Malaysian officials have changed their story on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 once again, saying on Monday that the last words spoken from the pilot or co-pilot of were "Good Night Malaysian Three Seven Zero," which is not what Malaysian authorities reported at the beginning of the search for the crashed flight and for many days after.
Earlier, authorities had reported that the last communication from MH370 was "all right, good night," a surprisingly casual phrase that raised suspicions that whoever was flying the plane was already departing from protocol. The new version is more aligned with how pilots usually sign off to ground control.
Officials released the transcript of communications between the flight and ground control late on Monday without explaining the discrepancy. Malaysia's Acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that the government has not released all details from the flight but that "we are not hiding anything. We are just following the procedure that is being set." Of the transcript, he said there was "no indication of anything abnormal."
Chinese families of passengers aboard the plane have voiced anger with how Malaysia has handled the search, and the new information is likely to hurt the government's credibility even further.
Meanwhile, Australia — which is leading the search for traces of the plane, thought to have crashed into the south Indian Ocean somewhere west of Perth — has sent out an airborne traffic controller to make sure search planes don't collide while scanning the area. Australian official Angus Houston, who is charged with coordinating the international search, reiterated the difficulty of this search:
In this particular case, the last known position was a long, long way from where the aircraft appears to have gone. It's very complex, it's very demanding. What we really need now is to find debris, wreckage from the aircraft. This could drag on for a long time.
More than twenty countries are involved in the search, which must make Houston's job even trickier:
So far, all objects spotted from search planes or identified via satellite have turned out to be nothing, but unrelated debris or fishing equipment. Those searching for the MH370 are feeling the pressure as the plane's black box, which could reveal key information about what happened aboard the flight, runs out of battery. According to the Wall Street Journal, it will stop sending out pings in five days.
After that it will be much, much more difficult to locate the technology.