its transponders stopped transmitting data about its speed and location. The plane is also now thought to have continued flying for more than four hours after diverting its course, based on automated pings sent by onboard systems to satellites.

But the Malaysian military radar data, which local authorities have declined to provide to the public, added significant new information about the flight immediately after ground controllers lost contact with it. The combination of altitude changes and at least two significant course corrections could have a variety of explanations, including that a pilot or a hijacker intentionally diverted the plane, or that it flew unevenly without a pilot after the crew became disabled.

The erratic movements of the aircraft after it diverted course and flew over the country also raise questions about why the military did not respond to the flight emergency. Malaysian officials have acknowledged that military radar may have detected the plane, but have said they took no action because it did not appear hostile.

Seven days after the jet’s disappearance, Malaysian authorities have shared few details with American investigators, frustrating senior officials in Washington. “They’re keeping us at a distance,” one of the officials said.

But investigators in Malaysia and the United States recently began receiving additional data about the plane and anticipate receiving more over the weekend, according to a senior American official. “It’s gotten better and better every day,” the official said, referring to information from the plane’s manufacturer, satellites and military radar. “It should provide more clarity to the flight path. It’s not a given, but it’s a hope.”

Because the plane stopped transmitting its position about 40 minutes after takeoff, military radar recorded only an unidentified blip moving through Malaysian airspace. Certain weather conditions, and even flocks of birds, can occasionally cause radar blips that may be mistaken for aircraft. The Malaysian authorities said they were still studying the signals to determine whether they came from Flight 370.

But the person who examined the data said it leaves little doubt that the airliner flew near or through the southern tip of Thailand, then back across Peninsular Malaysia, near the city of Penang, and out over the sea again. That is in part because the data is based on signals recorded by two radar stations, at the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s Butterworth base on the peninsula’s west coast, near Penang, and at Kota Bharu, on the northeast coast. Two radars tracking a contact can significantly increase the reliability of the readings.

Still, Ravi Madavaram, an aerospace engineer at the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan based in Kuala Lumpur, said the accuracy of ground-based radars in determining a plane’s altitude diminishes the farther away the plane is. When Flight 370 lost contact with ground controllers, it was more than 100 miles from Kota Bharu and 200 miles from Butterworth, distances that he said could degrade accuracy. But the altitudes measured as the plane crossed the peninsula would be more reliable, he said.

A senior aircraft industry executive in the United States said the account of Flight 370’s behavior emerging from the Malaysian military radar information matched what their officials were being told. “Everything we have heard is consistent with the plane flying under the control of someone with at least some flying experience,” the industry executive said, asking not to be identified by name because of the tense nature of the conversation now underway with the Malaysian authorities.

The search and rescue operation for the Malaysian jet continued over the Strait of Malacca on Friday.  Credit Junaidi Hanafiah/Reuters

Military radar last recorded the aircraft flying at an altitude of 29,500 feet, about 200 miles northwest of Penang and headed toward India’s Andaman Islands. The normal cruising altitude of a long-range commercial jetliner is between 30,000 and 40,000 feet.

Cengiz Turkoglu, a senior lecturer in aeronautical engineering at City University London who specializes in aviation safety, said a deliberate act in the cockpit could cause a radical change in altitude. “It is extremely difficult for an aircraft to physically, however heavy it might be, to free fall,” he said.

An Asia-based pilot of a Boeing 777-200, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said an ascent above the plane’s service limit of 43,100 feet, along with a depressurized cabin, could have rendered the passengers and crew unconscious, and could be a deliberate maneuver by a pilot or a hijacker.

Other experts said that altitude changes would be expected if the pilots became disabled after the plane’s autopilot was disengaged. Changes in the weight distribution on the plane as fuel burned off would make the plane descend and climb repeatedly, though changes in course would be harder to explain.

American officials were concerned in the first few days after the plane went missing that terrorists had brought it down. But as investigators have examined the flight manifest and looked into the two Iranian men who were on the plane traveling with stolen passports, they have become convinced that there is no clear connection to terrorism.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed family members of the Iranian men and used computer programs to determine whether they had ties to terrorists. Those efforts showed no such connections, leading the investigators to believe the men were smugglers.

The investigators considered but dismissed the possibility that hijackers landed the plane somewhere for later use in a terrorist attack, according to a senior American official briefed on the investigation.

The data, the official said, “leads them to believe that it either ran out of fuel or crashed right before it ran out of fuel.”

It would take a long runway to land a plane of that size, the official said. Although the radius that the plane could have flown extends into South Asia, the official added, “the idea it could cross into Indian airspace and not get picked up made no sense.”

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Missing aircraft flew a specific series of “waypoints” after it disappeared from normal airline radar systems

March 14, 2014

A senior U.S. military official told ABC News that they had not ruled out that the plane was flown to a secret site so it could be used at a later date. Reuters reported on Friday (above) that the missing aircraft flew a specific series of waypoints after it disappeared from normal airline radar systems.

