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Investigator: Missing plane flew over Malaysia in potential 'act of piracy'



By EILEEN NG and JOAN LOWY

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Investigators are increasingly certain the missing Malaysian Airlines jet turned back across the country after its last radio contact with air traffic controllers, and that someone with aviation skills was responsible for the change in course, a Malaysian government official said Friday.

A U.S. official said in Washington that investigators are examining the possibility of "human intervention" in the plane's disappearance, adding it may have been "an act of piracy." The official, who wasn't authorized to talk to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity, said it also was possible the plane may have landed somewhere.

While other theories are still being examined, the official said key evidence for the human intervention is that contact with the Boeing 777's transponder stopped about a dozen minutes before a messaging system on the jet quit.

The Malaysian official, who also declined to be identified because he is not authorized to brief the media, said only a skilled person could navigate the plane the way it was flown after its last confirmed location over the South China Sea.

Earlier Friday, acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the country had yet to determine what happened to the plane after it dropped off civilian radar and ceased communicating with the ground around 40 minutes into the flight to Beijing on March 8.

He said investigators were still trying to establish with certainty that military radar records of a blip moving west across the Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca showed Flight MH370.

"I will be the most happiest person if we can actually confirm that it is the MH370, then we can move all (search) assets from the South China Sea to the Strait of Malacca," he told reporters. Until then, he said, the international search effort would continue expanding east and west from the plane's last confirmed location.

The Malaysian official said it had now been established with a "more than 50 percent" degree of certainty that military radar had picked up the missing plane.

On Thursday, a U.S. official said the plane remained airborne after losing contact with air traffic control, sending a signal to establish contact with a satellite. The Malaysian official confirmed this, referring to the process by its technical term of a "handshake."

Boeing offers a satellite service that can receive a stream of data on how an aircraft is functioning in flight and relay the information to the plane's home base. Malaysia Airlines didn't subscribe to that service, but the plane still had the capability to connect with the satellite and was automatically sending signals, or pings, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the situation by name.

Hishammuddin said the government would only release information about the signals when they were verified.

"I hope within a couple of days to have something conclusive," he told a news conference.

Malaysia has faced accusations it isn't sharing all its information or suspicions about the plane's final movements. It insists it is being open, and says it would be irresponsible to narrow the focus of the search until there is undeniable evidence of the plane's flight path.

No theory has been ruled out in one of modern aviation's most puzzling mysteries.

But it now appears increasingly certain the plane didn't experience a catastrophic incident over the South China Sea as was initially seen as the most likely scenario. Some experts believe it is possible that one of the pilots, or someone with flying experience, hijacked the plane for some later purpose or committed suicide by plunging the aircraft into the sea.

Mike Glynn, a committee member of the Australian and International Pilots Association, said he considers pilot suicide to be the most likely explanation for the disappearance, as was suspected in a SilkAir crash during a flight from Singapore to Jakarta in 1997 and an EgyptAir flight in 1999.

"A pilot rather than a hijacker is more likely to be able to switch off the communications equipment," Glynn said. "The last thing that I, as a pilot, want is suspicion to fall on the crew, but it's happened twice before."

Glynn said a pilot may have sought to fly the plane into the Indian Ocean to reduce the chances of recovering data recorders, and to conceal the cause of the disaster.

Scores of aircraft and ships from 12 countries are involved in the search, which reaches into the eastern stretches of the South China Sea and on the western side of the Malay Peninsula, northwest into the Andaman Sea and the India Ocean.

India said it was using heat sensors on flights over hundreds of uninhabited Andaman Sea islands Friday and would expand the search for the missing jet farther west into the Bay of Bengal, more than 1,600 kilometers (100 miles) to the west of the plane's last known position. Spokesman Col. Harmit Singh of India's Tri-Services Command said it began land searches after sweeping seas to the north, east and south of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

A team of five U.S. officials with air traffic control and radar expertise - three from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and two from the Federal Aviation Administration - has been in Kuala Lumpur since Monday to assist with the investigation.

___

Lowy reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma in New Delhi, Jim Gomez in Kuala Lumpur, Tran V. Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam, Thanyarat Doksone in Bangkok, and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.


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caddowolf March 14 2014 at 4:44 PM

Has anyone seen a passenger manifest?

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1 reply
East Coast Video caddowolf March 14 2014 at 4:52 PM

Gee... no. Why do you think that's important?

