Malaysia

Malaysia dismisses speculation about missing plane’s movements

The Malaysian authorities today poured cold water on speculation that has been rife today about the movements of the Malaysian Airlines plane that has now been missing for nearly six days.

They dismissed a suggestion that the aircraft may have flown for four hours after it vanished from radar.

There have been numerous media reports saying that data sent to the Rolls Royce engine health monitoring centre in England from the plane’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) indicated that the plane may have continued to fly for perhaps hundreds of miles after its apparent disappearance.

“Since today’s media reports, Malaysian Airlines has asked Rolls Royce and Boeing specifically about this data,” said Malaysia’s acting transport minister and defence minister, Hishammuddin Hussein. “As far as Rolls Royce and Boeing are concerned, those reports are inaccurate.”

Mr  Hishammuddin said the last ACARS transmission from the aircraft was at 1.07 am on Saturday, twenty three minutes before the last civilian radar signal was received from the plane. Indications were that everything was normal.

They also said that Chinese satellite images that were the focus of much attention today were released by mistake and didn’t show possible aircraft debris.

No debris has been found in the area in which it was believed three large objects had been seen floating in the South China Sea.

Mr Hishammuddin also dismissed reports that police have been searching the homes of members of the crew of the missing aircraft.

Search intensifies

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Forty-three ships and 40 aircraft are now deployed east and west of the Malaysian peninsula, scouring 27,000 square nautical miles of sea.

The missing flight, with 239 people on board, disappeared from civilian radar at 1.30 a.m. local time on Saturday when the plane was over the Gulf of Thailand.

The search operation was initially focused on this area to the east of Malaysia, but was extended to the Strait of Melacca to the west when military radar showed an aircraft flying 200 nautical miles northwest of the island of Penang until 2.15 a.m.

Military radar doesn’t identify the aircraft in question; it just shows its course. However, the information has led to speculation that flight MH370 may have turned around after take-off.

There is still no explanation as to why the plane would have done a turn-around.

There was never any distress signal from flight MH370 and communication from the pilots when the aircraft was being handed over to Vietnamese air traffic control suggested that everything on board was fine.

China has criticised the Malaysian authorities for their handling of the plane’s disappearance and journalists have accused them of being too slow to release information.

Mr Hishammuddin said today that he would remain cautious and would only release fully verified information. If he speculated he might be giving relatives false hope, he said, and that was not responsible. He said the task of searching for the missing plane was becoming more difficult every day.
The disappearance of flight MH370 remains a deep and troubling mystery.

The aircraft underwent maintenance 12 days before it disappeared. When it took off for Beijing, the weather was good, the Boeing 777 and Malaysia Airlines both have a very good safety records, and the pilot was very experienced.

China has criticised the Malaysian authorities for their handling of the plane’s disappearance and journalists have accused them of being too slow to release information.

Mr Hishammuddin said today that he would remain cautious and would only release fully verified information. If he speculated he might be giving relatives false hope, he said, and that was not responsible. He said the task of searching for the missing plane was becoming more difficult every day.

The minister has defended Malaysia’s handling of the plane’s disappearance, saying there is neither confusion nor chaos and that they are hiding nothing.

Unusually, the Malaysian authorities are sharing raw military data with other countries. For national security reasons, this would not normally happen, but, Mr Hishammuddin said, conducting an effective search operation was the priority.

“Some claim that Malaysia has slowed down the search. That is not true. In fact, we have intensified the search. “There is no real precedent for a situation like this. The plane vanished. We extended the search area because it is our duty to follow every lead. We owe it to the families. And we will not give up.”
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