Saturday 22 November 2014

MH370: pilot's 'calm' last words said after plane seized

Dean Nelsonin in Kuala Lumpur

Published 17/03/2014 | 02:30

A woman leaves a messages of support and hope for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370
A woman leaves a messages of support and hope for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370
Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein reads a statement during a news conference
A child is cuddled as relatives of passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 attend a meeting with Malaysia Airlines
A woman stands in front of a board with messages of support for the missing plane at an event to show solidarity in Subang Jaya, Malaysia, yesterday.

The final words from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, "All right, good night", apparently delivered in a calm voice, were spoken after the plane was seized and transmission equipment disabled, it was disclosed yesterday.

It separately emerged that the aircraft, which went missing over nine days ago, could have landed and continued to submit the hourly 'pings' to a satellite receiver for up to seven hours after the last contact.

Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's transport minister, cast new light on the moments before flight MH370 containing 239 people vanished without trace.

He revealed that the plane's ACARS system, which signals its speed, altitude, position and fuel levels, was disabled before the captain calmly wished air traffic control "good night" at the moment the plane left Malaysian airspace.

It implies the captain was either speaking under duress after terrorists had seized control of his plane, or was its hijacker.

The police investigation into Captain Zaharie Shah was stepped up yesterday, as officers removed a flight simulator he had built at his home to be analysed for any clues that could suggest he was practising to divert the plane.

Captain Zaharie was a keen supporter of Malaysia's pro-democracy opposition party. However, there has been no evidence produced to suggest Captain Zaharie was involved in terrorism.

One former British military attache has said that disabling ACARS could usually only be done by an experienced pilot because it must be closed by a series of circuit breakers. Investigators have said someone on the plane first disabled the system about 40 minutes after take-off.

Around 14 minutes later, the transponder that identifies the plane to commercial radar was also shut down.

The fact that both systems went dark separately offered evidence that the plane's disappearance was deliberate.

Last night, Malaysian detectives turned the focus of their investigation on the captain.

Intelligence agencies have cleared the vast majority of passengers on flight MH370, it was reported, and police have turned their attention on the captain, co-pilot and crew members, and engineers who had contact with the plane.

The captain has apparently taken centre stage for his support of Malaysia's pro-democracy opposition party.

Yesterday, unconfirmed reports suggested Capt Shah's wife and three children moved out of the family home the day before the flight went missing.

However, Malaysia's Inspector General of Police stressed that all 239 passengers were still under investigation. Officers have searched the homes of Capt Shah and Fariq Ab Hamid, his co-pilot, he disclosed.

A Boeing 777 flight simulator Capt Shah had built was seized in the raids and is being analysed for clues to suggest he was practising to divert the plane deliberately.

There were several reports yesterday that Capt Shah was an "obsessive" and "fanatical" member of the pro-democracy People's Justice Party.

It was claimed he had been "incensed" after attending the trial and conviction of its leader, Anwar Ibrahim, and hijacked his own plane as part of a "political protest".

TERRORISM

But Sivarasa Rasiah, an opposition leader, rejected the allegations, saying it was "unthinkable" he could have been involved in terrorism.

Mr Rasiah said Capt Shah was "a really likeable guy, a warm guy. There is absolutely no way he is doing this of his own volition".

Last night, Malaysia rejected questions over its air defence systems following the seizure and disappearance of flight MH370 and claimed the lessons learnt from the crisis could "change aviation history". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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