The international search for the missing Malaysian jetliner expanded further into the Indian Ocean on Friday amid signs the aircraft may have flown for hours after its last contact with air-traffic control nearly a week ago. Investigators were also examining if lithium batteries in the plane’s cargo hold had been a factor in the disappearance.

Military radar data suggests a Malaysia Airlines jetliner missing for nearly a week was deliberately flown hundreds of miles off course, heightening suspicions of foul play among investigators, sources told Reuters on Friday.

A U.S. official added that the disappearance may have been “an act of piracy” and that the plane may have landed somewhere. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press, said the fact that the plane’s transponder stopped about a dozen minutes before a messaging system quit pointed to “human intervention.”

Still, all scenarios remained under consideration. CNN reported investigators were now considering if lithium batteries in the plane’s cargo hold could have been a factor in the disappearance. The batteries have been blamed for previous crashes.

Analysis of the radar data suggests the plane, with 239 people on board, diverted from its intended northeast route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and flew west instead, using airline flight corridors normally employed for routes to the Middle East and Europe, said sources familiar with investigations into the Boeing 777’s disappearance.

A Philippine Navy crew member onboard the Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas Apolinario Mabini (Patrol Ship 36) scours the West Philippine Sea, during a search for the missing Malaysia Airline plane.

HANDOUT/REUTERS

A Philippine Navy crew member onboard the Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas Apolinario Mabini (Patrol Ship 36) scours the West Philippine Sea, during a search for the missing Malaysia Airline plane.

PHOTOS: MISSING MALAYSIA AIRLINES PLANE

Two sources said an unidentified aircraft that investigators believe was Flight MH370 was following a route between navigational waypoints when it was last plotted on military radar off the country’s northwest coast.

This indicates that it was either being flown by the pilots or someone with knowledge of those waypoints, the sources said.

The last plot on the military radar’s tracking suggested the plane was flying toward India’s Andaman Islands, a chain of isles between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, they said.

Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein takes questions from journalists during a news conference.

EDGAR SU/REUTERS

Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein takes questions from journalists during a news conference.

Waypoints are geographic locations, worked out by calculating longitude and latitude, that help pilots navigate along established air corridors.

RELATED: MALAYSIA AIRLINES MAY HAVE CRASHED INTO INDIAN OCEAN, ACCORDING TO U.S. OFFICIALS

A third source familiar with the investigation said inquiries were focusing increasingly on the theory that someone who knew how to fly a plane deliberately diverted the flight.

POSSIBLE SABOTAGE OR HIJACK

Crew members from the Royal Malaysian Air Force talk to each other onboard a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft involved in search.

MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

Crew members from the Royal Malaysian Air Force talk to each other onboard a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft involved in search.

“What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards,” said that source, a senior Malaysian police official.

All three sources declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media and due to the sensitivity of the investigation.

Officials at Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport, the official point of contact for information on the investigation, did not return calls seeking comment.

Malaysia Airlines Commercial Director Hugh Dunleavy sits in front of a large projection screen as he prepares for a briefing for the family members of passengers onboard the missing plane.

KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Malaysia Airlines Commercial Director Hugh Dunleavy sits in front of a large projection screen as he prepares for a briefing for the family members of passengers onboard the missing plane.

Malaysian police have previously said they were investigating whether any passengers or crew had personal or psychological problems that might shed light on the mystery, along with the possibility of a hijacking, sabotage or mechanical failure.

As a result of the new evidence, the sources said, multinational search efforts were being stepped up in the Andaman Sea and also the Indian Ocean.

LAST SIGHTING

RELATED: FROM BAD TO BIZARRE: MALAYSIA RECRUITS WITCH DOCTORS TO HELP FIND MISSING JET

A relative of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 calls for calm as he tries to get journalists access to a press conference held at a hotel for relatives in Beijing.

Ng Han Guan/AP

A relative of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 calls for calm as he tries to get journalists access to a press conference held at a hotel for relatives in Beijing.

In one of the most baffling mysteries in modern aviation, no trace of the plane nor any sign of wreckage has been found despite a search by the navies and military aircraft of more than a dozen countries.

The last sighting of the aircraft on civilian radar screens came shortly before 1:30 a.m. Malaysian time last Saturday (1730 GMT Friday), less than an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur, as the plane flew northeast across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand. That put the plane on Malaysia’s east coast.

Malaysia’s air force chief said on Wednesday an aircraft that could have been the missing plane was plotted on military radar at 2:15 a.m., 200 miles (320 km) northwest of Penang Island off Malaysia’s west coast.

This position marks the limit of Malaysia’s military radar in that part of the country, a fourth source familiar with the investigation told Reuters.

A Royal Malaysian Navy ship, KD Selangor, is seen from onboard Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during the search and rescue (SAR) operation.

MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

A Royal Malaysian Navy ship, KD Selangor, is seen from onboard Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during the search and rescue (SAR) operation.

RELATED: IRANIAN LAWMAKER: U.S. ‘KIDNAPPED’ MISSING MALAYSIA AIRLINER

When asked about the range of military radar at a news conference on Thursday, Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said it was “a sensitive issue” that he was not going to reveal.

