Asia-Pacific

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Evidence of tampering in missing MH370's cockpit

Jonathan Pearlman

Published 30/06/2014|02:30

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Flight MH370 disappeared on 8 March with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board

Investigators looking into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have discovered possible evidence of tampering with the aircraft's cockpit equipment.

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A report by Australian air crash investigators has disclosed that the missing Boeing 777 suffered a mysterious power outage during the early stages of its flight, which experts believe could be part of an attempt to avoid radar detection.

According to the report, the aircraft's satellite data unit made an unexpected "log-on" request to a satellite less than 90 minutes into its flight from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to the Chinese city of Beijing.

The report says the log-on request, known as a "handshake", appears likely to have been caused by an interruption of electrical power on board the plane.

"A log-on request in the middle of a flight is not common," said the report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

David Gleave, an aviation safety expert from Loughborough University, said the interruption to the power supply appeared to be the result of someone in the cockpit attempting to minimise the use of the aircraft's systems.

The action, he said, was consistent with an attempt to turn the plane's communications and other systems off in an effort to avoid radar detection.

Priority

"A person could be messing around in the cockpit which would lead to a power interruption," he said.

"It could be a deliberate act to switch off both engines for some time."

Inmarsat, the satellite company, has confirmed the assessment, but says it does not know why the aircraft experienced a power failure.

Mr Gleave said: "There are credible mechanical failures that could cause it. But you would not then fly along for hundreds of miles and disappear in the Indian Ocean."

Investigators have narrowed down the crash site from thousands of possible routes, while noting the absence of communication, the steady flight path and a number of other key abnormalities in the course of the ill-fated flight.

Their findings suggest the plane crashed further south into the Indian Ocean than previously thought and that it was probably coasting on autopilot.

They have prompted a shift to a new priority search area around 2,000km west of Perth.

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, said: "It is highly, highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot otherwise it could not have followed the orderly path that has been identified through the satellite sightings."

Hopes of finding the black boxes that hold crucial evidence about what happened on board the plane are fading after 'pings' thought to pinpoint their location led nowhere. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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