The Malaysia Airlines chief on Monday backpedaled government assertions that someone casually communicated from the missing Flight 370 after a critical communications system was disabled.
Malaysia’s acting Transportation Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said Sunday that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System was disabled shortly before someone in the cockpit, believed to be co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, said “All right, good night” at 1:19 a.m.
But in an updated timeline of the period after ground control lost contact with the missing Flight 370, CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the communications system could have been shut off at “any time” between its last known transmission, at 1:07 a.m., and 30 minutes later when it was expected to transmit another signal.
Investigators still believe that someone in the cockpit, either intentionally or under coercion, switched off both the communications system and a separate radar transponder that shut off within two minutes of the co-pilot’s comments, but the updated timeline means the sabotage could have happened after the comments from the co-pilot, and not necessarily before.
At least 25 countries have joined Malaysia’s search for Flight 370 across some 30 million sq. mi., amid indications that the plane flew as long as seven more hours after losing radio contact around 1 a.m.
Police have searched the homes of both the pilot and co-pilot and are checking the background of everyone on board, as the timeline of the plane’s disappearance suggests meticulous planning, Reuters reports. The plane’s radar transponder went out, for instance, just as the flight would have been switching from Malaysian to Vietnamese controllers, a technical black hole that could have allowed the plane to evade detection.