“Even if it doesn’t extend beyond that, we can get the co-operation of the neighbouring countries,” he said.

The fact that the aircraft – if it was MH370 – had lost contact with air traffic control and was invisible to civilian radar suggested someone on board had turned off its communication systems, the first two sources said.

Crew members look outside windows from a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during a search and rescue (SAR) operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

Crew members look outside windows from a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during a search and rescue (SAR) operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

They also gave new details on the direction in which the unidentified aircraft was heading – following aviation corridors identified on maps used by pilots as N571 and P628. These routes are taken by commercial planes flying from Southeast Asia to the Middle East or Europe and can be found in public documents issued by regional aviation authorities.

RELATED: ‘ALL RIGHT, GOOD NIGHT’: FINAL WORDS FROM MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT 370 REVEALED

In a far more detailed description of the military radar plotting than has been publicly revealed, the first two sources said the last confirmed position of MH370 was at 35,000 feet about 90 miles (144 km) off the east coast of Malaysia, heading towards Vietnam, near a navigational waypoint called “Igari”. The time was 1:21 a.m..

The military track suggests it then turned sharply westwards, heading towards a waypoint called “Vampi”, northeast of Indonesia’s Aceh province and a navigational point used for planes following route N571 to the Middle East.

From there, the plot indicates the plane flew towards a waypoint called “Gival”, south of the Thai island of Phuket, and was last plotted heading northwest towards another waypoint called “Igrex”, on route P628 that would take it over the Andaman Islands and which carriers use to fly towards Europe.

The time was then 2:15 a.m. That is the same time given by the air force chief on Wednesday, who gave no information on that plane’s possible direction.

The sources said Malaysia was requesting raw radar data from neighbours Thailand, Indonesia and India, which has a naval base in the Andaman Islands.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/malaysia
-airlines-flight-370-divert-andaman-islands-article-1.1721523#ixzz2vy6iJEBR

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By  and    via Good Morning America

A satellite communications company said today that the missing Malaysia Airlines plane contacted its network on the day it disappeared in what could turn out to be a big break in the effort to locate the jetliner or determine where it went.

Inmarsat, a British company, said today, “Routine, automated signals were registered on the Inmarsat network from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 during its flight from Kuala Lumpur.”

It said the information was shared with SITA, a company that specializes in air transport communications. SITA shared with details with Malaysia Airlines, Inmarsat said.

Inmarsat on its website says the satellite system “facilitates the automatic reporting of an aircraft’s real-time position, including altitude, speed and heading, via satellite to air traffic control centres, helping controllers know where an aircraft is at all times.”

If the “pings” sent by the Malaysia Airlines jet to the satellite indicate location or flying direction it could help solve the mystery that began a week ago when the jet carrying 369 passengers disappeared from radar.

ABC News had previously reported that the missing plane continued to “ping” a satellite after two of its communications system, including its transponder, had shut down.

Inmarsat’s statement came hours after investigators said they could not rule out hijacking and are looking at whether one of the plane’s pilots or crew could have been involved.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein made clear that investigators do not know what happened to the jetliner despite a week of intense searching.

U.S. officials who have been briefed on the investigation have said two of the plane’s communications systems were shut down separately and it appeared to have been done manually.

“There are four or five possibilities which we are exploring,” Hishammuddin told a news conference today. “It could have been done intentionally. It could be done under duress. It could have been done because of an explosion. That’s why I don’t want to go into the realm of speculation. We are looking at the all the possibilities.”

When asked whether investigators were looking at whether one of the plane’s two pilots or cabin crew could have involved in whatever happened to the plane, he replied. “We are looking at that possibility.”

“The investigation into the pilots is ongoing,” he said in response to another question, but said they have not yet searched their homes.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya added to the speculation that the plane’s disappearance was the result of a plot rather than a catastrophic failure of the airplane’s systems. “We cannot confirm whether there is no hijacking. Like I said from the start, and I’ve been very consistent, we are looking at all possibilities,” Yahya said.

A senior U.S. military official told ABC News that they had not ruled out that the plane was flown to a secret site so it could be used at a later date.

“I am keenly interested in resolving this mystery so we can discard the possibility, however remote, that the airplane can be used for nefarious purposes against us in the future,” the official said.  The official added that “all our intelligence assets” are being used to try to figure this out.

The plane vanished early Saturday about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur and heading for Beijing. It disappeared from radar at 1:30 a.m. local time. After searching intently east of Malaysia in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, much of the attention has shifted hundreds of miles west in the Strait of Malacca and the Indian Ocean. Officials believe it may have flown west because Malaysian military radar picked up a signal after the jetliner disappeared and they believe it may have been flight MH370.

“I will be the happiest person if we can confirm that (the military radar blip) is MH 370 because then we could move all our assets to the Strait of Malacca. But at this time we cannot do that,” Hishammuddin said today.

