| 15.2°C Dublin

Missing plane 'may have been victim of air piracy'MYSTERY: Jet 'deliberately flown west' after losing radio contact

INVESTIGATORS are increasingly certain that the missing Malaysian Airlines jet turned back across the country after its last radio contact with air traffic controllers, and that someone with aviation skills was responsible for the change in course, a Malaysian government official has said.

A US official said in Washington that investigators are examining the possibility of "human intervention" in the plane's disappearance, adding that it may well have been "an act of piracy".

The official, who was not authorised to talk to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity, said it also was possible that the plane may have landed somewhere.

While other theories are still being examined, the official said key evidence for the human intervention is that contact with the Boeing 777's transponder stopped about a dozen minutes before a messaging system on the jet quit.

The official, based in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, said only a skilled person could navigate the plane the way it was flown after its last confirmed location over the South China Sea.

Earlier, acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the country had yet to determine what happened to the plane after it dropped off civilian radar and ceased communicating with the ground around 40 minutes into the flight to Beijing on March 8.


He said investigators were trying to establish that military radar records of a blip moving west across the Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca showed flight MH370.

"I will be the most happiest person if we can actually confirm that it is MH370, then we can move all (search) assets from the South China Sea to the Strait of Malacca," he told reporters.

Until then, he said, the international search effort would continue expanding east and west from the plane's last confirmed location.

The Malaysian official said it had now been established with a "more than 50pc" degree of certainty that military radar had picked up the missing plane.

On Thursday, a US official said the plane remained airborne after losing contact with air traffic control, sending a signal to establish contact with a satellite.

The Malaysian official confirmed this, referring to the process by its technical term of a "handshake".

Malaysia has faced accusations that it is not sharing all its information or suspicions about the plane's final movements.

It insists it is being totally open, and says it would be irresponsible to narrow the focus of the search until there is undeniable evidence of the plane's flight path.