Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Jet ‘hijacking’ began soon after take-off

 

Flight MH370 was deliberately diverted as part of an audacious plan – and the jet was still flying seven-and-a-half-hours after take-off.

In the most dramatic development since the Boeing 777 went missing a week ago, it emerged that the malicious act began shortly after take-off from Kuala Lumpur.

The aircraft, with 239 passengers and crew on board, lost contact with air-traffic controllers on a flight from the Malaysian capital to Beijing early last Saturday morning.

One week after Malaysia Airlines announced the flight’s disappearance, the authorities finally revealed what they know. Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, said “with a high degree of certainty” that the aircraft was deliberately flown thousands of miles off course. From the information he provided, it appears that the jet may have reached as far as the Caspian Sea.

 

Air-traffic controllers lost voice contact with the flight deck when the aircraft was over the South China Sea, midway between Peninsular Malaysia and the southern tip of Vietnam. But the prime minister revealed that one communications system - known as ACARS, and used for data transmission – had been disabled significantly earlier in the flight. It was switched off while the plane was still flying over Malaysian territory north of Kuala Lumpur. Radio contact with at least one of the pilots took place after the data transmission system was turned off.

The aircraft’s transponder, which provides identification data and also handles the aircraft’s “hi-jack alarm”, is believed to have been switched off while the aircraft was over the South China Sea.

The revelations indicate that whoever was directing the plane – whether a hijacker or one of the pilots – had a plan; if the aim was to destroy the aircraft, it could simply have been downed at once.

The information about the duration of the flight came from satellite data provided by the London-based company, Inmarsat. Yesterday it emerged that electronic “pings” from the aircraft continued for over five hours after all other contact was lost. Evidence from Malaysia’s air force corroborated the theory that the plane turned from its north-north-east course to head west.

The final satellite contact was at 8.11am, five-and-a-half hours after the jet’s last known position. During that time, the aircraft could have flown 3,000 miles at its normal cruising speed.

The maximum range of the Boeing 777ER aircraft type is over 8,000 miles, but the flight was carrying only enough fuel for the planned 2,700-mile flight to Beijing plus a contingency for holding and diversions.

Mr Razak said: “Due to the type of satellite data, we are unable to confirm the precise position of the plane where it last made contact.” But some geographical clues are given by the satellite contact, and as a result two new corridors of land and sea are being studied. One is the south Indian Ocean west of Indonesia, where the possible intended destinations include Mauritius and Madagascar. The other is a swathe of land stretching from northern Thailand to the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan border – on the edge of the Caspian Sea. It takes in the territory of a dozen countries, and their ambassadors have been summoned to a briefing in Kuala Lumpur.

Dozens of ships and aircraft deployed to comb the South China Sea have been stood down.

Two key questions remain. If the pilots were acting under duress, why did they not activate an emergency distress signal on the flight deck when events began? And were the crew not challenged about the disabled ACARS system?

It is believed that military surveillance may have revealed more about the plane’s movements, but for the moment, the families of the 227 passengers and 12 crew must endure yet more uncertainty.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Tax Manager / Accountant

£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing Operative

£6 - £15 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a well e...

Recruitment Genius: Data Scientist

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen