MISSING Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was deliberately flown off course after someone on board manually disabled the Boeing 777s communications with air traffic control.
Speaking to the world’s media for the first time since the airliner mysteriously vanished, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday confirmed “deliberate action” was taken on board the aircraft to alter its direction.
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He said the search for MH370 had entered a new phase after new satellite evidence surfaced, shedding fresh light on the disappearance and leading to two new search zones, including one off the coast of Western Australia.
“Based on new satellite communication, we can say with a high degree of certainty, that the aircraft communications addressing and reporting system was disabled just before the aircraft reached the east coast of peninsular Malaysia,” Mr Razak said.
“Shortly afterwards near the border, between Malaysia and Vietnamese air traffic control, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.
“From this point onwards, the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s primary radar data showed that an aircraft, which was believed but not confirmed to be MH370, did indeed turn back,” he said.
“It then flew in a westerly direction, back over peninsular Malaysia before turning north west.
“Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.
“Based on raw satellite data, which was obtained from the satellite data service provider, we can confirm that the aircraft shown in the primary radar data was flight MH370.”
Mr Razak said the new data revealed the last confirmed communication between the plane and a satellite was at 8.11am Malaysian time on Saturday March 8 – almost seven hours after first losing contact with air traffic control.
He said the new information had a significant impact on the nature and scope of the search operation.
Based on the new data, authorities have determined that the plane’s last communication with a satellite was in one of two possible corridors; a northern corridor stretching approximately from border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia south to the southern Indian Ocean – off the Western Australian coast.
“We are ending our operations in the South China Sea and reassessing the redeployment of our assets,” Mr Razak said.
The Courier Mail reported a source cited by Bloomberg news agency said the last satellite transmission from the airliner had been traced to the Indian Ocean off Australia, somewhere to the west of Perth.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) told Perth Now that at this stage, there was no reliable information indicating MH370 may have entered the Australia search and rescue region.
In light of the latest development, Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the 239 crew and passengers on board.
“Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path,” Mr Razak said.
“For the family and friends of those involved, we hope this new information brings this one step closer to finding the plane.”
Among those on board the flight are six Australian’s, including two Queensland couples.
The passenger jet vanished over waters between Malaysia and southern Vietnam after its communication with air traffic control was cut within an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on the night of March 8.
No distress signal was received.