Malaysia Airlines says it believes the last words heard from missing flight MH370 “all right good night” were spoken by the first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid.
The update at the end of Day 10 of the search for the Boeing 777-200ER and its 239 passengers and crew was told that the disconnection of the automated ACARS status update system did not necessarily happen on the last transmission it sent at 1.07 am local time 8 March, 27 minutes after the flight took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.
In yet another puzzling change of the official narrative, acting transport minister and minister of defence Hishammuddin Hussein revised the time of loss of communications with MH370 from 1.30 am local to 1.19 am, which would be two minutes before the last confirmed radar contact with the airliner that used a transponder to identify it to air traffic control system.
To recap, the official chronology at least until the next update appears to be that at 1.07 am the last (and unremarkable) ACARS transmission was sent from MH370, and that system was subsequently disabled at a time unknown but not later than 1.37, when ACARS was next to report. This disabling of ACARS uploads didn’t prevent that system sending standby signals to a geostationary Inmarsat satellite over the western Indian Ocean for as long as MH370 remained in flight or on the ground with electrical power running.
At 1.19 the last communication with MH370 was heard by Malaysia ATC which closed with the co-pilot (the airline believes) saying “all right good night”.
At 1.22 the last positive radar identification of the 777 was made using the transponder which identifies jets to air traffic control systems. Following this MH370 did not make its expected contact with Vietnam’s air traffic control system.
Up until that time MH370 had appeared to be on track, crossing the Gulf of Thailand from Malaysia to Vietnam en route to a South China Sea corridor leading to northern China and Beijing.
It was at this point the Malaysia authorities now say they are convinced that the course of the flight was deliberately altered, and it flew across the Malaysia peninsula and out into the northern approach to the Straits of Malacca disappearing toward the Andaman Sea as a primary or unidentifed trace on military radar.
The transponder must have been disabled very shortly after 1.22 as no more transponder identified radar contacts were visible on either Malaysian or Vietnamese ATC screens.
These unexplained changes in timings by minister Hishammuddin Hussein threw the media update into a state of confusion for those reporters who have been trying to find consistent sense in the official narrative since regular updates began soon after MH370 ‘vanished’ from regular ATC tracking systems.
Fresh versions of the map of the southern and northern arcs calculated as being the lines along which the last ‘standby’ signal from MH370 was sent at 8.11 am local, or after it had been in the air for 7 hours 31 minutes were also distributed.
The southern zone now starts slight further east in Indonesia and appears to end deeper in the mid southern Indian Ocean. The northern zone or corridor runs from Laos to the Caspian Sea.
The media were told that at the time the Inmarsat over the Indian Ocean received the last last standby ping from MH370 it was estimated to have about 30 minutes of fuel left, meaning the fuel load on departure from KL had been enough for eight hours of flight, which at that time of year was a prudent load to cope with statutory reserves and possible late winter diversions as it approached northern China.
The conference cast no more light on the missing standby ping traces that most observers believe the authorites must have covering the period up until the last such ping at 8.11 local time on 8 March.
However there was no evidence from searching telco records that any passengers on MH370 had attempted to make calls from the jet.
Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that no distress signal had been found from MH370, no claims of responsibility for its disappearance had been received and no ransom demands had been made.
He added there was “always hope” that the missing 777 is intact.