Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Mystery deepens March 11 , 2014 -- Malaysian police are investigating whether hijacking, sabotage, or the crew and passengers' personal or psychological problems could be to blame for flight MH370's disappearance, they said on Tuesday...... Today's shocker -- The Malaysian military believes the missing plane flew for more than an hour after vanishing from air traffic control screens, changing course and travelling west over the Strait of Malacca, a senior military source told Reuters.

Stranger and stranger by the day .....


Chinese anger mounts over missing plane
By Radio Free Asia

Family members and friends of Chinese passengers on a missing Malaysia Airlines flight expressed mounting frustration as the international search for the Beijing-bound aircraft widened.

Amid the public furor, China's state-run media lashed out at the Malaysian authorities and the national airline over their handling of the missing jetliner with 153 Chinese on board.

Colleagues of some of the Chinese among 227 passengers aboard flight MH370 say they have been unable to get through on the airline's external contact number since the plane disappeared from radar somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam after leaving the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

"I have been trying to call Malaysia Airlines ... all weekend but it's hard to get through," Zheng Wenshan, whose Chinese colleagues at a painting and calligraphy exhibit in Kuala Lumpur are among those missing, was quoted as saying by Radio Free Asia. "Nobody picks up on the weekend." 

"I haven't been able to get through this whole time," Zheng said, still hoping for good news about the other members of his group, whom he last saw at Kuala Lumpur's International Airport before he boarded separate flight home to Shanghai after the event.

"I still want them to come home, and I hope every day that they will trace [the plane]," he said. "But the current situation means I am no longer confident."

Malaysia Airlines said a response coordination center will be established once the aircraft is located. The airline was also expected to fly relatives of the passengers from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

While the desperate search for the Boeing 777 jet expanded across a 50-nautical-mile (92-kilometer) radius area around where the plane was last contacted, no definitive traces of wreckage or passengers who were en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing have been sighted. Xinhua quoted a Vietnamese official that it was unlikely that the missing Malaysian jet would be found.

Malaysian civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said investigators were extending their search to a radius of 100 nautical miles, up from 50 nautical miles from the last known position of Flight 370, covering land on the Malaysian peninsula, the waters off its west coast and an area to the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

But the more than 30 search aircraft and 40 ships drafted into the search operation have still found no sign of the flight, baffling experts around the world.

Pointing the finger
Chinese authorities have pointed the finger at Kuala Lumpur over the lack of information.

"The Malaysian side cannot shirk its responsibilities," the tabloid Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said in an editorial on Monday. "The initial response from Malaysia was not swift enough," it said.

A team of Chinese officials from government ministries headed for Malaysia on Monday, to offer support to the search operation and to relatives of Chinese passengers.

Earlier, tests on oil slicks and suspected aircraft debris in the South China Sea, near where the plane disappeared from the radar, showed they were unconnected to the flight.

"The search operation is still under way, and there has been no evidence to indicate the location of the missing flight MH370," a Malaysian Airlines spokesman told Radio Free Asia on Monday evening.

He said not all the relatives of those on board had been located by the airline.

"There are still some [who haven't been contacted]," the spokesman said. "For the latest updates, people can check our official website."

Mystery cause

Questions are being asked over possible security lapses and whether the flight was a target of a bomb, hijacking, or terrorist attack after at least two of the passengers were found to have traveled on stolen passports.

Wong Dong, a Macau-based Chinese military analyst, said the fact that MH370 disappeared so rapidly suggested it could have blown up in mid-flight.

"The plane disappeared very suddenly from the radar, so much so that there was no time to send a distress call," Wong said. "The biggest likelihood is that it exploded and disintegrated in mid-air."

"[I] believe that the likelihood of a terrorist attack is very large."

US and European government sources close to the investigation told Reuters that neither Malaysia's Special Branch, the agency leading the investigation locally, nor their own spy agencies have ruled out the possibility that militants may have been involved in downing Flight 370.

In detailed analysis of the the two passengers who boarded with stolen passports, the Financial Times found that the duo may have been aiming to illegally emigrate to Europe and may have been on the Malaysia Airlines flight by a quirk of ticketing. It is still unclear how the two passengers using their documents managed to board the flight.

US officials have said that an FBI team sent to help investigate the passengers has found no evidence so far of a terrorist attack. Agence-France Presse reported that plane-maker Boeing has joined a US National Transportation Safety Board team already in Southeast Asia, acting as technical adviser.

Nothing ruled out
Malaysian aviation chief Azharuddin, asked whether it was possible the plane had been hijacked or disintegrated mid-air, said the authorities were ruling nothing out.

