Malaysian authorities have confirmed that the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER deviated from its flight path on 8 March and that the aircraft last made satellite contact at 08:11 local time, about seven hours after it disappeared from secondary air traffic control (ATC) radar.
Reading from a statement in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia prime minister Najib Razak also confirmed that a previously disclosed unidentified radar plot, picked up by military radar over the Straits of Malacca in the early hours of 8 March, belonged to MH370.
He adds that based on satellite communication, there is also “a high degree of certainty” that the aircraft’s ACARS system was disabled just before it reached the east coast of peninsula Malaysia. Shortly after, when it was near the border between Malaysia and Vietnamese ATC, the aircraft’s transponders were also switched off.
“It (the aircraft) flew in a westerly direction, back over peninsula Malaysia before turning northwest, up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage,” says Najib. “These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.”
The last confirmed contact between the missing 777 and satellites was at 08:11 Malaysia time on 8 March. The satellite data is however insufficient for authorities to confirm the precise location of the aircraft and where contact was last made.
The new information also means that MH370 flew for at least 7.5hr after it took from from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 00:41 local time on 8 March. It was due to arrive in Beijing at 06:30.
With the new data, however, authorities have identified two “possible corridors” where they believe last communication with the satellites could have been made. These are a northern corridor stretching from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Northern Thailand, or a southern corridor from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean, says Najib,
The authorities are thus ending search and rescue operations in the South China Sea and are assessing how to redeploy search assets. As of today, there are 43 vessels and 58 aircraft from 14 countries involved in search efforts.
“Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, we’re still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path. The new satellite information has significant impact on the nature and scope of our search,” says Najib. He adds that with the new information, Malaysian authorities will now also refocus attention on information regarding the crew and passengers who were aboard MH370.
MH370 was last identified on secondary civil radar at about 01:21 local time before it “disappeared altogether” nine minutes later at 01:30.