Investigators are trying to retrieve data from the satellites that had been pinged by the missing airliner in the hopes that those contacts might aid in plotting the plane’s final position.

Vietnamese officials added some detail to the plane’s mystery today by telling ABC News that when flight MH370 left Malaysian airspace and failed to make contact with Vietnamese air traffic controllers, the Vietnamese asked another plane in the area that was heading to Japan to contact MH370.

The Japan-bound plane reported back to the Vietnamese controllers that when it reached MH370 only a “buzz signal” came back, but no voices. And then the signal went dead. The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not say what time that contact was made.

The destroyer USS Kidd arrived in the northwestern section of the Strait of Malacca today to help search that vast expanse of sea.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/malaysia-airline-pin
gs-lead-investigators-missing-plane/story?id=22909835

Missing Malaysia Airlines jet: Some experts return to foul-play theory

March 14, 2014
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that went missing

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Military radar-tracking evidence suggests the Malaysia Airlines jetliner was deliberately flown across the Malay Peninsula towards the Andaman Islands Photo: Laurent Errera/AP

By Barbara Demick
The Los Angels Times

BEIJING — Some aviation experts are returning to the theory that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 fell victim to foul play.

These experts say the failure of search teams to find the missing plane a week after its disappearance and new U.S. radar intelligence showing the plane stayed in the air for up to five hours after its last transponder signal suggest that somebody intentionally diverted the plane off its flight path from Kuala Lampur to Beijing.

“Somebody did something deliberate,” said Mikael Robertsson, co-founder of FlightRadar24, a website that tracks about 120,000 flights per day.

PHOTOS: Malaysia Airlines jet missing

Robertsson said the transponder, which pilots use for communications, switched off 40 minutes into the flight, something that could happen only if it was turned off or if the plane had been destroyed.

“If you asked me six days ago what happened, I’d say the plane probably broke apart. But now they’ve been searching with 100 boats and aircraft and they’ve found nothing, which is pointing more to the theory that somebody flew the plane in another direction,’’ he said.

Among the 13 countries with craft and personnel searching for the missing plane, the United States is moving the destroyer Kidd from the Gulf of Thailand — along the original flight path — westward to the Strait of Malacca.

The Reuters news agency, citing unidentified sources, reported Friday that the aircraft might have been headed northwest toward India, over the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, and following a commonly used navigational route, suggesting that somebody with aviation expertise was flying the aircraft.

In the first days after the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew disappeared, investigators were looking at the possibility of a hijacking or sabotage, focusing on two passengers traveling on stolen passports. Those passengers have since been identified as two young Iranian men who authorities have said have no links to terror groups and appeared to be seeking entry to Europe in order to work.

Malaysian officials, speaking at a news conference Friday, acknowledged that the disconnection of the transponder could indicate that there had been a hijacking.

“It could have been done intentionally. It could have been done under duress. It could have happened as a result of an explosion,’’ said Hishamuddin Hussein, Malaysia acting transportation minister.

Malaysian officials said they would expand their search toward India on the possibility that the airplane had been diverted there, but that they would also continue to search closer to the original flight path in the South China Sea.

“This is not a formal investigation that becomes narrower with time. The new information forces us to look further afield,’’ Hishamuddin said.

PHOTOS: Malaysia Airlines jet missing

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http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-
fg-wn-malaysia-jet-foul-play-20140314,0,1200429.story#ixzz2vxpmy7Jz

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From The Daily Mail

A U.S. official has said investigators were examining the possibility the disappearance of the Malaysia Airline jet was ‘an act of piracy’.

The official said while other theories were still being examined, key evidence for ‘human intervention’ in the plane’s disappearance is that contact with its transponder stopped about a dozen minutes before a messaging system quit.

The official said it was also possible the plane may have landed somewhere.

As the search continued for the missing Boeing 777, which vanished with 239 people on board, it was earlier claimed military radar suggested the plane was deliberately flown towards the India’s Andaman Islands.

Scroll down for video

An investigation into the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner is focusing more on a suspicion the flight was deliberately diverted, as evidence suggests it was last headed out over the Andaman Islands, sources have claimed

An investigation into the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner is focusing more on a suspicion the flight was deliberately diverted, as evidence suggests it was last headed out over the Andaman Islands, sources have claimed.

If the plane did carry on flying for five hours it could have travelled 2,200 nautical miles

If the plane did carry on flying for five hours it could have travelled 2,200 nautical miles

Two sources have today told Reuters an unidentified aircraft that investigators believe was Flight MH370 was following a route between navigational waypoints - indicating it was being flown by someone with aviation training - when it was last plotted on military radar off the country's north west coast (file picture)

Two sources have today told Reuters an unidentified aircraft that investigators believe was Flight MH370 was following a route between navigational waypoints – indicating it was being flown by someone with aviation training – when it was last plotted on military radar off the country’s north west coast (file picture)

Military officer Nguyen Tran looks out from a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Con Dao island

Military officer Nguyen Tran looks out from a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Con Dao island

Two sources familiar with the  investigation told Reuters an unidentified aircraft that investigators  believe was Flight MH370 was following a route between navigational  waypoints when it was last plotted on military radar off the country’s  northwest coast.