"We are looking at every aspect of what could have happened," he told reporters. "This unprecedented missing aircraft mystery - it is mystifying and we are increasing our efforts to do what we have to do."

In Beijing, scores of tearful relatives lined up to apply for visas to travel to Malaysia to be closer to rescue operations, although others said they would not go while so much remained unknown.

"There is more we can do here in China," one woman told Agence France-Presse. "They haven't even found the plane yet."

A team of Chinese officials from government ministries headed for Malaysia on Monday to offer support to the search operation and to relatives of Chinese passengers.

Malaysian officials have said there was a possibility that Flight 370 may have inexplicably turned back towards Kuala Lumpur.

The plane, captained by a veteran pilot, had relayed no indications of distress, and weather at the time was said to be good.

Mystery deepens: Missing Malaysian jet reportedly flew hundreds of miles in the wrong direction


And by “wrong direction,” I mean the opposite direction. It was headed north to Beijing, then suddenly the transponder was switched off and it swung all the way around to the left until it was flying southwest, where it continued on for 350 miles. It didn’t blow up in mid-air.
Which, it seems, means one of two things. Could be that the pilot, for unknown reasons, decided he had to turn around and try to make it back to the airport at Kuala Lumpur, then simply flew off course. In that case, though, why would he turn off the transponder — and, presumably, the other navigation equipment? If the equipment malfunctioned, how did the plane manage to fly hundreds of miles after the malfunction?
Alternate theory: It was hijacked. Police are skeptical about terrorism here, though. They’ve all but ruled out involvement by the two Iranians who were carrying stolen passports. Evidently that’s not uncommon on flights in southeast Asia.
Could the pilots have done it deliberately? Why?
“It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait,” the senior military officer, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters…
Malaysia’s Berita Harian newspaper quoted air force chief Rodzali Daud as saying the plane was last detected at 2.40 a.m. by military radar near the island of Pulau Perak at the northern end of the Strait of Malacca. It was flying about 1,000 meters lower than its previous altitude, he was quoted as saying…
The effect of turning off the transponder is to make the aircraft inert to secondary radar, so civil controllers cannot identify it. Secondary radar interrogates the transponder and gets information about the plane’s identity, speed and height.
It would however still be visible to primary radar, which is used by militaries.
Lots of mini-mysteries here. Why did it take the Malaysian military four days to let everyone know that the jet didn’t vanish south of Vietnam, as the world had been led to believe? Why were they searching in that area at all? More importantly, is it even true that the plane made it all the way back to the Strait of Malacca? According to the NYT, no:
Adding to the confusion, Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, spokesman for the prime minister’s office, said in a telephone interview that he had checked with senior military officials, who told him there was no evidence that the plane had recrossed the Malaysian peninsula, only that it may have attempted to turn back.
“As far as they know, except for the air turn-back, there is no new development,” Mr. Tengku Sariffuddin, adding that the reported remarks by the air force chief were “not true.”
Malaysia Airlines, meanwhile, offered a third, conflicting account. In a statement, the airline said authorities were “looking at a possibility” that the plane was headed to Subang, an airport outside Kuala Lumpur that handles mainly domestic flights.
Follow the last link and scroll down to the Times’s map to see how far apart the old search area and the new search area are. Yet another mini-mystery: Is it significant that some of the passengers’ cell phones were still online as of Sunday afternoon? NBC says no, not really. WaPo seems more intrigued:
One of the most eerie rumors came after a few relatives said they were able to call the cellphones of their loved ones or find them on a Chinese instant messenger service called QQ that indicated that their phones were still somehow online.
A migrant worker in the room said that several other workers from his company were on the plane, including his brother-in-law. Among them, the QQ accounts of three still showed that they were online, he said Sunday afternoon.
Adding to the mystery, other relatives in the room said that when they dialed some passengers’ numbers, they seemed to get ringing tones on the other side even though the calls were not picked up.
Were there no working onboard-phones on a modern jet like the Boeing 777? If it was a hijacking and the passengers knew it, someone would have called someone, no? Either they didn’t know or the plane crashed somewhere before they figured it out.
Here’s your thread for irresponsible speculation. If you want to help look for evidence of the jet in the Strait of Malacca, ABC says this site is the place to be.


Malacca Straits

The Malaysian military believes the missing plane flew for more than an hour after vanishing from air traffic control screens, changing course and travelling west over the Strait of Malacca, a senior military source told Reuters.
Malaysian authorities have previously said flight MH370 disappeared about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for the Chinese capital Beijing.
At the time it was roughly midway between Malaysia’s east coast town of Kota Bharu and the southern tip of Vietnam, flying at 35,000 ft.

