An official with the Malaysian government has confirmed that investigators have reached the conclusion that someone with flying experience has hijacked Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Media and wire services are reporting that no motive or destination have been established. The government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media said the reason behind the plane’s disappearance was no longer a theory. “It is conclusive,” he told reporters.
Speaking at a press conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that investigators appeared to be certain that Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was taken off course by someone sitting at the controls. Airborne for more than seven hours, the plane could have traveled as far as Kazakhstan. Razak stopped short of saying the plane was hijacked, although he did emphasize the plane’s recorded movements were consistent with deliberate acts.
During the press conference, Razak emphasized the last confirmed communication with the plane, via satellite, was at 8:11am Malaysian time and the tracking data now has searchers looking closely at two air corridors which include Kazakhstan and Indonesia. Reporters and representatives of the world’s press were not allowed to ask questions during the press conference. A followup media session will be held at 5:30pm local time, and then, questions will be allowed.
Searchers from 14 countries are involved in the mission looking for the flight which was carrying 239 people. Information developed Friday makes it appear that the jetliner made a turn along the Strait of Malacca about the time controllers lost contact. The radar tracking shows changes in the plane’s heading. Minor variations in route are expected even when the plane is on autopilot, but important changes like course adjustments tend to happen only when someone is at the controls.
The plane’s ground-link with controllers was lost about one hour into the March 8 flight. Both communication systems went down, but were shut down separately, again fueling speculation that someone at the controls took over the plane. The data reporting system was turned off at 1:07am and the transponder signal was lost 14 minutes later at 1:21am. The flight continued to send a satellite mark every hour after radar contact was lost according to senior administration officials.
Other investigators are saying that the analysis of the pulses picked up from the missing airliner shows a possibility that it ran out of fuel and crashed into the Indian Ocean. The sources, also speaking on conditions of anonymity, said the data the American government is getting from the investigation shows that the plane may have also flown on to India.
The data, obtained from electronic signals the Malaysian Airlines flight sent to satellites, has been ambiguous and supports two different theories. The pulses appear to have been transmitted for several hours after the plane left radar range and continued traveling northwest. Because of the nature of the data, US officials are uncertain which data analysis is correct.
With one government official saying there is “conclusive” proof that the plane was hijacked and another spokesman saying that electronic data indicates the plane crashed, the world may still be weeks away from learning what happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.
By Jerry Nelson