This indicates that it was either being flown by the pilots or someone with knowledge of those waypoints, the sources said.

The last plot on the military radar’s  tracking suggested the plane was flying towards India’s Andaman Islands, a chain of isles between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, they  said.

More…

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2580815/Missing-
MH370-jet-flown-Indias-Andaman-Islands-according-radar-data-claim
ed-inquiries-focus-increasingly-hijacking-theory.html#ixzz2vxr5EKWh

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Lost Malaysian Jetliner: Satellite Firm Says Its Data From Jet Could Offer Location As Seach Moves Into Indian Ocean

March 14, 2014

A captain of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, Izam Fareq Hassan, right, talked with his team members during a search and rescue operation over the Strait of Malacca on Friday.  Credit Mohd Rasfan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By CHRIS BUCKLEY and MICHAEL FORSYTHE
The New York Times

SEPANG, Malaysia — As the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet expanded into the daunting vastness of the Indian Ocean, a satellite communications company confirmed on Friday that it had recorded electronic “keep alive” ping signals from the plane after it disappeared, and said those signals could be analyzed to help estimate its location.

The information from the company, Inmarsat, could prove to be the first big break in helping narrow the frustrating search for the plane with 239 people aboard that mysteriously disappeared from radar screens a week ago, now hunted by a multinational array of ships and planes that have fanned out for thousands of square miles.

Inmarsat, a Britain-based satellite communications provider of systems to ships and airplanes, had equipment aboard the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 jetliner, said David Coiley, the vice president of the company in charge of the aviation business. The equipment automatically communicates with satellites, much as a mobile phone would automatically connect to a network after passing through a mountain tunnel, he said.

Credit Singapore Navy/Agence France-Presse — Getty Image

“It does allow us to determine where the airplane is relative to the satellite,” he said of the signal, which he likened to the “noises you might hear when you when you put your cellphone next to a radio or a television speaker.” He said: “It does allow us to narrow down the position of the aircraft.”

Because the pings go over a measurable distance at a specific angle to one of the company’s satellites, the information can be used to help calculate the trajectory and location of an aircraft, he said.

“Communications systems are part of the mandatory requirement for operating any flight, and we are comfortable that it would have been operating accordingly,” Mr. Coiley said. He said Inmarsat was sharing information with the airline and investigators, but would not comment further on that information.

The Inmarsat disclosure came amid other signs that the aircraft may have turned sharply west from its intended northward route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and traveled far from the initial focus of the search.

The jet disappeared from the flight control radar an hour into its nighttime flight, leading the Malaysian government and others during the first 72 hours of the search-and-rescue operation to concentrate ships and aircraft in the Gulf of Thailand and nearby waters to the east of Malaysia.

Increasingly, however, the search has encompassed seas to the west of Peninsular Malaysia, stretching from the Strait of Malacca to the Bay of Bengal, where the United States and India sent military planes and ships. The move came in tandem with an increasing amount of evidence that the aircraft flew for as long as four hours after it disappeared from air traffic control radar after 1 a.m. last Saturday. 

 

Even with the help of the Inmarsat data, the new focus on the open ocean illustrates the difficulty for the multinational search force, which now must scan thousands of miles of the world’s third-largest ocean. The initial search area was in the relatively confined and shallow waters of the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand, which are among the world’s busiest maritime routes. If the plane ended up in the ocean depths, it will be far harder to find and recover.

At a news conference, the Malaysian defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, who has been the chief public face of his government’s search effort, said that searching seas both to the east and west of his country was a logical next step after days of fruitless searching and false starts. But he also acknowledged that, seven days after it vanished, an aircraft with 239 passengers and crew onboard remains unaccounted for, leaving family members in tormented wait.

“A normal investigation becomes narrower with time, I understand, as new information focuses on the search,” said Mr. Hussein, who is also acting transport minister. “But this is not a normal investigation.”

Indonesian Air Force officers analyze an operation map for the search of the missing jet on Friday. Credit  Binsar Bakkara/Associated Press

He said the multinational search had expanded on both sides of Malaysia, into the South China Sea, and increasingly into the Indian Ocean. “It is basically because we have not found anything in the areas that we have searched,” he said.

But aviation experts, news reports and some American officials have also pointed to military radar and signals collected by satellites as furnishing stronger evidence that the Boeing 777 plane turned sharply from its planned course, flew over the Malaysian peninsula and then headed west toward the Andaman Sea and the  Indian Ocean.

A report from Reuters news agency on Friday said that information culled from military radar records indicated that the plane may have been deliberately flown far off its intended route, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and when last recorded was heading toward the Andaman Islands, which belong to India.

If the aircraft did divert so drastically from its planned route, then any clues left by electronic signals captured by satellite and radar will become far more important.

It was not clear if the calculations were underway or had been completed, but ships were headed toward the Indian Ocean.

