12 April 2014
Authorities from several countries were searching fruitlessly for the missing MH370 flight in the South China Sea for days, even though the Malaysian military reportedly knew the plane was not there.
A military source claims that once alerted of the missing flight soon after its disappearance on March 8, military radar picked up an unidentified plane heading across peninsular Malaysia.
The air force now admits that the plane spotted on its radar, some 320km northwest of the west coast of Penang, could have been MH370.
“When we were alerted, we got our boys to check the military radar. We noticed that there was an unmarked plane flying back but [we] could not confirm [its identity],” said the military source.
While fighter jets may not have had enough fuel to follow MH370, they may have been able to spot the doomed aircraft flying across peninsular Malaysia and beyond.
While Malaysian officials are yet to expressly respond to this latest information, they have earlier justified their decision to withhold data saying that they did not want to risk confusion by sharing unverified data so early on in the search effort.
Authorities searched the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand for more than a week, before satellite data led them to look in the Indian Ocean instead.
Malaysia’s government has now begun investigating civil aviation and military authorities to determine why opportunities to track down MH370 were missed immediately after the jet disappeared off the radar.
“What happened at that time is being investigated and I can’t say any more than that because it involves the military and the government,” a senior government official told Reuters.
The source explained that, originally, air traffic controllers and military officials assumed the plane turned back to an airport in Malaysia due to a mechanical problem when it first disappeared off the radar.
The assumption, the source claims, took place despite no distresses call or communication coming through from the cockpit.
“The initial assumption was that the aircraft could have diverted due to mechanical issues or, in the worst case scenario, crashed,” said a senior Malaysian civilian source.
“That is what we were working on.”
Meanwhile, a senior military official also told Reuters that air traffic control informed the military that the plane was missing at 2am, despite the plane disappearing from radar from than 45 minutes earlier.