Monday, March 17, 2014

Day 10 Malaysian Airline Flight 370 -- the confusion becomes even more pronounced as Malaysia changes its narrative once again -- In yet another puzzling change of the official narrative, acting transport minister and minister of defence Hishammuddin Hussein revised the time of loss of communications with MH370 from 1.30 am local to 1.19 am, which would be two minutes before the last confirmed radar contact with the airliner that used a transponder to identify it to air traffic control system......another change in the narrative comes from how much fuel was allegedly remaining when communication was lost with the pilots ..... China criticisms really becoming loud as to Malaysian chaos incompetence and inability to handle the investigation ( note that was before today's presser with the contact timing and remaining fuel changes , which would impact the two corridors that the hi-jacked plane might have flown within or not flown within ) ......... Reader Michael Rhodes, a Sydney-based solicitor who says he has “extensive experience of Malaysia in particular and Malaysian Airlines” asks why the mobile phones and other communications devices of the people on board have not been traced.

MH370 update has co-pilot saying ‘all right good night’

The newest version of the southern corridor map
Malaysia Airlines says it believes the last words heard from missing flight MH370 “all right good night” were spoken by the first officer,  Fariq Abdul Hamid.
The update at the end of Day 10 of the search for the Boeing 777-200ER and its 239 passengers and crew was told that the disconnection of the automated ACARS status update system did not necessarily happen on the last transmission it sent at 1.07 am local time 8 March, 27 minutes after the flight took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.
In yet another puzzling change of the official narrative, acting transport minister and minister of defence Hishammuddin Hussein revised the time of loss of communications with MH370 from 1.30 am local to 1.19 am, which would be  two minutes before the last confirmed radar contact with the airliner that used a transponder to identify it to air traffic control system.
To recap, the official chronology at least until the next update appears to be that at 1.07 am the last (and unremarkable) ACARS transmission was sent from MH370, and that system was subsequently disabled at a time unknown but not later than 1.37, when ACARS was next to report. This disabling of ACARS uploads didn’t prevent that system sending standby signals to a geostationary Inmarsat satellite over the western Indian Ocean for as long as MH370 remained in flight or on the ground with electrical power running.
At 1.19 the last communication with MH370 was heard by Malaysia ATC which closed with the co-pilot (the airline believes) saying “all right good night”.
At 1.22 the last positive radar identification of the 777 was made using the transponder which identifies jets to air traffic control systems. Following this MH370 did not make its expected contact with Vietnam’s air traffic control system.
Up until that time MH370 had appeared to be on track, crossing the Gulf of Thailand from Malaysia to Vietnam en route to a South China Sea corridor leading to northern China and Beijing.
It was at this point the Malaysia authorities now say they are convinced that the course of the flight was deliberately altered, and it flew across the Malaysia peninsula and out into the northern approach to the Straits of Malacca disappearing toward the Andaman Sea as a primary or unidentifed trace on military radar.
The transponder must have been disabled very shortly after 1.22 as no more transponder identified radar contacts were visible on either Malaysian or Vietnamese ATC screens.
These unexplained changes in timings by minister Hishammuddin Hussein threw the media update into a state of confusion for those reporters who have been trying to find consistent sense in the official narrative since regular updates began soon after MH370 ‘vanished’ from regular ATC tracking systems.
Fresh versions of the map of the southern and northern arcs calculated as being the lines along which the last ‘standby’ signal from MH370 was sent at 8.11 am local, or after it had been in the air for 7 hours 31 minutes were also distributed.
The southern zone now starts slight further east in Indonesia and appears to end deeper in the mid southern Indian Ocean. The northern zone or corridor runs from Laos to the Caspian Sea. Its eastern end shares some similarities with the pioneering airway 888 across the most easterly Himalayas and then across the Tibet plateau but does not exactly match it.

