Missing Malaysia Airlines plane search: As it happened

Malaysia Airlines has strongly defended its crew saying that airline has "no reason to believe" that any actions by the crew caused the disappearance of a jetliner.

By Ajith Vijay Kumar | Updated: Mar 13, 2014, 00:17 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Ajith Vijay Kumar and Supriya Jha

11:02 pm IST China has asked Malaysia to share all information about the missing Malaysia Airlines plane after official admission that it may have turned back and disappeared over the Straits of Malacca, according to PTI report.

"We have send requests to the Malaysian side through diplomatic channels, asking them to check up on rumours right away and inform China of all information available," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.

Malaysia time 11:20pm/9:05pm IST: Nations` reluctance to share information about their military radar capabilities may be one of the reason hindering the search mission of the missing Boeing 777 jet, says an aviation expert David Gleave, who has also been a former air crash investigator.

According to the Telegraph, David Gleave says that the missing jet might have been tracked by many nations like Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, etc, but they might be unwilling to share the confidential information about their military calibre, hence hampering the hunt.

"We have an area of relatively high tension politically, so we have Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, Singapore - could all have their radars working but we don`t know what they`ve seen, and one reason for not saying what they`ve seen is that it would be to declare their military capability to the other people around them," the Telegraph quoted David Gleave as saying.

Malaysia time 10:45pm/8:30pm IST: Malaysian Prime Minister`s special envoy to China Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting said that the Civil Aviation Departments of China and Malaysia have agreed to share any first hand information on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, reported the Strait Times.

A meeting was held between Malaysia and China to coordinate matters relating to the passengers` families, the envoy said.

Malaysia time 10:21pm/8:06pm IST: As a massive search and rescue mission to hunt the Boeing 777 remains fruitless, reports emerged that the US regulators had months ago warned about the glitches that might attack Boeing 777s.

The experts had warned of a "cracking and corrosion" problem on Boeing 777s that could lead to a mid-air breakup and drastic drop in cabin pressure, reported the AFP.

"We are issuing this AD (Airworthiness Directive) to detect and correct cracking and corrosion in the fuselage skin, which could lead to rapid decompression and loss of structural integrity of the airplane," the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Also read: US regulators warned of problems on Boeing 777s

Malaysia time 10:00pm/7:45 pm IST: Indian Air Force`s Dornier aircraft set off mid afternoon to hunt the missing jet over the eastern side of the Andaman islands.

"We were directed to take part in the search operations up to the eastern fringes of the exclusive economic zone of the Andaman islands," the AFP quoted VSR Murthy, the inspector general of the coastguard services.

"We are looking into that area for any clues to the missing airliner," he added.

 Also read: India`s coastguard joins search for missing Malaysia plane

Malaysia time 9: 15pm/7:00 pm IST: After a series of statements that were discounted later, Malaysia`s military has now said that their military radar had plotted an unidentified aircraft to an area near Andaman and Nicobar islands at 2:15 pm on Saturday, that is, 45 minutes after the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on March 8.

However, treading cautiously, the official said it was not yet confirmed if the spotted plane was the missing Flight MH370.

In a news conference, Malaysian air force chief Rodzali Daud said that the unidentified aircraft was detected 200 miles (320 km) northwest of Penang Island off Malaysia`s west coast.

“We are still corroborating this with civilian radar to confirm whether that plot (that appeared on the military radar) belonged to the missing plane,” he told a press conference.

Malaysia time 8: 40pm/6:25 pm IST: As requested by the Malaysian authorities, the Indian Air Force aircraft are ready to start the hunt for the missing jet.

"We have kept our aircraft on standby and as soon as we get a go ahead, we are ready to take off for search operations," the PTI quoted an IAF spokesperson as saying.

The request to India for help in tracing the jet came as the search area was extended to Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

A tri-services Indian military command is stationed at Andaman and Nicobar islands with Navy and Air Force carrying out regular patrols in the area.

To scour the sea and air over the Andamans, Indian Air Force can bring into action its Dornier aircraft and Mi-17 helicopters, while the Navy can deploy the P-8I and the Tu-142 maritime surveillance aircraft.

Malaysia time 7: 25pm/5:10 pm IST: "Äll Right, Good Night" - These were the last words heard from the cockpit of the missing jet, reports said.

This last radio transmission was heard as the plane entered Vietnamese airspace. The comment is said to have been made by one of the pilots of the plane which remains missing.

Malaysia time 6 pm/3:35 pm IST: Malaysia`s Transport Minister Hishamuddin said at press conference the government`s focus remains on finding the missing jetliner MH370.

“Not found anything so far,” says the minister on the ongoing operation to search for the missing airplane.

Hishamuddin added that the search effort is unprecedented with 12 countries, 42 ships, 39 aircraft having joined search.

While the search area has been widened to the Andaman Sea, the minister said that the focus remains on South China Sea and Malacca Strait.

When quizzed about chaos in handling of the situation, Hishamuddin attributed it to speculation, while also confirming reports that Malaysia Airlines MH370 had turned back from its scheduled flight to Beijing.