The multinational effort was scattered across the northern reaches of the Indian Ocean. Indian military forces continued their efforts Friday to find traces of the airplane in the Andaman Sea, to the west of Thailand, and expanded the search to the area west of Nicobar Island in the Bay of Bengal. The search in the Indian Ocean includes ships, planes and nearly 1,000 personnel from India’s navy, coast guard and air force.

A spokesman for the Indian Navy refused on Friday to offer an estimate of how long the search might take. “How can you ask such a question?” said the spokesman, Capt. D.K. Sharma. “This is like looking for a needle in that vast expanse of sea.”

The Chinese government announced that the Haixun 31, a civilian patrol ship that has been the command vessel for China’s contingent in the search, would move from the Gulf of Thailand to the Strait of Malacca, on the other side of the peninsula. A report on Chinese state television news said a group of experts had advised the Chinese Maritime Search and Rescue Center to “expand the scope of the search.”

China’s largest patrol vessel in the South China Sea, the “Haixun 31″

On Friday the United States Navy continued its maritime aircraft patrols, focusing on the area to the west of Malaysia, said Cmdr. William Marks, spokesman for the Seventh Fleet. The Navy’s new P-8A Poseidon patrol craft arrived on Friday, he said. The aircraft, built with the airframe of a Boeing 737, has a range of more than 1,300 miles and can search vast swathes of ocean. India on Thursday said it was also deploying its own variant of the aircraft, the P-8s, as well as the C-130J Hercules and other aircraft.

U.S. Navy P-8

The difficulty, Commander Marks said in an interview, was that given the vastness of the Indian Ocean, the area is best patrolled by aircraft, but ships and helicopters are capable of more thorough and intense searches.

“Everything is a trade-off. I think the challenge is the sheer size of the area,” Commander Marks said.

Chris  Buckley reported from Sepang, Malaysia, and Michael Forsythe from Penang, Malaysia. Reporting was contributed by Nicola Clark from Paris, Gardiner Harris from New Delhi, and Matthew L. Wald from Washington.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Radar data suggests missing Malaysia plane deliberately flown way off course – sources

March 14, 2014

By Niluksi Koswanage and Siva Govindasamy

KUALA LUMPUR          Fri Mar 14, 2014 6:01am EDT

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Kidd and USS Pinckney are seen en transit in the Pacific Ocean in this U.S. Navy picture taken May 18, 2011. Kidd and Pinkney have been searching for the missing Malaysian airliner and are being re-deployed to the Strait of Malacca of Malaysia's west coast as new search areas are opened in the Indian Ocean, according to officials on March 13, 2014. REUTERS/US Navy/Seaman Apprentice Carla Ocampo/Handout

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Kidd and USS Pinckney are seen en transit in the Pacific Ocean in this U.S. Navy picture taken May 18, 2011. Kidd and Pinkney have been searching for the missing Malaysian airliner and are being re-deployed to the Strait of Malacca of Malaysia’s west coast as new search areas are opened in the Indian Ocean, according to officials on March 13, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/US Navy/Seaman Apprentice Carla Ocampo/Handout

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Military radar data suggests a Malaysia Airlines jetliner missing for nearly a week was deliberately flown hundreds of miles off course, heightening suspicions of foul play among investigators, sources told Reuters on Friday.

Analysis of the Malaysia data suggests the plane, with 239 people on board, diverted from its intended northeast route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and flew west instead, using airline flight corridors normally employed for routes to the Middle East and Europe, said sources familiar with investigations into the Boeing 777′s disappearance.

Two sources said an unidentified aircraft that investigators believe was Flight MH370 was following a route between navigational waypoints when it was last plotted on military radar off the country’s northwest coast.

This indicates that it was either being flown by the pilots or someone with knowledge of those waypoints, the sources said.

The last plot on the military radar’s tracking suggested the plane was flying toward India’s Andaman Islands, a chain of isles between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, they said.

Waypoints are geographic locations, worked out by calculating longitude and latitude, that help pilots navigate along established air corridors.

A third source familiar with the investigation said inquiries were focusing increasingly on the theory that someone who knew how to fly a plane deliberately diverted the flight.

POSSIBLE SABOTAGE OR HIJACK

“What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards,” said that source, a senior Malaysian police official.

All three sources declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media and due to the sensitivity of the investigation.

Officials at Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport, the official point of contact for information on the investigation, did not return calls seeking comment.

Malaysian police have previously said they were investigating whether any passengers or crew had personal or psychological problems that might shed light on the mystery, along with the possibility of a hijacking, sabotage or mechanical failure.

As a result of the new evidence, the sources said, multinational search efforts were being stepped up in the Andaman Sea and also the Indian Ocean.

LAST SIGHTING

In one of the most baffling mysteries in modern aviation, no trace of the plane nor any sign of wreckage has been found despite a search by the navies and military aircraft of more than a dozen countries.

The last sighting of the aircraft on civilian radar screens came shortly before 1:30 a.m. Malaysian time last Saturday (1730 GMT Friday), less than an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur, as the plane flew northeast across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand. That put the plane on Malaysia’s east coast.