“It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait,” the military official, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.

The Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, runs along Malaysia’s west coast.

Earlier on Tuesday, Malaysia’s Berita Harian newspaper quoted air force chief Rodzali Daud as saying the Malaysia Airlines plane was last detected by military radar at 2:40 a.m. on Saturday, near the island of Pulau Perak at the northern end of the Strait of Malacca. It was flying at a height of about 9,000 metres (29,500 ft), he was quoted as saying.

A non-military source familiar with the investigations said the report was being checked.

“This report is being investigated by the DCA (Department of Civil Aviation) and the search and rescue team,” the source said. “There are a lot of such reports.”

The time given by Rodzali was an hour and 10 minutes after the plane vanished from air traffic control screens over Igari waypoint, midway between Malaysia and Vietnam.
There was no word on what happened to the plane thereafter.
If the reports from the military are verified, it would mean the plane was able to maintain a cruising altitude and flew for about 500 km (350 miles) with its transponder and other tracking systems apparently switched off.

Malaysia has extended the massive search operation for the plane to the Malacca Strait after initially focusing on the South China Sea.

An Indonesia air force officer shows a map of Malacca Straits during a briefing prior to a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.
An Indonesia air force officer shows a map of Malacca Straits during a briefing prior to a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777. Photograph: Binsar Bakkara/AP

As the Malaysian authorities probe the psychological background of the crew and passengers, the Australian media reports that the co-pilot on the missing flight had a lax attitude to security.
Melbourne’s Herald Sun has published photographs of Fariq Abdul Hamid posing with tourists in the cockpit on a previous international flight
It reports:

In a worrying lapse of security, it’s been revealed pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid and his colleague broke Malaysia Airline rules when they invited passengers Jonti Roos and Jaan Maree to join them in the cabin for the one-hour flight from Phuket to Kuala Lumpur.
Ms Roos, who is travelling around Australia, told A Current Affair she and Ms Maree posed for pictures with the pilots, who smoked cigarettes during the midair rendez-vous.
“Throughout the entire flight they were talking to us and they were actually smoking throughout the flight which I don’t think they’re allowed to do,” Ms Roos said.

New image of passengers

Interpol released a new image of the two Iranians travelling on the stolen passports.
The bearded man at the front is Delavar Syed Mohammad Reza who is believed to have used a stolen passport that had belonged to Italian Luigi Maraldi. 
The man at the rear is 19-year-old Pouri Nour Mohammadi, named by Malaysian authorities as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, who is believed to have boarded the missing jet on a stolen passport that had belong to 61-year-old Austrian Christian Kozel. 

View image on Twitter
IMAGE: MH370 passengers who travelled on passports previously declared stolen and recorded in INTERPOL's databases.

Noble also said that Interpol believes that no other suspect passports were used to board the plane apart from the ones used by the two Iranians. 

SG Noble: INTERPOL does not believe there are any additional suspect passports used to board

Interpol: suspect passengers 'probably not terrorists'

Noble played down speculation that the two Iranians were terrorists. “There has been great speculation about whether or not this was a terrorist attack,” he told reporters. 
The Interpol chief added: “Already in the last 24 hours you see the story changing as the belief becomes more certain that these individuals were probably not terrorists.”
He later added that he was inclined to thing the disappearance of the plane was not a terrorist incident.
Reuters quoted him saying: “The more information we get, the more we are inclined to conclude it is not a terrorist incident,” said Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble.”

He also said two Iranian passport holders had swapped their passports in Kuala Lumpur and used stolen Italian and Austrian passports to board the now missing Malaysian airliner.

Psychological background

In their latest press conference the Malaysia authorities said they were looking into the psychological background of the 12 crew members on board the missing plane.
Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told the news conference that they are investigation whether passengers or crew had emotional problems.
He said: “We are looking into four areas: one, hikacking, two sabotate, three psychological problems of the passengers and crew and four personal problems among the passengers and crew.”
Reuters has more from the press conference:
Adding to the puzzle, Malaysian military radar tracking suggested it may have turned back from its scheduled route.

There was no distress signal or radio contact indicating a problem and, in the absence of any wreckage or flight data, police have been left trawling through passenger and crew lists for potential leads.

“Maybe somebody on the flight has bought a huge sum of insurance, who wants family to gain from it or somebody who has owed somebody so much money, you know, we are looking at all possibilities,” Bakar told a news conference.

“We are looking very closely at the video footage taken at the KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport), we are studying the behavioral pattern of all the passengers.”