TIME Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Obama: Finding Missing Plane a ‘Top Priority’

Malaysian Airlines missing aircraft
A family member of missing relative on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from China breaks down as she speaks to the media at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia March 19, 2014. Azhar Rahima—EPA

The U.S. is in close cooperation with Malaysian officials in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines 777, President Obama said Wednesday

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that finding missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370 is “a top priority.”

“We have put every resource we have available at the disposal of the search process,” Obama told Dallas news station KDFW. “There’s been close cooperation with the Malaysian government,” Obama said. “Anybody who typically deals with anything related to our aviation system is available.”

The comments were the president’s first public statements on the ongoing mystery surrounding the disappeared flight.

“We want to send out our thoughts and prayers to all the families that have been affected but particularly our American families. I can only imagine what they’re going through,” Obama said.

TIME Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Files Deleted From Missing-Jet Pilot’s Flight Simulator, FBI to Investigate

A man recites the Koran after a special prayers held for the missing Malaysian airliner MH370, March 18, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur.
A man recites the Koran after special prayers held for the missing Malaysian airliner MH370 in Kuala Lumpur on March 18, 2014 Rahman Roslan—Getty Images

Forensic investigators are attempting to retrieve deleted files from the captain of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's home flight simulator

Malaysia’s Defense Minister said on Wednesday that files had been recently deleted from a flight simulator belonging to the captain of the jetliner that has been missing for almost two weeks.

Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in a news conference that investigators examining the flight simulator belonging to Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the captain of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, discovered files had been recently deleted from the home flight-simulator system, the New York Times reports. He said investigators are trying to retrieve the deleted files and reminded reporters that Zaharie is innocent until proven guilty of any wrongdoing.

Other authorities cited by the Times said records were deleted more than a month before the flight vanished, and the FBI is now moving to assist in the search for records from the flight simulator. The Malaysian government has recruited “local and international expertise” to examine the flight simulator and try to retrieve the deleted files. “The experts are looking at what are the logs, what has been cleared,” inspector general of the police Tan Sri Khalid Bin Abu Bakar told the Times.

Investigators have focused on the Boeing 777’s pilots, Zaharie and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, since discovering the flight took a left-hand turn off course that was programmed into the plane’s computerized flight-management system. That discovery suggests that someone with knowledge of flying programmed the flight to turn off course.

Aviation experts have said the flight simulator in Zaharie’s home was very sophisticated — likely costing several thousand dollars — and that it appears to have been set up to simulate a 777. Investigators have not released information about when files were deleted from the simulator, and their investigation is focusing on the types of training Zaharie undertook on the system.

A group of Chinese relatives of missing passengers at the press conference protested Malaysia’s handling of the search effort for Flight 370, unfurling a banner that criticized the Malaysian investigation. Chaos broke out as Malaysian police roughed up journalists crowded around the group.

As Malaysian authorities continue to examine the flight’s pilots, countries whose citizens were aboard Flight 370 have conducted background checks on the passengers. Hishammuddin said on Wednesday that Malaysian authorities have received background checks from all countries except Russia and Ukraine — which accounted for three passengers — and that so far none of the checks have turned up anything suspicious.

Meanwhile, search crews from more than two dozen countries continue to scour a massive area of land and sea looking for any evidence that Flight 370 may have crashed. The area being searched now covers roughly 2.24 million nautical miles (7.68 million sq km) from Central Asia to the deep waters of the southern Indian Ocean, which is being covered by ships, planes and satellites. “A needle in a haystack remains a good analogy,” John Young, general manager of the emergency-response division of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, told reporters on Wednesday.

