Malaysia Airlines MH370: Getting the Facts Straight

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By Athena Yenko | March 14, 2014 6:02 PM EST

In an unprecedented mystery surrounding the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370, reports abound from what have been ruled out to what still stands.

The MH370

 The Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 a.m. (local time) en route to Beijing on March 8. The weather is in favorable condition.

MH370 was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. (local time) after traveling approximately 2,700 miles (4,350 kilometers.)

MH370 is a Boeing 777-200ER in excellent safety record, carrying about 7.5 hours of fuel. Malaysia Airlines flies in Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and on route between Europe and Australasia.

At roughly 45 minutes after takeoff, around 1:30 a.m., air traffic controllers situated in Subang, outside Kuala Lumpur reported that MH370 was already no longer to be found over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam with coordinates 06 55 15n 103 34 43e. MH370's transponder had stopped working at this point.

At around 2:40 a.m., MAS said radar tracking recorded that MH370's last known location was above the tiny island Pulau Perak in the Strait of Malacca. At this point, no radar traces could be obtained.

Passengers And the Crew

MH370 was carrying 239 people where 227 were passengers and 12 were crews. There were five children under 5 years old.

154 were Chinese/Taiwanese, the others were 38 coming from Malaysia, 5 from India, Indonesia, Australia; 3 from the United States, 3 from France, New Zealand, Ukraine, Canada, Russia, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands.

Crew members flying the MH370 were all Malaysians headed by Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, a veteran with 18,365 flying hours who had been with MAS since 1981; First Officer Fariq Ab Hamid,has 2,763 flying hours; Hamid, 27, who joined the airlines in 2007.

Most Recent From Malaysia

As respect to the grieving families of the passengers, MH370 flight code was stopped and Malaysia Airlines will carry the new flight codes MH318 and MH319 for its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing-Kuala Lumpur. Flight Code MH318 has been used for the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route and MH319 for Beijing-Kuala Lumpur

 "There're no changes to the frequency of our services and we'll continue to operate double daily services to Beijing.Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of our colleagues and passengers of MH370," MAS official statement said.

No Hijack, No Terrorist Attack...

The Wall Street Journal reported MH370 might have been held against its will at unknown locations. Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein dismissed the report as unverified and sensationalized.

"Such unverified report and rumors will disrupt our search and rescue operation. Irresponsible act such as this will affect the family as well," he told a press conference Thursday. 

Claims from terrorist Chinese groups were also out rightly dismissed as hoax.

Not Even Changing Directions

Malaysian Airlines (MAS) Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya also dismissed reports the missing MH370 was flying for hours before vanishing from radar. Speaking in a press conference, he explained the MH370 did not continue sending signals to the ground after it lost contact with air traffic control.

Mr. Jauhari Yahya said Roll Royce, an engine manufacturer, and Boeing told MAS that the report was inaccurate. The last transmission from MH370's Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was at 1.07 a.m. on Saturday.

"Both manufacturers, who are here in Malaysia, said they did not receive such data after the final one that was transmitted by the engines (monitoring system) at 1.07am. That transmission indicated that everything was normal," Mr Ahmad Jauhari cited.

Jauhari made it clear MH370's ACARS could be programmed to transmit data at predetermined intervals.

"This can be during a take-off, after reaching the top of a climb or every 30 minutes. It can also transmit data in the event of any abnormality in the engines or airframe," he said.

The press asked Jauhari if ACARS, the digital link for the plane to send messages to ground personnel about aircraft status, could be manually switched off.

 "Anything is possible in an aircraft system. You can have total electrical failure and (if this happens) it won't transmit anything," he added.

No Debris Found

 All reported sightings of debris were nullified by the Malaysian officials. No oil slicks and life raft from the plane nor debris near Tho Chu island, the small archipelago off southwest Vietnam.

Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein also ruled out the report that a Chinese satellite was able to photograph debris near the areas where the missing MH370 vanished. A Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency was deployed to investigate the debris.

 "But we found nothing at the site. The Chinese Embassy later notified us that the images were released by mistake and that the debris was not from MH370," Hisham explained.

Hisham told press that Huang Huikang, the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia, sent him a note apologising for the mistake.

No Fire Over South China Sea

Vietnamese officials received an e-mail from Mike McKay from New Zealand claiming he saw the missing MH370 on fire at the reported time it was missing.

McKay said "the plane burning at high altitude ... in one piece" approximately 50 km to 70 km from the Songa Mercur drilling platform in the South China Sea.

The officials confirmed there was no signs of fire or debris at the coordinates that Mr McKay mentioned in his email.

Truth Behind the Stolen Passports

 On Thursday, Kazem Ali, an Iranian man, purchased two tickets for two men whom officials found to be traveling on stolen passports from Thailand. The tickets were one-way with itineraries from Beijing to Amsterdam. One ticket's last itinerary was  Frankfurt, Germany.

Interpol had identified the two men using the stolen passports: Pouri Nourmohammadi, 18, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29, both Iranians. Ronald Noble, head of Interpol, said they have spoken to Reza's mother, who was expecting him in Frankfurt ruling out the possibility that these two men were terrorists.

Officials were also able to locate the owners of the two passports: Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi, neither of them was on the plane.

Phones Ringing

Grieving relatives of the passengers said their loved ones' phones were still ringing but that calls were not being answered. Alfred Siew, a Singapore-based technology commentator, explained this could be attributed to a network error. Chinese passengers' accounts on Chinese messaging tool QQ logged that they were still online. Tech experts explained that failure to shut the software down will still show account holders still online.

 

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