UPDATE 1-Missing Malaysian plane last seen at Strait of Malacca-source

KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:16am EDT

KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 (Reuters) - The Malaysian military believes an airliner missing for almost four days with 239 people on board 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 said.

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 (10,670 metres).

"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.

"The last time the flight was detected close to Pulau Perak, in the Melaka Straits, at 2.40 a.m. by the control tower before the signal was lost," the paper quoted Rodzali 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.

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (2)
BANWO wrote:
Fear gripped my heart! How I wish something can be done to return the entire 239 people to Malaysia. I pray…

Mar 11, 2014 12:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AircraftGuy wrote:
Flight MH370 – The more you think the more you puzzle.
We have now entered the 5th day since the flight MH370 went missing.
Scenarios have changed and so have changed the locations and techniques to find out the aircraft.

But the latest updates still raise questions that cannot be logically answered.

Fact (1)
The Vietnamese military ATC said Flight MH370 may have turned back from its last known position.

Questions raised:
Question 1. What happened first when the aircraft changed its course?
(A). Was the communication between the pilot and the ATC disconnected before the aircraft turned and sometime later the transponder went off this giving a hint to the radars of the change of course?

Possible Answers (which still lead to unanswered questions):
(1) If yes then there must be some problem in the communication system of the aircraft and after which the pilot decided to divert flight to the nearest airstrip. The transponder went off may be due to some electrical system failure. — Does a transponder has an independent power source? If no, then may be it went off due to a possible electrical failure – Although usually there are two main busses plus an emergency bus bar plus a DC bus bar. An electrical failure that powered off transponder is less likely.

If a transponder has an independent power source, then why the aircraft went undetectable?
(2) If not then it maybe a deliberate move by the pilot to change the course — What were the reasons?
An incident in 1994 on a Russian A310 springs to mind, where a Pilot placed his son in the pilot’s seat with the aircraft “safely ” set on autopilot, he then told his son to bank the aircraft; using the control column, the Pilot (Dad) altered the heading of the aircraft on the control panel letting his son think he was turning the aircraft, what Dad didn’t realise was that his son’s action on the control column had actually disengaged the autopilot and the plane was now entering an ever increasing amount of roll, the aircraft was lost with all lives onboard it also went off radar with no mayday message.
The question again why didn’t the ELT signaled and where is the debris then?

If this may not be the case, for what other reason the pilot changed the course without informing the ATC?

(B) Was the communication between the pilot and the ATC disconnected and the transponder went off at the same time?
Possible Answers (which still lead to unanswered questions):
(1) Perhaps a technical fault may have led the pilot to land safely on the nearest airstrip — If this is the case how did the radar got a glimpse of the aircraft turning off course at first place?

Question 2. Why did the aircraft turned?
(A) Was there a technical fault?

Possible Answers (which still lead to unanswered questions):
(1) If there was a technical fault and the communication was still there before the aircraft turned? Why didn’t the pilot gave a distress call?
(2) If there was a technical fault the aircraft’s ACAR system may have provided very vital information to the ground base by the time it was turning (although all the communication gone after that) — No such information revealed so far.
(3) If there was no technical fault what led the aircraft change its course? — Is it a sort of hijacking or the pilot himself did it — What could be the reasons, nobody knows.

Fact (2).
A military official, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters
“It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait,”.
This means the aircraft had communication problem since it couldn’t make any contact with the ATC.

Question 1: What happened to the transponder? Why it went off?
(1) If the transponder relies on aircraft electrical power then perhaps a failure of electrical system (which is less likely).
(2)If it has an independent power source then was it deliberately turned off? — What could be the reason of doing so?

Fact (3)
The nearest Air strip at the point where all communication was gone with the Vietnamese ATC was Subang.

Question 1: Why did the aircraft went into the straits of Malacca?
(1) perhaps the fault was navigational too.

Question 2: By now the aircraft had been crashed or landed somewhere…maybe a remote location.

(A) If it has crashed…why didn’t the ELTs signaled and where is the debris?? This pressurized cylinder cannot sank in the sea in one single piece until and unless it has landed over water. Why didn’t the ELTs and the Emergency beacons on life rafts manually turned on?

(B) But if it has landed somewhere why have they themselves NOT turned on the ELTs?

Mar 12, 2014 10:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.