Officials Say Malaysian Flight Co-Pilot Spoke Final Words to Ground Control

In a press conference today, Malaysia Airlines officials say they now believe it was the co-pilot who delivered the final message to ground control after the plane's signaling apparatus had been disabled. 

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Over the weekend, the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 became a criminal investigation as Malaysian officials said they had "conclusive" evidence that the flight had been hijacked. They also said that a final message had been received from the pilot after the plane's signaling apparatus had been disabled, raising suspicion that the flight was intentionally diverted by crew. There have also been numerous reports this morning that plane may have flown as low as 5,000 feet, in order to avoid all radar detection, a maneuver that would require considerable skill from the pilots, while also putting the plane itself in considerable danger, as it is not designed for long travel at that altitude.

In a press conference today, Malaysia Airlines officials say they now believe it was the co-pilot who spoke those final words. The Acting Transport Minister Hussein Hishammuddin added during the conference that Malaysia is requesting renewed assistance from the countries involved in the search, saying:

Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent diplomatic notes to all countries involved in the search and rescue operation. This includes two groups: first, countries in the search corridors; and second, countries from which we are seeking assistance and expertise. For countries in the search corridors, we are requesting radar and satellite information, as well as specific assets for the search and rescue operation. We are asking them to share their land, sea and aerial search and rescue action plans with the Rescue Co-ordination Centre here in Malaysia, so that we can co-ordinate the search effort. We have asked for regular updates, including daily reports on both search activities, and details of any information required from Malaysia.

Twenty-six countries are now involved in the search, and Australia has taken the lead in searching the Indian Ocean. 

Officials added that Interpol and FBI have been involved in the search since the beginning and that nobody aboard the plane has tried to make contact via cell phones, though telephone companies are still checking their records.

Still, reporters on the scene say that, per usual, the press conference failed to offer any concrete answers about the missing plane. It's unclear how officials know that it was the co-pilot who said "All right, good night," the last phrase intentionally transmitted by the crew before the plane disappeared from civilian radar screens. According to the Guardian

Pressed on the [co-pilot's] message [chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya] would not say whether there was any sign of stress in the voice. More analysis of the recording is taking place, the authorities said. 

Also according to the Guardian, officials offered conflicting accounts of when and where the plane's data transmitter was disabled:

During the press conference the Malaysia authorities spread more confusion about the location and timing of when the plane’s communication system was turned off. Hishamuddin said the Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (Acars) was turned off just after the plane flew over the city of Kota Baru. The transponder was switched off near the Igari waypoint over the South China Sea. But... Yahya said the Acars system could have been turned off at any time during a 30 minute period. 

And people are losing patience:

As the investigation continues, Malaysian officials are looking into the personal lives and backgrounds of the crew and passengers aboard MH 370. Some have said that the pilot was a "political fanatic," a seemingly baseless accusation that the airlines was quick to deny. This, however, may have helped prompt one theory currently taking shape,that the plane flew low under the radar towards a Taliban-controlled country and landed somewhere by the Afghanistan border. The Independent reports:

Sources in Kuala Lumpur assisting with the investigation told The Independent that full diplomatic permissions were being sought in order to rule out the theory that the plane could have flown to areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan that are not under government control. Large areas of the southern half of Afghanistan are ruled by the Afghan Taliban, while some areas of north-west Pakistan, adjacent to or near to the Afghan border, are controlled by the Pakistani Taliban. 

The outlet added that, as is the case with basically every theory presented so far, circumstances would have to be extraordinary for the plane to have landed in Taliban-controlled territory:

For a commercial plane to pass undetected through these regions, which are highly militarised with robust air defence networks, many run by the US military, would require a combination of extremely sophisticated navigation, brazen audacity and security failure by those monitoring international airspace. 

Unfortunately, little hard evidence has yet emerged that could help locate the plane.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.