Amid mounting evidence that the disappearance of the Malaysian plane was a deliberate act, authorities on Monday said the last words from the cockpit were believed to have been spoken by the co-pilot as search operations covering 11 countries were intensified.
Evidence indicating that the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that went missing 10 days ago was sabotaged or hijacked was mounting after it emerged that the last message from the cockpit was spoken after someone had begun disabling one of the plane’s automatic tracking systems.
The last words — “All right, good night” — were believed to have been spoken by the co-pilot.
“Initial investigations indicate it was the co-pilot who basically spoke,” Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told a media briefing.
Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid are under scanner of the probe into the disappearance of the plane.
The last signal from the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was received 12 minutes before the co-pilot’s final words.
The officials are also looking at the possibility whether the plane -with 239 people on board including five Indians and one Indian-Canadian – had taken advantage of the busy airways over the Bay of Bengal and avoided suspicion of military radars.
Malaysia’s defence and acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein said, “I can confirm that search and rescue operations in the northern and southern corridors have already begun. Countries including Malaysia, Australia, China, Indonesia and Kazakhstan have already initiated search and rescue operations.”
A detailed map of the northern and southern corridors where the search operations were on was released on Monday.
Malaysia got in touch with countries along the northern and southern corridors about the flight. These countries include: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and France.
Australian was leading the search of the remote southern Indian Ocean for the missing plane.
Kazakhstan joined the search on Monday in the farthest northwest section of the search area, taking the total number of countries involved in the operation to 26.
During the last 24 hours, Prime Minister Najib Razak has spoken to the Prime Minister of Australia and the Premier of China. Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent diplomatic notes to all countries involved in the search operation, Hishammuddin said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday assured Najib of “all assistance” by Indian authorities when the latter called him to seek India’s “technical assistance”.
Najib last week said authorities are trying to trace the plane across two possible corridors – in the north to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and a southern corridor from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
Hishamuddin said hopes had not been lost. “There has been no distress call, no ransom demand, no parties claiming responsibility…so there is always hope,” he said. He informed that aviation experts from China were joining the search team.
Hishamuddin said two Malaysian ships had been deployed and French civil aviation teams have also joined the search.
Australia is sending extra two P 3 Orions and C130 Hercules.
Malaysian authorities said they had begun probing the crew the day the aircraft disappeared. Police have visited the houses of the pilot and the co-pilot twice.
The Chinese authorities who had already cleared the passengers on board have been asked to take a re-look.
Jauhari said so far there had been no evidence from phone companies of any passenger trying to call when the plane turned around. Hishamuddin said Inmarsat had got six pings from the plane.
The satellite could see aircraft at alleviation and could give the time but not the location.
“At this point, I would like to stress that Malaysia has been co-operating with the FBI, Interpol and other relevant international law enforcement authorities since day one,” Hishamuddin said.
“Our priority has always been to find the aircraft. We would not withhold any information that could help. But we also have a responsibility not to release information until it has been verified by the international investigations team,” he said.
“With support from our many international partners, this new phase of the search is underway. Assets are being deployed, and search and rescue operations have begun. I wish to thank our partners from around the world for their continued support,” he added.