TIME China

The Nightmare Never Ends For Families of Missing Jet

An elderly woman, one of the relatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, covers her face out of frustration as she leaves a hotel ballroom after a daily briefing meeting with managers of Malaysia Airlines in Beijing, on March 19, 2014.
An elderly woman, one of the relatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, covers her face out of frustration as she leaves a hotel ballroom after a daily briefing meeting with managers of Malaysia Airlines in Beijing, on March 19, 2014. Alexander F. Yuan—AP

The distraught families of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 say their pain is compounded by a lack of information about the massive search now in its twelfth day

Grief stalks the halls of Beijing’s Metropark Lido Hotel. Families of the Chinese passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have spent the last 12 days sleeping, eating and waiting here. They pass the hours scouring the Internet and watching television, desperate for information about their loved ones. They are exhausted and angry.

It is easy to spot them in hotel’s bright courtyards and corridors. Some flew here from distant provinces and barely speak Mandarin Chinese. They look lost in a hotel packed with foreign tourists, a place where Rimowa, a luxury luggage company, sells suitcases for 10,000 yuan ($1,600). Many are visibly grief-stricken, their eyes swollen, heads bowed. All are wary of speaking to outsiders. After all, one woman asked, “What is there left to say?”

Even as the dozens of countries — and what seems like the entire Internet — study the case, the friends and families of the missing feel blacked out. They are trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare where each day brings a strange, disorienting, twist. It was a plane crash, then a terror plot, then a hijacking. Now, 12 days in, there is no real theory at all; it disappeared.

Tensions reached a boiling point Wednesday when a group of Chinese relatives of missing passengers criticized Malaysia’s handling of the search efforts during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur. Chaos broke out as Malaysian police roughed up journalists crowded around the group.

“I don’t care what your government does,” one woman shouted, CNN reports. “I just want my son back.”

Malaysia Airlines has given them three options: Stay in Beijing, fly to Kuala Lumpur, or go home. Some are applying for visas to travel to Malaysia should the plane be found nearby. Most are resigned to staying in China’s smoggy capital, where they can continue to push for information. “We will never leave without an answer,” said a man surnamed Ye, whose brother-in-law, Chen Jianshe, 58, is among the missing. “As long as we live, we will insist on answers.”

As frustration builds and answers continue to be few and far between, the prospect of conflict grows. There have already been minor scuffles between relatives and officials. The hotel is now shrouded in airport-like security, with metal detectors, x-ray machines for bags, and body searches at the door. Police roam the hallways.

On Monday, at least two U.S. law firms specializing in airplane crashes had representatives milling about the lobby. They said they were there to tell passengers “about their options,” and to raise the idea of putting together a case in U.S. courts. Depending on what happened to the plane, a trial in the U.S. could yield better compensation, they said. Some families listened, others walked away.

For now, most are focused on getting through the day. Mr. Ye, who is waiting for word of his brother-in-law, said the families’ pain was compounded by a lack of information about the search. “Malaysia Airlines has doubled the number of hostages,” he said. “It is like they have a rope around each family’s neck and they are pulling it bit, by bit. It gets tighter every day.”

TIME Aviation

No One Made Phone Calls From the Missing Jet, and This Could Be the Reason

Here's one theory to explain why no one was using cell phones as the plane disappeared

There has been much discussion about the lack of cell-phone calls from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 as it went missing this month, which seems especially surprising following the flurry of such calls that came from passengers aboard the airplanes hijacked on 9/11.

One theory is that a deranged pilot depressurized the aircraft, causing oxygen deprivation that knocked the passengers out in a matter of minutes. Others cite the plane’s altitude for the dearth of calls, and note that some of the calls made on 9/11 came from radiotelephones no longer in use.

But as anyone whose dinner, movie or recital has been interrupted by cell-phone calls can attest, there must be a way to thwart such calls. All you have to do is visit PhoneJammer.com to see a variety of such portable devices on offer.

“A phone jammer transmits low-powered radio signals to cut off communications between cell phones and cell base stations,” PhoneJammer.com says. “It does not interfere with any communications other than cellular phones within the defined regulated zone. Upon activating a phone jammer, all idle phones will indicate ‘NO NETWORK.’”

