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Officials 'convinced' two communications systems on missing jet were deliberately shut off 14-minutes apart as it emerges aircraft DID keep 'pinging' for hours after vanishing at 35,000 ft

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  • Malaysian Airways flight MH370 went missing on Saturday morning carrying 239 passengers
  • Its last known position was above the South China Sea an hour into flying
  • U.S. official said two separate communication systems were shut down 'deliberately' shortly after take-off
  • Despite this, tracking signals or 'pings' were sent to British firms satellite from the plane for up to five further hours after it vanished
  • These pings show the plane's altitude, height and speed
  • According to US officials when the last ping was sent the plane was still flying at 35,000ft over water

By James Rush and James Nye and Richard Shears and Kieran Corcoran

PUBLISHED: 11:19 GMT, 13 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:03 GMT, 14 March 2014

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US officials believe that two communications systems aboard Malaysian Airlines flight 370 were shut down separately, 14 minutes apart - which indicates the plane did not come down because of a sudden catastrophic failure.

The data reporting system was shut down at 1.07 am and the transponder was turned off at 1.21 am just after the the pilot signed off to Malaysian air traffic controllers with 'All right, good night,' and before the Boeing 777 apparently changed course and turned west.

According to investigators this indicated that the switch-off could have been a deliberate act and officials told ABC News that the two communications devices were 'systematically shut down'.

Doomed: This picture emerged today of the plane which would later go missing while flying between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing

That has led the US investigating team to become 'convinced there was manual intervention' which in turn means it was not an accident or massive malfunction that caused the plane to cease to be airborne.

Despite these two crucial tracking devices being inoperative, the plane still sent signals to a satellite after the aircraft went missing in the form of 'pings' - rather like a cellphone does, even if it is not switched on.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the 'pings' sent from missing flight 370 provided the plane's location, speed and altitude for at least five hours after it vanished from radar.

The final message was sent to satellites - operated by British telecommunications company Immarsat - over water at what officials say was a normal cruising altitude, believed to be 35,000.

US officials declined to reveal the location of the last ever transmission sent by flight 370 and admitted they do not know why they stopped.

However, the U.S. is currently moving surveillance planes to an area of the Indian Ocean 1,000 miles or more west of Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Theory: This diagram shows the minimum distance - around 2,200 miles - traveled before flight 370 pinged its last communication to its tracking satellite

Theory: This diagram shows the minimum distance - around 2,500 miles - traveled before it pinged its last communication to its tracking satellite

One possibility discussed by investigators is that the 'pings' to the satellite were intentionally disabled by somebody on board the aircraft.

What the continuing pings do reveal is that the aircraft was at least 2,200 nautical miles from its last known position and still flying - potentially widening the search parameters for the craft.

It also indicates that the Boeing 777 carrying 239 passengers remained intact throughout these hours and was not destroyed nor had suffered a sudden catastrophic event.

And on Thursday evening amidst the wild speculation and mystery CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr said that a senior US official believes flight 370 crashed into the sea.

'There is a strong likelihood that the flight is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.'

The new claims have turned attention back on to the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27.

Added to concerns about Fariq was the revelation this week that in 2011, while on another flight with a different officer, he had invited two young South African women into the cockpit during a flight from Thailand to Malaysia against all rules.

Friends of the two men have told the Mail this week that it was inconceivable that either would have done anything to break the flying rules and put the aircraft and its passengers in danger.

The Imam of a mosque that Fariq attended, Ahmad Sharafi Ali Asrah would not hear of suggestions that the co-pilot had done anything wrong.

Like his family, the imam described Fariq as a 'good boy' who was devoted to his job as a pilot.

And Captain Zaharie was said to be so keen to maintain his high professionalism that he had even set up a flight simulator in his own home.

The vanished MH370 service from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, which was carrying 239 people, went missing on Saturday. Now officials from Malaysia, the U.S., India and other countries have begun a massive search to track down the plane.

Though it was originally assumed the plane would have come down over the South China Sea, where its flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing would have taken it, revelations regarding the satellite pings have seen search efforts switch to the Indian Ocean.

