Thursday 27 November 2014

Revealed: the final 54 minutes of communication from MH370

Communication from cockpit reveals complete picture

Jonathan Pearlman and Adam Wu Kuala Lumpur

Published 22/03/2014 | 02:30

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 21:  Flying Officer Benjamin Hepworth searches from a Royal Australian Airforce AP-3C Orion from Pearce Airforce Base during a search mission for possible MH370 debris on March 21, 2014 in Perth, Australia. Australian authorities yesterday received satellite imagery that shows two large objects in the Indian Ocean that may be debris from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. The airliner went missing nearly two weeks ago carrying 239 passengers and crew on route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.  (Photo by Justin Benson-Cooper - Pool/Getty Images)
Flying Officer Benjamin Hepworth searches from a Royal Australian Airforce AP-3C Orion from Pearce Airforce Base during a search mission for possible MH370 debris
Two Royal Australian Air Force Loadmasters launch a self-locating data marker buoy from a C-130J Hercules aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Flight Leuitenant Neville (Smokey) Dawson on board a Royal Australian Airforce AP-3C Orion from Pearce Airforce Base during a search mission for possible MH370 debris
The area in the southern Indian Ocean where the Australian Maritime Safety Authority is concentrating its search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. (AP/AMSA)
Satellite imagery provided to Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) of objects that may be possible debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in a revised area 185 km (115 miles) to the south east of the original search area in this picture released by AMSA March
Relatives of passengers onboard the missing Flight MH370 wait for news in Beijing. KIM KYUNG-HOON
Malaysians hold candles during a special prayer for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at the Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur
A woman writes a message on the board of hope for Flight MH370
Relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 wait for the latest news of the plane in Beijing (AP)
A man covers his face as he waits for information about passengers onboard the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in a room at the Lido Hotel in Beijing.
Rosila Abu Samah, 50, and her daughter Kaiyisah Selamat, 8, the mother and sister of flight engineer Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat who was on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, hug each other as they await news on the missing plane.
John Young, general manager of the emergency response division of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority

The entire 54 minutes of cockpit communication aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight has been revealed, giving a complete picture of the lead-up to the plane's crucial final message at 1.07am of "All right, good night".

The communication includes flight MH370's taxi on the runway to the series of messages recorded when the plane is believed by investigators to have already been sabotaged.

Despite a frantic multinational search for possible wreckage in the southern Indian Ocean, no sign of the Boeing 777 has yet emerged. Five aircraft spent two hours each yesterday flying above a remote stretch of water about 1,500 miles south-west of Australia but failed to spot either of the large floating objects detected in satellite imagery on March 16.

Warren Truss, Australia's deputy prime minister, acknowledged that the apparent debris may never be found because of the area's deep waters and strong currents.

"Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating," he said. "It's also certain that any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance over that time, potentially hundreds of kilometres."

Malaysia has begun appealing to the handful of nations with deep sea detection equipment for help in what may be a long search for the aircraft's black box. The search area spans 9,000 square miles across waters that are up to 13,000 feet deep.

Malaysian minister expressed fear a possible sighting of debris may be another false lead.

Searches by more than two dozen countries have turned up little but frustration and fresh questions about Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 which disappeared on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.

Six aircraft and two merchant ships were scouring an area of the remote southern Indian Ocean where suspected debris was spotted by satellite six days ago.

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There were no reports of any wreckage being found.

Australia, which announced the satellite image and is coordinating the rescue, has cautioned the objects might be a lost shipping container or other debris and may have since sunk.

"Even though this is not a definite lead, it is probably more solid than any other lead around the world and that is why so much effort and interest is being put into this search," Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters.

 

According to several people familiar with the matter, India has told Malaysian investigators that it had found no evidence the plane flew through its airspace, making the satellite debris lead more solid.

 

It was the first formal notification that India had come up empty-handed after checking its radar records, the sources said.

 

Meanwhile, further clues emerged about the fate of the aircraft and its 239 passengers.

A transcript of the communication between the cockpit and air traffic controllers reveals the two-way conversation between Fariq Abdul Hamid, the 27-year-old co-pilot, and air traffic controllers.

Analysts said the sequence of messages appeared to be "perfectly routine" and gives no indication of the bizarre ordeal ahead, as the plane's communications were disabled and it turned sharply westward.

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Two features, they said, stand out as potentially odd.

The first was a message delivered by the cockpit at 1.07am, saying that the plane was flying at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. This message was unnecessary as it repeated a call that had already been delivered six minutes earlier.

Steve Landells, a former British Airways pilot who flew Boeing 777s, said this second message was not required but he did not regard it as suspicious. "It could be as simple as the pilot forgetting or not being sure that he had told air traffic controllers he had reached the altitude," he said. "He might be reconfirming he was at 350 (35,000 feet). It is not unusual. I wouldn't read anything into it."

The other odd feature, which is one of the reasons for suspicions that the plane's disappearance was deliberate, was that its loss of communications and subsequent sharp turn westward occurred during the handover from air traffic controllers in Kuala Lumpur to those in Ho Chi Minh City.

"If I was going to steal the aeroplane, that would be the point I would do it," Stephen Buzdygan, a former British Airways pilot who piloted Boeing 777s. "There might be a bit of dead space between the air traffic controllers. It was the only time during the flight they would maybe not have been able to be seen from the ground."

The fresh details emerged as the initial hope prompted by the appearance of floating objects up to 79 foot long began to dwindle.

 

 

After a second day of fruitless searching for the possible debris, Tony Abbott, Australia's prime minister, pledged that the effort would continue, describing the ongoing ordeal as "a gut-wrenching business for so many people".

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"It's about the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it," he said.

Malaysia Airlines said the aircraft was carrying some lithium ion batteries, which are deemed "dangerous" cargo and can overheat and cause fires. But Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, the airlines head, said the batteries – used in laptops and mobile phones – were packed and carried in accordance with regulations and were unlikely to have posed a threat.

According to the cockpit transcripts, from the moment of sign-in at 12.36 – when the plane was still on the ground – Mr Hamid, a 27-year-old flying enthusiast, gave routine accounts of the plane's location, ascent and altitude. Though he took a slightly casual approach and at times departed from formal wording, nothing in his phrasing gives any sign that the plane was about to fly off course and disappear.

"The communication up until the plane went to the changeover [to Vietnam] sounds totally normal," Mr Buzdygan said. "That kind of banter – it is perfectly normal." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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