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sscottohio March 14 2014 at 4:18 PM

One thing no one has touched on yet is that they would also have to have brought something on board to jam cell phone signals too. I'm sure the majority of those passengers had cell phones and unless they jammed the signals certainly one of the passengers would have made an outgoing call to a family member or someone if they were being hijacked. With hundreds of flights crossing the areas in question, another commercial aircraft should have seen it and should have questioned air traffic control about why it wasn't showing on their radar. So many scenarios and little details have to be looked into. If they are on the ground, it has to be a private airport where there are no customs officials and no air traffic control tower because you just can't land a plane that size and have it go unnoticed.

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2 replies
spragler20 sscottohio March 14 2014 at 4:25 PM

It's funny, I just posted something similar about the cell phones.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
aussiedog sscottohio March 14 2014 at 4:26 PM

You realize cell phones do NOT work without cell towers to connect to. And as far as I know, airborne at altitude rules out connecting to any ground based cell towers. And there are no cell towers out at sea (once you get beyond the coast and land based towers you have no cell service).

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keith3646 March 14 2014 at 4:17 PM

If this plane was truely flying 100's of miles from it's assigned or registered flight path, might it have been considered as a renegade spy plane, and possibly shot down? Especially if it was not communicating with anyone on the ground as to it's identity. We have to ask ourselves what country would be suspicious of an aircraft it simply could not identify? More questions without good answers...

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Linda March 14 2014 at 3:25 PM

I wonder if it is possible that Maylasia "knows" where that plane is and is talking to the hijackers in private, and were told NOT to give out any information or the passengers would be killed, and they are trying to work out a deal to get them back. It just seems so strange, that there is no indication it is in the water, or that it crashed on land some place. If that happened, someone would have reported a jet liner down in their city. This is really strange. I hope those people are still alive.

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Drc4sas March 14 2014 at 4:17 PM

This plane was obviously shot down by the Chinese while doing their naval manuevers. They are forcing the US govt. to keep quiet to maintain China/US relationship such as it is. The reason I say the US is that we are the only country using the new Nexgen satalite system to track all airliners so we are the only ones that also know the truth. I expect the Chinese govt. will be crashing a random plane into the Indian ocean and claiming that is the missing plane. Think about it there is no possible way to lose an airplane with all the technology.

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kay March 14 2014 at 3:25 PM

Isn't that the same thing as "hijacking"??

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fli2c March 14 2014 at 3:25 PM

WHAT ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MAN FROM PERTH? WHO WAS GOING TO A NEW JOB IN MONGOLIA?, WHO LEFT EVERYTHING TO HIS WIFE AND SONS??????????????? THE INTERVIEW ON CNN/HEADLINE NEWS LAST WEEK WITH HIS WIFE; THERE WAS MANY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HER AND THE INTERVIEWER. SHE ACTED LIKE SHE WAS HIDING SOMETHING FROM THE WORLD. RAMBLED ON AND ON FOR TOO LONG WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING REVELANT TO THE SITUATION. COME ON AUSTRALIAN POLICE, THERE IS A PRIME SUSPECT.

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2 replies
Cee fli2c March 14 2014 at 3:37 PM

While you do make a good point, what sort of ******* would you be if you are wrongfully accusing this potentially grieving wife. If you are correct in your assumption, it could be that the wife had no knowledge of his intentions. I found it very bizarre that he would remove his wedding ring before traveling. This is not normal behavior in any culture (that I know of).

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lcranberry1 fli2c March 14 2014 at 3:42 PM

I agree. There too much coincidence there and someone should investigate the background if that
Australian passenger.

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Patrice March 14 2014 at 3:25 PM

I cannot believe all the people on here making crass remarks and joking about this situation - whatever happened - the outcome as it stands is that 239 people have disappeared and left behind families who are heartbroken and devastated not to mention whatever has happened could have further implications down the road...

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1 reply
Claudia Patrice March 14 2014 at 3:51 PM

Patrice, I agree. What the heck is wrong with some of these people!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
papabudlight March 14 2014 at 3:28 PM

That aircraft landed somewhere. Just hope they don't harm the passenger's.

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2 replies
Anthony papabudlight March 14 2014 at 3:38 PM

there dead alreaddy.

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gaby.grass papabudlight March 14 2014 at 3:57 PM

Landed somewhere ? That airplane needs a runway of least 11000 feet for landing; don't you think that some one would have noticed ??? This was not a Glider, jet engines are very noisy !

Flag Reply +3 rate up
paintlineranch March 14 2014 at 3:29 PM

Guess I have wrong in thinking every plane can be detected anywhere. That is Scarry,,to know know someone could hijack another plane and it disappear.

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