What we know: A timeline and map reveals the extent of what is known so far about the movements of Malaysian Airlines flight 370

What we know: A timeline and map reveals the extent of what is known so far about the movements of Malaysian Airlines flight 370

U.S destroyer USS Kidd is now reportedly being moved to the Indian Ocean in order to search the area (file picture)

U.S destroyer USS Kidd is now reportedly being moved to the Indian Ocean in order to search the area (file picture)

An Indonesian Air Force officer draws a flight pattern flown earlier in a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, during a post-mission briefing at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia

An Indonesian Air Force officer draws a flight pattern flown earlier in a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, during a post-mission briefing at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia

U.S. sources have revealed that the plane, which lost contact with ground control at 1.07am on March 8, was in fact still in contact with satellites operated by Immarsat.

The airline manufacturer offers a service that can receive a stream of data during flight on how the aircraft is functioning.

Malaysia Airlines didn't subscribe to that service, but the plane still had the capability of connecting with the satellite and was automatically sending 'pings'.

One source explained: 'It's like when your cellphone is off but it still sends out a little "I'm here" message to the cellphone network.'

'That's how sometimes they can triangulate your position even though you're not calling because the phone every so often sends out a little bleep. That's sort of what this thing was doing.'

The continuing pings led searchers to believe the plane could have flown more than 2,500 miles beyond its last confirmed sighting on radar, the official said. The plane had enough fuel to fly about four more hours, he said.

The new development comes amid a raft of new theories and developments in the mystery of the vanished airliner, including that:

  • Military radar readings suggest the plane could have changed course and flown over the Indian Ocean - away from its original destination
  • U.S. Navy destroyer has been dispatched to search the body of water
  • Malaysian government said theory the plane stayed airborne for four hours was 'inaccurate'
  • But details of the 'ping' signals from on-board computers contradict their statements
  • Chinese satellite images showing 'debris' were released 'by mistake', and that there is no trace of the aircraft at the spot in the South China Sea
  • Engine-makers Rolls-Royce, did not receive any extra information from the plane
  • Experts suggest the way communications systems were shut down mean the plane was shut down 'deliberately' and 'systematically'
  • A picture emerged from February 5 this year of the missing aircraft flying over Poland
  • Worshippers in Kuala Lumpur began a mass prayer for those lost in the disaster
  • At least 56 ships from 10 countries still failed to find a single trace of the missing aircraft

HOW AIRCRAFT COMMUNICATE WITH THE GROUND USING SATELLITE TRANSMISSIONS

Modern aircraft can communicate with airline operations bases and sometimes with the headquarters of its manufacturers automatically to send maintenance alerts known as ACARS messages. It was this system that sent out the hourly pings, apparently over several hours, two sources close to the investigation have said.

But Malaysia Airlines had not signed up for an expanded service that is based on the system and can send information such as updated flight plans and position reports, people familiar with the matter told Reuters this week.

In the past such data was sent via radio links, but in recent years, airlines have begun using satellites to transmit the information more reliably.

Oliver McGee, a former senior U.S. Transportation Department official and professor of mechanical engineering at Howard University in Washington, said the pings by themselves would not necessarily help locate the plane.

Data about the engine's fuel burn, weight and other aspects of its performance is needed to help determine how far the airplane had travelled, he said.

'It depends on the data coming from the engines,' McGee said. 'If you have no reliable source of what information you are reading, you cannot get the range, air speed or time travelled.'

He cautioned that the aircraft could continue to generate the signals, even if it had crashed, depending on any damage to the aircraft and its engines.

Mark Rosenker, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the aircraft would continue generating the signals even if it was on the ground, unless the system had shut down.

Honeywell International Inc makes the components that go into the ACARS system on Boeing 777s, but a different service provider sets them up to communicate with the airlines, said one industry source familiar with the system.

Each airline determines how it wants the system to work and under what circumstances, said the source, noting that some carriers receive messages when the plane is using auxiliary power, while others want updates only when the aircraft's engines are running.

The U.S. has said it is making moves to launch a search in the Indian Ocean in response to 'new information' about the missing plane.

A White House spokesman confirmed that authorities were considering the new avenue of exploration.

He said: 'It's my understanding that based on some new information that's not necessarily conclusive - but new information - an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean.

'We are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy.'