Supplied revised map of northern zone for last satellite contact
The media were told that at the time the Inmarsat over the Indian Ocean received the last last standby ping from MH370 it was estimated to have about 30 minutes of fuel left, meaning the fulel load on departure from KL had been enough for eight hours of flight, which at that time of year was a prudent load to cope with statutory reserves and possible late winter diversions as it approached northern China.
The conference cast no more light on the missing standby ping traces that most observers believe the authorites must have covering the period up until the last such ping at 8.11 local time on 8 March.
However there was no evidence from searching telco records that any passengers on MH370 had attempted to make calls from  the jet.
Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that no distress signal had been found from MH370, no claims of responsibility for its disappearance had been received and mno ransom demands had been made.
He added there was “always hope” that the missing 777 is intact.
( The Press Conference from the Transport Minister and key items of the day ) 


We’re going to wrap up our live blog coverage for the day. Here’s a summary of where things stand:
• The search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 grew to encompass two continents, a broad swath of the Indian Ocean and the participation of 26 governments.
• Australia took the lead in search efforts in the southern Indian Ocean, dispatching surveillance and transport aircraft. In the north, aviation officials in India, Pakistan and central Asia said they had seen no sign of MH370.
• Malaysian officials said they did not know in what order the plane’s communications equipment had been turned off or disabled,throwing out a chronology seemingly established last week.
• Malaysia said the FBI and Interpol had been involved in the case from the beginning, but a senior US official was quoted as saying thatMalaysia had declined offers of an expanded US role.
• Investigators renewed their focus on the pilot of flight 370, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul-Hamid. Police have visited the homes of both men twice, Malaysian officials said.
• Family members and friends of passengers aboard MH370 expressed hope that their loved ones would be found. Tribute sites were dedicated to crew members and passengers.

Here’s the full text of Hishammuddin’s opening remarks:
During the last 24 hours, the Prime Minister has spoken to the Prime Minister of Australia and the Premier of China. 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.
We are not at liberty to reveal information from specific countries. As the co-ordinating authority we are gathering all information as part of the on-going search and rescue operation.

Search and rescue operations

Over the past 48 hours, Malaysia has been working on the diplomatic, technical and logistical requirements of the search for MH370. The number of countries involved in the search and rescue operation has increased to 26.
Malaysia continues to lead the overall co-ordination of the search effort. The southern corridor has been divided into two sections, according to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) demarcations.
These demarcations were agreed by the ICAO – of which Malaysia is a council member – before MH370 went missing. Australia and Indonesia have agreed to lead search and rescue operations in their respective regions as demarcated by the ICAO.
Today, I can confirm that search and rescue operations in the northern and southern corridors have already begun.
Countries including Malaysia, Australia, China, Indonesia and Kazakhstan have already initiated search and rescue operations.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Royal Malaysian Navy have deployed assets to the southern corridor. Two Malaysian ships have been deployed: the offshore patrol vessels KD Kelantan and KD Selangor. This deployment also includes a Super Lynx helicopter, which can operate from either ship.
Australia has already moved a P-3 Orion aircraft to region of the Cocos and Christmas Islands. Today, the Prime Minister of Australia confirmed that Australia will send an additional two P-3 Orions and a C-130 Hercules. A US P-8 Poseidon aircraft will be travelling to Perth today to help with the search.

Expert involvement

Malaysia has been working with international investigators and aviation authorities since day one.
Yesterday, experts from Civil Aviation Administration of China joined the investigations team.
Today, officials from the French Office of Investigations and Analysis for the Safety of Civil Aviation also joined the team. These authorities are working with Malaysia Airlines and the DCA to refine data that can help with the search.

Police investigation

On Saturday 8 March, the Royal Malaysia Police started investigations into all crew members on board MH370, including the pilot and co-pilot, as well as all ground staff handling the aircraft.
On Sunday 9 March, police officers visited the homes of the pilot and co-pilot. Officers also spoke to family members of the pilot and co-pilot.
Police visited the homes of the pilot and co-pilot again on Saturday 15 March. The pilot’s flight simulator was taken from his house with the assistance of his family. The simulator was re-assembled at police headquarters.
At this point, I would like to stress that Malaysia has been co-operating with the FBI, Interpol and other relevant international law enforcement authorities since day one.

Malaysia’s response

I would also like to address the speculation that Malaysia has held back information about MH370’s movements.
For the families, I understand that every day prolongs the anguish. I understand because Malaysia, too, is missing its sons and daughters. There were 50 Malaysians on board the plane.
Our priority has always been to find the aircraft. We would not withhold any information that could help. But we also have a responsibility not to release information until it has been verified by the international investigations team.
This responsibility is not only to the families and to the investigation, but also the search and rescue operation. It would be irresponsible to deploy substantial assets merely on the basis of unverified and uncorroborated information.
As soon as the possibility emerged that the plane had carried out an air turn back to the Straits of Malacca, we expanded our search to that area. I would like to reiterate the US investigating team’s statement about that decision: based on the information and data given by the Malaysian authorities, the US team was of the view that there were reasonable grounds for the Malaysian authorities to deploy resources to conduct search on the western side of peninsular Malaysia.
As soon as we verified and corroborated the new satellite information as to the possible last known whereabouts of the aircraft, we recalibrated our search efforts to the northern and southern corridors as announced by the Prime Minister. After my statement we will release a more detailed map of the northern and southern corridors.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS)