Malaysia’s air force chief said on Wednesday an aircraft that could have been the missing plane was plotted on military radar at 2:15 a.m., 200 miles northwest of Penang Island off Malaysia’s west coast.

This position marks the limit of Malaysia’s military radar in that part of the country, a fourth source familiar with the investigation told Reuters.

When asked about the range of military radar at a news conference on Thursday, Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said it was “a sensitive issue” that he was not going to reveal.

“Even if it doesn’t extend beyond that, we can get the co-operation of the neighboring countries,” he said.

The fact that the aircraft – if it was MH370 – had lost contact with air traffic control and was invisible to civilian radar suggested someone on board had turned off its communication systems, the first two sources said.

They also gave new details on the direction in which the unidentified aircraft was heading – following aviation corridors identified on maps used by pilots as N571 and P628. These routes are taken by commercial planes flying from Southeast Asia to the Middle East or Europe and can be found in public documents issued by regional aviation authorities.

In a far more detailed description of the military radar plotting than has been publicly revealed, the first two sources said the last confirmed position of MH370 was at 35,000 feet about 90 miles off the east coast of Malaysia, heading towards Vietnam, near a navigational waypoint called “Igari”. The time was 1:21 a.m..

The military track suggests it then turned sharply westwards, heading towards a waypoint called “Vampi”, northeast of Indonesia’s Aceh province and a navigational point used for planes following route N571 to the Middle East.

From there, the plot indicates the plane flew towards a waypoint called “Gival”, south of the Thai island of Phuket, and was last plotted heading northwest towards another waypoint called “Igrex”, on route P628 that would take it over the Andaman Islands and which carriers use to fly towards Europe.

The time was then 2:15 a.m. That is the same time given by the air force chief on Wednesday, who gave no information on that plane’s possible direction.

The sources said Malaysia was requesting raw radar data from neighbours Thailand, Indonesia and India, which has a naval base in the Andaman Islands.

(Additional reporting by Christine Chan in Singapore. Writing by Alex Richardson: Editing by Dean Yates)

Will India Become More Involved in ASEAN-China-South China Sea Discussions?

March 12, 2014

Indian officials have suggested that Delhi is preparing to become more actively involved in the South China Sea.

By Zachary Keck
The Diplomat

Recent remarks by ASEAN and Indian officials suggest that Delhi is looking to deepen its involvement in the South China Sea issue.

Most notable are the remarks Shri Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East) of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, made last week at the Delhi Dialogue VI, an annual ASEAN-India dialogue. Speaking to the journalists at the conference, Wadhwa said:

“We advocate that the lines, the channels of trade and communication should be kept open and of course the sea, which, according to UN (United Nations) international law of the sea, is common to all the countries that use it. Definitely we are concerned.”

Later, he added, “Our position has always been India stands for freedom of navigation on high seas. We would like to ensure that all countries in the region adhere to the international conventions on the law of the sea in this issue.” He also stressed the centrality of ASEAN and urged restraint among all the parties, according to reports in the Philippine media.

Indian Navy warships visit Da Nang, Vietnam, June 5, 2013. The Indian Navy units included INS Satpura guided missile frigate (F48), INS Shakti logistics ship (A57), INS Ranvijay destroyer (D55) and INS Kirch escort vessel (P62), carrying 1,200 officers and sailors, docked at Tien Sa Port (Da Nang) for the four-day visit, from June 4 to 8.

In his opening address to the Delhi Dialogue last week, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, espoused a similar if in direct theme. Noting that an important dimension of the ASEAN-India “strategic partnership is its increasing relevance to the political-security space in East Asia,” Khurshid said that Delhi supports, “the ASEAN view which calls for greater ASEAN India collaboration on political-security issues.”

Khurshid also emphasized the importance of upholding existing international law on maritime security, and stated: “India’s naval footprint is essentially that of a net security provider even as it is set to expand. There is also potential for greater engagement between ASEAN and India in the ARF, ADMM+ and ASEAN Maritime Forum.”

These remarks follow ones made earlier this month by National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, who said, “What happens in the South China Sea or the East China Sea concerns and affects the entire region…Conflict would roll back the gains to each of our countries of 40 years of stability and peace.”

55 percent of India’s trade passes through the Strait of Malacca

Similarly, at the East Asia Summit last October, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated, ““A stable maritime environment is essential to realize our collective regional aspirations.”

He later added:

“We welcome the collective commitment by the concerned countries to abide by and implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and to work towards the adoption of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea on the basis of consensus. We also welcome the establishment of the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum for developing maritime norms that would reinforce existing international law relating to maritime security.”

India has long been involved on the margins of the South China Sea issue. Most notably, it has been pursuing joint energy development opportunities with Vietnam in waters that both Hanoi and China claim. Altogether, some 55 percent of India’s trade passes through the Strait of Malacca.