Carney did not specify the nature of the 'new information.' He said: 'We're working with the Malaysian government to try to find the plane; find out what happened to it for the sake of the families and, obviously, for the sake of knowing what caused the plane to disappear.'

'There are a number of possible scenarios that are being investigated as to what happened to the flight. And we are not in a position at this time to make conclusions about what happened, unfortunately. But we're actively participating in the search.'

Earlier in the day an official from the Pentagon said that the U.S. was involving itself in searching the Indian Ocean by sending one of its Navy destroyers there.

The USS Kidd, from the Navy 7th Fleet, is now moving to the Strait of Malacca, west of Malaysia.

Meanwhile Malaysia asked for radar data from India and other neighbouring countries to see if they can trace the plane flying north west.

Today the last picture of the plane also emerged, flying over Polish airspace on February 5 this year. The plane's serial number - 9M-MRO - matches that of the missing MH370 service, though it is not clear which route the plane was flying.

Pilots of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft manage their plane during a search and rescue operation

Pilots of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft manage their plane during a search and rescue operation

A crew member of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft looks out of the window during the search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane

A crew member of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft looks out of the window during the search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane

A crew member of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft rests after long hours working in a search and rescue operation for the missing plane

A crew member of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft rests after long hours working in a search and rescue operation for the missing plane

The developments come as Malaysian authorities attempted to downplay the theories springing up around the fate of the aircraft.

Boeing Co, which made the missing 777 airliner, and Rolls-Royce, which supplied its Trent engines, declined to comment.

Meanwhile Malaysian authorities expanded their search westward towards India today, and a senior Pentagon official suggested there was 'an indication' the plane came down in the Indian ocean. 

India has also involved itself in the search, and plans to imminently deploy planes and ships in the southern section of the sea, a senior Indian official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein (centre) said the search had been expanded westward today, while a senior Pentagon official has been quoted as saying there was 'an indication' the plane came down in the Indian Ocean

Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein (centre) said the search had been expanded westward today, while a senior Pentagon official has been quoted as saying there was 'an indication' the plane came down in the Indian Ocean

Six days on and a massive international air and water search involving 10 nations using 56 surface ships has failed to find a single piece of debris or sign of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft

Six days on and a massive international air and water search involving 10 nations using 56 surface ships has failed to find a single piece of debris or sign of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft

 

Earlier, Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein described reports suggesting the jetliner kept flying for four hours after it vanished as 'inaccurate' and said satellite images showing suspected debris of the crash had been released by China 'by mistake'.

The plane left Kuala Lumpur and was flying northeast across the Gulf of Thailand and into the South China Sea when it dropped off civilian radar without any indication it was having any technical problems.

An international search effort has been methodically sweeping parts of the South China Sea. A roughly similar-sized hunt has also been conducted to the west in the Strait of Malacca because of military radar sightings that might indicate the plane headed that way after its last contact, passing over the Malay Peninsula.

The total area is around 35,800 square miles, or about the size of Portugal. 

Back in Malaysia, hundreds gathered in Kuala Lumpur airport to offer up prayers for the people missing as a result of the disaster.

Rows and rows of worshippers could today be seen bowing in unison in the ceremony, offering their thoughts to the passengers who are missing as a result of the flight's disappearance, and their worry-stricken relatives.

Scale: Hundreds of Muslim men bow down to offer prayers for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370

Scale: Hundreds of Muslim men bow down to offer prayers for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370

Respectful: Muslim joined the men and shared in their grief at the 239 missing people

Respectful: Muslim joined the men and shared in their grief at the 239 missing people

Boys join in prayers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370

Boys join in prayers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370  

     Prayers for passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane are carried out at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Prayers for passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane are carried out at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Hishammuddin said the government had contacted Boeing and Rolls Royce, the engine manufacturer, and both said the last engine data was received at 1:07 a.m., around 23 minutes before the plane's transponders, which identify it to commercial radar and nearby planes, stopped working.

But asked if it were possible that the plane kept flying for several hours, Hishammuddin said: 'Of course, we can't rule anything out. This is why we have extended the search. We are expanding our search into the Andaman Sea.' The sea, part of the Indian Ocean, is northwest of the Malay Peninsula. 

More than two-thirds of those on board the plane were from China, which has shown impatience with the absence of any results.

