Mon, Apr 14, 2014 - Page 5 News List

No mid-air calls made by MH370 pilots: Malaysia

AFP and AP, KUALA LUMPUR and PERTH, Australia

A Royal Australian Air Force AP3C Orion flies over the British Navy’s HMS Echo at an undisclosed location in this undated handout from the British Ministry of Defense on Saturday. The HMS Echo is helping search for the data recorders from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Photo: EPA

Kuala Lumpur yesterday rejected claims that telephone calls were made from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 before it vanished, but refused to rule out any possibility in a so far fruitless investigation over the cause of the jet’s disappearance.

Quoting an anonymous source, the New Straits Times on Saturday reported that copilot Fariq Abdul Hamid made a call that ended abruptly, possibly “because the aircraft was fast moving away from the [telecommunications] tower.”

There had also been unconfirmed reports of calls by captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah before or during the flight.

Acting Malaysian Minister of Transport Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters yesterday that authorities had no knowledge of any calls made from the jet’s cockpit.

“As far as I know, no,” he said when asked if any calls had been made.

However, Hishammuddin, who is also minister of defense, added that he did not want to speculate on “the realm of the police and other international agencies” investigating the case.

“I do not want to disrupt the investigations that are being done now not only by the Malaysian police but the FBI, MI6, Chinese intelligence and other intelligence agencies,” he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Hishammuddin also said that no passenger on the plane had been cleared in the criminal investigation into the fate of the flight, clarifying an earlier indication from Malaysia’s police chief.

“The Inspector-General of Police said at that particular point in time there is nothing to find suspicion with the passenger manifesto but ... unless we find more information, specifically the data in the black box, I don’t think any chief of police will be in a position to say they have been cleared,” the minister said.

The police chief has clarified that passengers had not categorically been cleared since the investigation is ongoing.

Fariq and Zaharie have come under intense scrutiny since the plane vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board on March 8, and there is still no clue as to the cause of the disappearance.

Investigators last month indicated that the flight was deliberately diverted and its communication systems manually switched off as it was leaving Malaysian airspace, triggering a criminal investigation by police which has revealed little so far.

A number of theories have been put forward, including hijacking, a terrorist plot or a pilot gone rogue, with authorities grasping at straws as to the fate of the plane without crucial data from the jet’s “black box” and no wreckage found.

Several sonic “pings” which authorities have said are consistent with airplane data recorders have been detected by ships in the search area in the Indian Ocean, off the west coast of Australia.

However, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre, which is leading the search, yesterday said that another 24 hours had passed without a confirmed signal.

No new pings have been heard since Tuesday last week and the batteries powering the locator beacons on the recorders may already be dead, since they only last about a month and that window has passed. Once officials are confident no more sounds will be heard, a robotic submersible will be sent down.

Despite having no new pings to go on, crews were yesterday continuing their search for debris and any sounds that could still be emanating.

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