However, Delhi has always tried to balance these very real interests with its predilection to not offend China by wading too deeply into South China Sea affairs, mostly out of the fear that such a move could prompt Beijing to deepen its own naval operations in the Indian Ocean.

Nonetheless, the Indian Navy first deployed to the South China Sea in 2000, and, in a pointed message to China, it has at times threatened to send naval assets to the region to protect its energy investments in the waters near Vietnam.

For their own part, ASEAN nations have long called on India to deepen its involvement in the South China Sea issue. Laura Q. Del Rosario, the Philippines’ deputy minister for international economic relations, recently insisted that “India should go East, and not just Look East.”

Malaysia Airlines search mired in confusion over plane’s final path

March 12, 2014

Vietnam cuts back efforts to find flight MH370, blaming Malaysia, amid swirl of contradictory statements by officials

By
The Guardian

The search for the missing Malaysia  Airlines flight was descending into confusion and acrimony on Wednesday  as Vietnam called off part of its search pending further information  from Malaysia.

As families spent a fifth day waiting for news of flight MH370, which  vanished on Friday with 239 people on board, disagreements within the  international search operation were surfacing and Malaysian officials  failed to clarify the aircraft’s last known movements.

India announced it had joined the search for the missing jetliner on  Malaysia’s request, widening the net to an area near the Andaman Sea.

Vietnam said it had halted its air search and scaled back a sea search while it waited for Malaysia to offer more detail.

“We’ve decided to temporarily suspend some search and rescue activities,  pending information from Malaysia,” Vietnam’s deputy minister of transport, Pham  Quy Tieu, told AFP.

Asked about the claim that the plane had last been detected over the  Strait of Malacca – suggesting it had crossed the entire peninsula – he  replied: “We’ve asked Malaysian authorities twice but so far they have  not replied to us.

“We informed Malaysia on the day we lost contact with the flight that we noticed the flight turned back west but Malaysia did not respond.”

Malaysia’s air force chief denied telling a local newspaper that on the day it disappeared the aircraft was last detected at 2.40am on the western coast of the Malay peninsula by a military radar – a detail confirmed to news agencies by at least one  unnamed military official. That would mean the plane  was known to be in the air more than an hour later than previously  thought and had not only turned around but flown right across the  peninsula – helping to explain why the search had expanded from the area between Malaysia and Vietnam to cover a large zone to the west.

In a statement Rodzali Daud said he had been asked whether the plane  had been detected off the west coast and had merely reiterated that the  flight might have turned back.

Malaysia’s head of civil aviation,  Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, said he could neither confirm nor deny contact  on the west coast, saying that the country was still investigating and  looking at the radar readings. Confidence in the Malaysian authorities’ transparency had hardly been helped by an  earlier response when asked why crews were searching the  Strait of Malacca: “There are some things that I can tell you and some  things that I can’t,” Rahman said.

Malaysia’s Minister of Defence and acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (centre) with Department of Civil Aviation director general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (left) and Malaysian Airlines Group Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahyain (right) speak about the missing Malaysian Airlines plane during a press conference. Photograph: EYEPRESS/SIPA/REX

On Tuesday he described the disappearance as “an unprecedented mystery” in aviation.

It is possible that the military radar reading detected an object but that it cannot be identified conclusively as flight MH370.

On Wednesday, pressed by relatives of Chinese passengers on what  information the military had given civil officials, the Malaysian  government’s envoy to China told them “now is not the time” to reveal  it, Singapore’s Straits Times reported.

He did disclose that the last words heard from the flight were “All right, good night.” That was the crew’s response to Malaysian air traffic controllers who had  told them the plane was entering Vietnamese air space and air traffic  controllers from Ho Chi Minh city would take over.

Deepening the confusion, Colonel Umar Fathur of the  Indonesian air  force told reporters that Malaysia had informed it the plane was above the  South China Sea, about 10 nautical miles off Malaysia’s east coast, when it turned back and then disappeared. That would place its last  confirmed position around 110 nautical miles closer to Malaysia than  previously thought.

Meanwhile Malaysian authorities have reportedly complained that  Vietnamese officials have confused matters by issuing premature reports  that they have found possible debris. In all cases the material has  turned out to be unrelated.

Two-thirds of those on board the Boeing-777 were Chinese, and China has  repeatedly urged Malaysia to speed up search efforts. Beijing has also been sending a growing number of ships and aircraft to assist. As public concern grows about the state of the operation, relatives have vented their frustration to Chinese officials.

The Washington Post cited one popular post that was forwarded thousands of times on Chinese microblogs: “Vietnam  keeps discovering. Malaysia keeps denying. China keeps sending things on the way. Journalists keep waiting at the Lido hotel [where relatives  are waiting]. Family members keep being in pain. . . . But where is the  plane?”

The Telegraph reported that the United States Federal Aviation  Administration had warned four months ago of a potential weak spot in Boeing 777s that  could lead to a loss of structural integrity, but experts have maintained the aircraft has a strong safety record.

Includes video:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/12/malaysia
-airlines-search-mired-in-confusion-over-planes-final-path


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