Revealed: the final 54 minutes of communication from MH370
Communication from cockpit reveals complete picture
Published 22/03/2014 | 02:30
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.
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.
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".
"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.