Malaysia Airlines has set up operations centres in both Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, to care for the families of the crew members and passengers.
MAS has allocated each family a caregiver, who will be on 24hours duty. They have sent more than 100 staff and caregivers to Beijing.
The airline gives daily briefings to the families. They provide counselling sessions. And they contact families, that have elected not to come to Malaysia, between two and three times a day.

Concluding remarks

Over the past two days, we have been recalibrating the search for MH370. It remains a significant diplomatic, technical and logistical challenge. Malaysia is encouraged by the progress made during such a short period of time. We are grateful for the response by the heads of government that we have spoken to, all of whom have expressed a commitment of assistance.
With support from our many international partners, this new phase of the search is underway. Assets are being deployed, and search and rescue operations have begun. I wish to thank our partners from around the world for their continued support.

Another intriguing detail from the press conference concerned the remain fuel on the flight. Malaysia Airlines was asked how long the plane could have flown after contact was lost. 
“We estimate it could have another 30 minutes of fuel”, the company’s chief executive replied. 

China's criticism

China’s mounting frustration at the Malaysia authorities appears to have reached a new height. 
The English edition of the state run Global Times has run a series of critical articles questioning the way the search for the Beijing-bound flight is being handled. Last week it described the release of information by Malaysia as “chaotic”.
Now it is accusing Malaysia of incompetence and suggests it may need to hand over responsibility for the search after its “lousy” efforts.
The lack of national strength and experience in dealing with incidents has left the Malaysian government helpless and exhausted by denying all kinds of rumours. The communication failures make the search and rescue process harder.

As time passes, the Malaysian government has lost authority and credibility on this issue. Exact information is key to any rescue effort, but the Malaysian government has been offering only ambiguous messages. It even got the direction of the flight wrong after it lost contact and traversed the peninsula. Last week’s efforts were in vain.

After these failures, the Malaysian government will face the stern eyes of other countries. If the search continues to be fruitless even following the new information, Malaysia would be better off handing over its command in the international rescue operation.

Chinese relatives of passengers from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 gather at a lounge in the Metro Park Lido Hotel to wait for updated information in Beijing.
Chinese relatives of passengers from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 gather at a lounge in the Metro Park Lido Hotel to wait for updated information in Beijing. Photograph: Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images

Reader Michael Rhodes, a Sydney-based solicitor who says he has “extensive experience of Malaysia in particular and Malaysian Airlines” asks why the mobile phones and other communications devices of the people on board have not been traced.
In a series of emails to the Guardian he wrote:
There are 200 plus people who had mobile comms devices on the flight. Not all can have been turned off despite the strict instruction. Add to that the wild changes of altitude and direction. Going back across the Malay Archipelago, some must have established contact with ground, and lost it at variable times. Add to that, if the flight went north, other mobile towers must have acquired signals.....
Does the Andamans have any mobile towers?
Even one fleeting contact would confirm direction generally ...

It seems inconceivable every single passenger switched off every single electronic device, and all of those devices remained passive as they flew through airspace with mobile phone towers seeking acquisition of mobile signals. There must be one or two forgetful people on board who left devices on. As the flight passed back over Malaysia, and in the event it went north, the mobile devices would acquire signals from ground towers, and vice versa ...

My understanding is that even if mobile phones are switched off, they still ping the nearest tower to seek to acquire a network. This ping leaves a trace. You would only need 2 or 3 pings from different towers to get the trending course of the aircraft. Were it flying out of range and into the Indian Ocean, then the lack of any cell phone activity is not necessarily ominous. The lack of cell phone activity closer to land would be more ominous though for the passengers ...

A number of these cell phone and their IDs must already be known- for instance those of the crew. What is being done to track these phones? They would most likely be switched off, but even then still pinging the nearest towers. They must have data of this when the flight crossed back over Malaysia at the very least.

Opening summary

Welcome to our rolling live coverage of the continuing hunt for the missing Malaysia Airways plane more than a week after it vanished with 239 people on board.
Here’s a summary of the latest developments:

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