It was revealed Saturday that the communications system on the Malaysian Airlines jet that mysteriously disappeared mid-flight was deliberately disabled, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak has said. A week after the disappearance of flight MH370 with 239 people on board, Najib said its last transmission of satellite data came nearly seven hours after it disappeared from radar screens.
According to satellite and radar evidence, he said, the plane then changed course and could have continued flying for a further seven hours. He said that the movements of the plane, which veered off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing course and flew back across the Malaysian peninsula before disappearing, were “consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.”
The Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System is a service that allows computers aboard the plane to “talk” to computers on the ground, relaying in-flight information about the health of its systems.
The investigation will now focus on who may have taken control of the plane and why, and that the search area will be vastly expanded, said Mr. Razak.
He said: “Clearly the search for MH370 has entered a new phase. We hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane. In view of this latest development the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board.”
Minutes after the Malaysian leader outlined investigators’ latest findings, police began searching the house of the aircraft’s 53-year-old captain for any evidence that he could have been involved in foul play. Malaysian police also examined a flight simulator belonging to one of the pilots of the missing jetliner and investigated engineers who worked on the plane.
“In view of this latest development the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board,” said the county’s Prime Minister.
The government said police searched the homes of both of the plane’s pilots on Saturday, but did not say whether it was the first time officers had done so since the flight went missing more than a week ago. Police sources said they were looking at the personal, political and religious backgrounds of both pilots and the other crew members. Khalid said ground support staff who might have worked on the plane were also being investigated, reports Reuters.
The navies and aircraft search operations from more than a dozen nations were immediately redirected from the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea to the east of Malaysia, where the plane disappeared from civilian air traffic control screens at 1:22 a.m. last Saturday.
Malaysia said new data showed the last communication between the missing plane and satellites at 8:11 a.m. (0011 GMT), almost seven hours after it turned back and crossed the Malay peninsula.
Expanding the search into the Indian Ocean, one of the most remote places in the world and also one of the deepest, greatly increases the complexity of the search while potentially diminishing the chances of finding the plane.
The plane had enough fuel to fly for about seven-and-a-half to eight hours, Malaysian Airlines’ Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said.