Hishammuddin said satellite images of three pieces of large debris floating near to the jet's last recorded position in the South China Sea had been released by China 'by mistake'. He said searches were conducted of the area but nothing was found.

Responding to reports of a U.S safety directive that ordered additional inspections for cracking and corrosion on certain 777 planes, Hishammuddin insisted all maintenance checks on the plane 'were in order'

Responding to reports of a U.S safety directive that ordered additional inspections for cracking and corrosion on certain 777 planes, Hishammuddin insisted all maintenance checks on the plane 'were in order'

A woman writes a message with others expressing prayers and well-wishes for passengers onboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, displayed outside a mall in Kuala Lumpur

A woman writes a message with others expressing prayers and well-wishes for passengers onboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, displayed outside a mall in Kuala Lumpur

Part of the search area is seen on an iPad of a military officer onboard a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft

Part of the search area is seen on an iPad of a military officer onboard a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft

A crew member of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft looks out of the window during a search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane over the Straits of Malacca

A crew member of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft looks out of the window during a search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane over the Straits of Malacca

Indonesian Air Force officers examine the projection of a map that shows their operation area over the Strait of Malacca during a briefing following a search mission

Indonesian Air Force officers examine the projection of a map that shows their operation area over the Strait of Malacca during a briefing following a search mission

The defence minister confirmed the aircraft had been 'fully serviced' and all maintenance checks 'were in order', following reports of a safety directive by the U.S Federal Aviation Administration about a potential problem with cracking and corrosion in the fuselage.

Hishammuddin also continued to defend Malaysia's response to the incident.

He said: 'We have spared no expense and no effort - from day one we have been in regular contact with our neighbouring countries and accepted all international offers of help.'

He said Malaysia would not normally share military radar data with other countries, but in this case the search effort had been placed 'above our national security'.

He said: 'We have shared our data with our international partners including the U.S. and China to help with the search efforts.'

Six days on and a massive international air and water search involving 10 nations using 56 surface ships has failed to find a single piece of debris or sign of the Malaysia Airlines aircraft.

Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news at a hotel room in Beijing, China

Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news at a hotel room in Beijing, China

A man writes a message for the passengers of the missing Malaysian Airline plane, on a banner at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

A man writes a message for the passengers of the missing Malaysian Airline plane, on a banner at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing early on Saturday morning with 239 people on board while on its way to Beijing

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing early on Saturday morning with 239 people on board while on its way to Beijing

A visitor writes on a banner carrying messages for the passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

A visitor writes on a banner carrying messages for the passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Hopes of a resolution were briefly raised when a Chinese state agency released satellite images of three pieces of large debris floating near to the jet's last recorded position in the South China Sea.

These were dashed early on Thursday morning when Vietnamese and Malaysian authorities said they found no trace at the co-ordinates.

'There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing,' Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's civil aviation chief said on Thursday morning.

Vietnam had already searched the area where Chinese satellites showed objects that were suspected to have been debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet but a plane was sent to check the area again, Vietnamese military officials said.

'We are aware and we sent planes to cover that area over the past three days,' Deputy Transport Minister Pham Quy Tieu told Reuters. 'Today a military plane will search the area again,' he said.

And on Thursday morning Vietnamese authorities said two military jets searching for clues to the missing Malaysia Airlines jet found no wreckage at the location.

False hope for resolution: This image released by Chinese authorities was initially billed as the crash site of what could have been Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 - this was later refuted by authorities

False hope for resolution: This image released by Chinese authorities was initially billed as the crash site of what could have been Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 - this was later refuted by authorities

The sighting was made on March 9 - the day after Malaysian Airlines flight 370 went missing - however Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities said they could not locate any trace of the aircraft or debris

The sighting was made on March 9 - the day after Malaysian Airlines flight 370 went missing - however Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities said they could not locate any trace of the aircraft or debris

This is the third image released by Chinese authorities that was thought to be a piece of the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777

This is the third image released by Chinese authorities that was thought to be a piece of the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777

Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) personnel participating in the search and rescue operations, approximately 380 nautical miles (700 kms) north of Singapore, in the South China Sea

Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) personnel participating in the search and rescue operations, approximately 380 nautical miles (700 kms) north of Singapore, in the South China Sea

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