13 March 2014
The big question not being asked here is why did not the Malaysian Air force scramble jets to intercept what was at that time an incursion into their space by an unknown aircraft with its transponder off?
Answer. The Malaysian military were caught asleep at the wheel and did not react. Had they reacted, this entire mystery would not be happening.
According to The Malaysian Insider, a military source confirmed with Reuters that the Boeing 777-200ER with 239 on board changed course and made it to the other side of the Malay peninsula.
In a strange twist, Malaysia’s military believes it tracked the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 by radar over the Strait of Malacca, far from where it last made contact with civilian air traffic control over the Gulf of Thailand.
A military source confirmed with Reuters that the Boeing 777-200ER with 239 on board changed course and made it to the other side of the Malay peninsula.
“It changed course after Kota Baru and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Straits,” the military official, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.
The Straits of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, runs along Malaysia’s west coast.
The airline said on Saturday that the flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew last had contact off the east coast Malaysian town of Kota Baru.
The Berita Harian newspaper was the first to report this development, quoting the Royal Air Force Malaysia (RMAF) chief General Tan Sri Rodzali Daud as saying they tracked the signal to Pulau Perak on the country’s west coast.
“The last time the plane could be traced by an air control tower was near Pulau Perak, which is on the Straits of Malacca at 2.40am.
“After that, the signal from the plane was lost,” he said.
Incidentally, Malaysia Airlines first statement on the missing jetliner on Saturday said that air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at 2.40am but it was later corrected to 1.30am.
It was also reported that a Singaporean air traffic surveillance and control unit also picked up the signal that MH370 “made a turn back before it was reported to have climbed 1,000 metres from its original altitude at 10,000 metres”.
It was widely reported that the plane went missing at around 1.30am while flying above the South China Sea between the Malaysian east coast and the southern coast of Vietnam.
The plane reported went off radar and its last known location was 065515 North (latitude) and 1033443 East (longitude).
This is also supported with police reports made by some east coast residents, who claimed that they have seen huge lights and a plane flying at some 1,000 metres above sea level off Kota Baru.
However, search and rescue (SAR) authorities have failed to find any sign of the plane in the waters of the South China Sea.
Indications that MH370 might have turned back have since led the SAR operations to be expanded to the Straits of Malacca and the Andaman Sea.
The operations to find the missing plane involve armed forces and authorities from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States, apart from Malaysia.
Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia would “never give up hope” of finding the plane’s 239 passengers and crew, dismissing allegations that efforts were mired in confusion after a series of false alarms, rumours and contradictory statements.
“I don’t think so. It’s far from it. It’s only confusion if you want it to be seen as confusion,” he said at a press conference, where military and civilian officials faced a grilling from a combative crowd of journalists.
“I think it’s not a matter of chaos. There are a lot of speculations (sic) that we have answered in the last few days,” he said.
The hunt for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 now encompasses nearly 27,000 nautical miles (over 90,000 square kilometres) — roughly the size of Portugal — and involves the navies and air forces of multiple nations.
The search focus had been on an area off Vietnam’s South China Sea coast, where it last made contact Saturday on a journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
But Malaysian authorities said Wednesday they were expanding it to the Andaman Sea, north of Indonesia, hundreds of miles away.
“So right now there is a lot of information, and it’s pretty chaotic, so up to this point we too have had difficulty confirming whether it is accurate or not,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said of accounts of the jet’s course. There were 153 Chinese nationals on the flight.
– Mystery object –
India’s coastguard joined the aerial search off the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands Wednesday and the Indian Air Force was put on standby.
Malaysian air force chief General Rodzali Daud attempted to explain why the search zone had been expanded, telling the press conference that military radar detected an unidentified object early Saturday north of the Malacca Strait off Malaysia’s west coast.
He said that the reading, taken less than an hour after the plane lost contact over the South China Sea, was still being investigated and they were not able to confirm it was MH370.
The confusion has fuelled perceptions that Malaysian authorities are unable to handle a crisis on this scale, and infuriated relatives.
Analysts said there were burning questions over what information — if any — Malaysia has gleaned from both military and civilian radar, and the Boeing 777’s transponders, and over discounted reports it was later detected near Indonesia.
“It’s bad enough for a wide-body jet to go missing with 239 people on board, but then for the responsible country’s government and aviation agencies to handle the associated information with total incompetence is unforgivable,” said David Learmount from industry magazine Flightglobal.
“There are so many information sources that do not appear to have been used effectively in this case. As a result the families of the missing passengers and crew are being kept in the dark,” said Learmount, Flightglobal’s operations and safety editor.
One new detail did emerge – the words of MH370’s final radio transmission.
Malaysia’s ambassador to China, Iskandar Sarudin, said one of the pilots said “alright, good night” as the flight switched from Malaysian to Vietnamese airspace, according to Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper.
– Public anger –
Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, later confirmed to AFP that those were the last words from the cockpit.
Frustrations boiled over in Malaysia, with the country’s active social media and some press outlets turning from sympathy for the families of relatives to anger over the fruitless search.
“The mood among Malaysians now is moving from patience… to embarrassment and anger over discrepancies about passengers, offloaded baggage and concealed information about its last known position,” Malaysian Insider, a leading news portal, said in a commentary.
Twitter users took aim at the web of contradictory information that has fuelled conspiracy theories.
“If the Malaysian military did not see MH370 turn toward the Malacca Strait, then why the search? Who decided to look there and why?” one comment said.
The anger was compounded by a report aired on Australian television of a past cockpit security breach involving the co-pilot of the missing jet.
Malaysia Airlines said it was “shocked” over allegations that First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, along with a fellow pilot violated airline rules in 2011 by allowing two young South African women into their cockpit during a flight.