Multinational search teams were racing against time to locate the black box of the crashed airliner, as Malaysia revised the account of the critical final communication received from the jet.
The last words from the cockpit of the crashed Malaysian plane were a standard “Good night Malaysian three seven zero” and not the more casual “All right, good night”, Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation said in a statement.
“We would like to confirm that the last conversation in the transcript between the air traffic controller and the cockpit is at 01:19 (Malaysian Time on March 8) and is “good night Malaysian three seven zero,” the Department of Civil Aviation said in a statement.
The correction in the official account of the last words was made as Malaysian authorities faced heavy criticism for their handling of the mysterious disappearance of the plane, particularly from families of the Chinese passengers on board Flight MH370.
Families have accused Malaysia of mismanaging the search and holding back information.
Authorities now say they are not sure if it was Captain Zahari Ahmad Shah, the pilot of the plane, or co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid who uttered the final words.
They said they are still conducting a forensic analysis to determine who was talking. Previously, Malaysian officials identified Fariq as the one who made the final communication.
The frustrating search for the missing jet entered its 24th day today with the clock running out on plane’s black box pingers.
The batteries of the black box flight recorders have a life of about 30 days, meaning they will shut down in about eight days.
But crews have been unable to pinpoint the plane in a search zone of about 100,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean.
Robert Francis, former head of the US National Transportation Safety board, said that the chances of finding the black boxes are “enormously remote”.
“I think the finding of those recorders ultimately is very, very slim,” he said.
Since the flight vanished on March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people, including five Indians, on board, the investigation into what occurred has been beset by false leads and conflicting information.
While there is nothing unusual about the new version of the final communication, the sudden change gives loved ones of the people aboard new suspicions that Malaysian officials are not giving them full and accurate information.
Malaysia’s Defence and acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that authorities were not hiding anything by declining to release some details of the missing flight.
“Some details are part of ongoing investigations into what happened to the plane,” he said.
He promised to give the families a full transcript of the last communications.
Meanwhile, a lead deemed by officials as the “most promising” in the hunt for the aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean turned out to be orange fishing gear adrift in the sea.
Australian Defence Minister David Johnston said it would take two or three days for the Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield, which has been fitted with a pinger locator to reach the search zone.
“We’ve got about a week (left), but it depends on the temperature of the water and water depth and pressure as to how long the battery power will last,” Johnston said.