The portable units available from PhoneJammer.com include the Palm Mini Jammer (a cell-phone-size unit for $149 with a 5-m range, available in black, silver, beige and green), the High Power Portable Jammer (a smaller device with a range of up to 20 m for $205) and the Portable Adjustable Power Jammer ($395 with a range of up to 30 m and five-hour battery life).

PhoneJammer.com doesn’t specify where it’s located, although it appears that most of these devices are manufactured in — where else? — China (check out JammerFromChina.com for evidence). True, they’d have to be sneaked through security, and it might take two or three to shut down cell-phone calls from the entire aircraft. But it would seem to be a far surer way of cutting off communication than cutting off oxygen.

Passengers flying in the U.S. and Europe can rest easy: they can’t be shipped there “due to FCC [Federal Communications Commission]/CE [Conformité Européenne] restrictions,” PhoneJammer.com says.

TIME Aviation

Jet Disappearance Hits Record as Search Widens

Family members of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 react as they listen to a briefing from the airline company at a hotel in Beijing
Family members of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 react as they listen to a briefing from the airline company at a hotel in Beijing on March 18, 2014 Kim Kyung-Hoon—Reuters

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has now been missing for 11 days, the longest period of time a plane has been missing in the history of modern aviation

The mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, missing for 11 days without any promising clues and a search area that’s only growing, became the longest in the history of modern commercial aviation on Tuesday.

The international search for the jetliner, which vanished during a March 8 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, has now expanded to almost 8 million sq km — almost the size of the U.S.

“This is an enormous search area. And it is something that Malaysia cannot possibly search on its own,” Malaysian Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference. “I am therefore very pleased that so many countries have come forward to offer assistance and support to the search-and-rescue operation.”

Twenty-five countries are collaborating on the search that spans from China to Australia and has included parts of the Indian Ocean. There were 239 people on board.

While new information has been sparse and often conflicting, a spokesman for Thailand’s air force said on Tuesday its radars might have detected the flight minutes after the plane’s communications went down. That would support suspicions that the flight sharply turned west, deviating from its intended path.

In its 11 days missing, the black box would have presumably lost one-third of its battery life, according to ABC.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Aviation

China Finds No Terrorism Link Among Passengers on Missing Jet

Background checks on 154 people aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 show none are linked to Uighur Muslim separatists

China’s ambassador in Kuala Lumpur said Tuesday that the country has completed background checks on all of its nationals who were aboard Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and found no links to terrorism.

Ambassador Huang Huikang said that background checks on the 154 Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 did not uncover any evidence suggesting they were involved in an act of terrorism, the Associated Press reports. The announcement came after speculation that Uighur Muslim separatists from far western China might have been involved in the plane’s disappearance on March 8. Malaysian authorities are investigating the backgrounds of the pilots and ground crew and have asked intelligence agencies from countries with passengers on the plane to conduct background checks on its citizens.

More than a week after the plane’s mysterious disappearance, the search area has expanded to encompass an area almost the size of theUnited States.

On Tuesday, furious Chinese families threatened to go on a hunger strike until the Malaysian government releases more information about the plane’s disappearance. Ten days after the plane went missing, families vented their frustration and China criticized Malaysia and Malaysian Airlines for not providing relatives of Chines passengers with more definitive information. “China has all along demanded that the Malaysian side and Malaysia Airlines earnestly respond to the reasonable requests of the Chinese families,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, according to Reuters.

The search for the plane has expanded across a massive area of the Indian Ocean, which has some of the deepest waters on Earth. The AP reports that Australian ships alone are searching 600,000 square kilometers (232,000 square miles) of the ocean, and U.S. and Indonesian planes and ships are also searching for the missing plane.

A report in the New York Times suggested that the missing Boeing 777 made its first off-course turn to the west after a heading change was entered into the aircraft’s flight computer, a move that requires advanced knowledge of the plane’s flight systems.

[AP]

TIME

Malaysia Airlines Chief Corrects Timeline of Missing Flight 370

Malaysian Airlines missing flight MH370
Hishamuddin Hussein, Malaysia's Minister of Defense and acting Transport Minister, answers questions at a press conference in Sepang, Malaysia, on March 17, 2014 Joshua Paul—NurPhoto/Corbis

Airline CEO's statement contradicts Malaysia's assertion that someone spoke from the plane after communications system was disabled

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.

