The last radio transmission from the cockpit of missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was: “Alright, good night,” it emerged in Beijing yesterday as relatives of the missing passengers clamored for information.
The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing vanished early on Saturday without making a distress call and no confirmed wreckage has been found, despite a vast search.
A total of 153 of the 239 people on board the aircraft are Chinese, and Malaysian officials spoke to passengers’ relatives and friends at a hotel in the Chinese capital.
Malaysian Ambassador to China Iskandar Sarudin said one of the pilots said: “Alright, good night” as the flight switched from Malaysian to Vietnamese airspace, according to Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper.
Later, Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation Director-General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman confirmed that those were the last words from the cockpit.
The ambassador also defended the crew, according to the Straits Times, after an Australian TV report said that co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, violated airline rules in 2011 by allowing two young South African women into the cockpit during a flight.
Relatives said the event had been “orderly,” in contrast with a meeting with Chinese officials on Monday, when reports said family members hurled abuse at government representatives.
Some attacked Beijing’s own response as the crisis entered its fifth day.
“I think the Chinese government needs to be more active with this,” said a man surnamed Zhang, whose daughter was on the plane coming back from a business trip.
Beijing has emphasized through state-run media that it is waging an “all-out effort” to locate the aircraft.
Eight Chinese ships are taking part and Beijing has expanded the area of its search, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) said yesterday.
State media have said as many as 10 Chinese satellites are being deployed in the effort, but users of China’s hugely popular microblogs lashed out at a Xinhua new agency picture showing the chief of China’s maritime search-and-rescue center sitting at a desk and speaking on the telephone.
“What decade is it, that they’re still taking these kinds of photos? Is it to prove that the leaders are keeping busy?” one user asked.
Others expressed frustration with the failure to find the aircraft.
“It’s been nearly 96 hours since MH370 lost contact, and 10 countries have joined the search-and-rescue effort, but they still haven’t found any traces of the lost aircraft,” one user wrote.
At the hotel, relatives said they were now ready to accept payments of 31,000 yuan (US$5,000) which the airline had earlier described as “comfort” money, provided during “difficult times.”
They had earlier asked for the terms to be reviewed, but one said: “I don’t think this is an issue anymore for most of us.”
A copy of the acceptance form seen says: “The airline offers the money out of kindness and it will not offset any final compensation.”
Some of the family members have traveled to Malaysia to be closer to the search, but most have not.
“I am not sleeping or eating well,” one said. “I am not thinking of going to Malaysia. What can I do there? I would rather stay in my own country.”