Malaysia time 4:50 pm/2:25 pm IST: Malaysia Airlines has strongly defended its crew saying that airline has "no reason to believe" that any actions by the crew caused the disappearance of a jetliner.

Hugh Dunleavy, the commercial director of Malaysia Airlines, said the captain in charge of the flight was a very seasoned pilot with an excellent record.

"There have been absolutely no implications that we are aware of that there was anything untoward in either his behaviour or attitude," Dunleavy told Reuters in an interview.

"We have no reason to believe that there was anything, any actions, internally by the crew that caused the disappearance of this aircraft."

Dunleavy said he was sceptical of a report by a South African woman who said the co-pilot of the missing plane, Farid Ab Hamid, had invited her and a female travelling companion to sit in the cockpit during a flight two years ago, in an apparent breach of security.

The airline earlier said it was taking seriously the report by the woman, Jonti Roos, who said in an interview with Australia`s Channel Nine TV that she and her friend were invited to fly in the cockpit by Fariq and the pilot of a flight between Phuket, Thailand, and Kuala Lumpur in December 2011.

Malaysia time 4:40 pm/2:15 pm IST: With the search area widening further, China has decided to abandon the search over land and focus on searches at sea.

Malaysia time 4:10 pm/1:45 pm IST: Even as near and dear ones of the passengers of Malaysia Airlines MH370 spend anxious moments hoping for a miracle, the Malaysian authorities have come under fire for mishandling the crisis.

From incompetence in handling a search operation of this scale to being uncommunicative about the actual status of the search, the authorities have been accused of bungling the probe, with some analysts even accusing them of not focusing on the right areas to search for the missing airliner.

Malaysia time 3:15 pm/12.50 pm IST Malaysia has sought India`s help to the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner as the search expanded to cover an area stretching from China to the Andaman Sea.

Malaysia time 2:30 pm/11:50 am IST: The search operation is well into its fifth day. Tens of ships, aircraft and satellites have sieved through the entire Malayan peninsula, Strait of Malacca and South China Sea without success.

The families of the those on board are angry over lack of clear answers from the Malaysian authorities and the fears that the search and rescue operation is in disarray.

Also read: Timeline - The search for missing Malaysian jet

Malaysia time 13:30 pm/ 10:50 am IST: John Brennan, director of the US Central Intelligence Agency says that terror angle in the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight cannot be ruled out.

Yesterday, Interpol had said that it does not believe the disappearance of the plane was the result of a terrorist attack. Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble also suggested that two men who boarded using stolen passports and had aroused suspicion may have been smuggled by traffickers.

Earlier, the faint hope that was aroused after reports claimed, yesterday, that the last radar contact with the plane with 239 souls on board was at a location in the middle of the Malacca Strait – hundreds of miles from the plane`s scheduled flight path to Beijing that passes over the South China Sea – was quashed on Wednesday after Malaysian Air Force denied that the plane was tracked to the waters between Malaysia and the Sumatra island of Indonesia.

However, Air Force chief Rodzali Daud did confirm that the plane might have turned back. As per reports, the plane continued to show up on military radars after it blinked off the civilian ones.

Also read: Experts slam Malaysia`s struggle to chart MH370 crisis

Given the decision to widen the search area, with India also joining the multi-national effort to trace the missing plane, and conducting sorties over the Andaman Sea, the authorities seem to be still working on the possibility of the plane entering the Malacca Strait. One of the world`s busiest shipping channels, the Strait of Malacca runs along Malaysia`s west coast, while South China Sea is north-east to the Kuala Lumpur.

Also read: Missing Malaysian jet: 600,000 scan satellites images for clues

If the theory suggesting that the plane headed towards west is to to hold weight then it would undermine the position that something catastrophic happened at 1:30 am (local time) on Saturday when the plane was cruising at 35,000 feet over the shallow waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

The transponder on the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft stopped sending details about its position to the air traffic control 40 minutes into the six hour flight to Beijing.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese authorities have withdrew from the search today after the Malacca theory surfaced. Reports also claimed that Vietnam’s deputy transport minister Pham Quy Tien has complained that a Malaysia was not providing sufficient `information`.

In their efforts to explain the plane`s disappearance, authorities have not ruled out anything and are probing all possible angles - hijacking, sabotage or mechanical failure.

Also read: No reason to think crew caused jet`s disappearance: Malaysia Airlines
Even as the near and dear ones of the passengers maintain a tense vigil, hoping against hope for a miracle, Malaysia has fast-tracked visa approval process for the kith and kin of the passengers who wish to be at Kuala Lumpur.

The majority of the passengers on the plane were ethnic Chinese.

Given the complexity and the size of the search area, it may take days before the plane is tracked down.

It had taken five days to identify the floating wreckage of the an Air France Flight 447, which disappeared over the Atlantic in 2009.

Hope the story of Malaysia Airlines MH370 be different.