[WSJ]

TIME Congress

Congressman Says Malaysia Airlines Disappearance ‘Intentional, Deliberate’

Mike McCaul made his statements as focus turned to the pilots

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul on Sunday called the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 “intentional” and “deliberate.”

McCaul said on Fox News Sunday that he believes the evidence points toward problems in the cockpit with the pilot and copilot.

Malaysia’s prime minister said this weekend that the plane was deliberately diverted and officials have confirmed that the pilots are part of the investigation. But on CNN, former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte cautioned against any one theory and stressed that the passengers should be investigated, too.

TIME

Report: Flight 370 Shifted Altitude and Path After Dropping Contact

MALAYSIA-CHINA-VIETNAM-MALAYSIAAIRLINES-TRANSPORT-ACCIDENT
A Royal Malaysian Air Force Navigator captain, Izam Fareq Hassan, center, looks at a map onboard a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during a search and rescue (SAR) operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 plane over the Strait of Malacca on March 14, 2014. Mohd Rasfan—AFP/Getty Images

A report follows earlier indications that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 deliberately altered its direction after disappearing from civilian radar

A new report Friday says Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 significantly changed altitudes and altered its course as if under pilot control after it disappeared from civilian radar less than an hour into the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The New York Times report, citing unnamed American officials and people familiar with the investigation, adds a new dimension to earlier indications that Flight 370 may have deliberately flown hundreds of miles off course.

Nearly a week after the plane disappeared, twelve countries have joined the massive and widening sweep of the region involving scores of aircraft and ships.

According to the Times, Malaysian military radar showed what is believed to be the missing Boeing 777 climb to 45,000 feet—above the approved altitude limit for the aircraft—after taking a sharp turn west, and then descend to 23,000 feet, well below normal cruising altitude, before gaining altitude and shifting its flight path north over the Strait of Malacca toward the Indian Ocean.

Malaysian authorities have shared the radar data with the U.S. and China but not to the public, and the reliability and implications of the revelations are still unclear. Ravi Madavaram, an aerospace engineer at the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan based in Kuala Lumpur, told the Times that the radar altitude readings can be unreliable when the plane is far away.

[New York Times]

TIME Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Search Widens for Vanished Jet

Malaysia Airline
Vietnamese Air Force Col. Pham Minh Tuan uses binoculars on board an aircraft during a mission to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Gulf of Thailand, on March 13, 2014. AP

Authorities acknowledged the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft may have flown off course for several hours after it lost contact

Authorities from both Asia and the U.S. appeared to expand their hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 all the way to the Indian Ocean on Thursday, as one possible clue of its whereabouts was discounted and the Malaysian government faced growing anger over its handling of the disappearance.

Malaysian authorities expanded their search westward toward India, the Associated Press reports, acknowledging that the plane carrying 239 people may have flown for hours after it lost contact with air-traffic controllers on Saturday and disappeared without a trace. Meanwhile, multiple reports indicated the U.S. was also moving its search in that direction. The New York Times, citing Pentagon officials, reported that an American destroyer was being redeployed to the Strait of Malacca, which is west of Malaysia and the area where search efforts have been largely focused.

“We’re looking at information, pursuing possible leads, working … within the investigation being led by the Malaysian government,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday. “And it is my understanding that one possible piece of information or collection of pieces of information has led to the possibility that a new … search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean.”

But six days after its disappearance, authorities were no closer to finding the Boeing 777. Malaysian authorities followed up on satellite images that China had said might show a crash site, but found nothing, the AP reports. “There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing,” acting Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.

Meanwhile, there was a rising tide of anger from other Asian nations over how Malaysia has handled information about the search. Carney declined to join that pile-on when he spoke Thursday. “I can’t evaluate this process until it comes to an end,” he said.

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