MH370 was ''thrown around like a fighter jet'' to avoid radar detection

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Malaysian military investigators' new theory adds weight to the suggestion that captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah hijacked his own plane after tricking his co-pilot into leaving the cockpit.


The missing flight MH370 carried out drastic manoeuvres just after it disappeared from radar to avoid detection - a new theory suggests.

Malaysian military investigators believe the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 jet was "thrown around like a fighter jet" to dodge radar signals and disappear.

Flight MH370, which disappeared more than five weeks ago en route to Beijing, is thought to have climbed to heights of 45,000ft - 10,000ft above its normal altitude - before plummeting to just below 5,000ft.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, a source claimed: "It was being flown very low at very high speed. And it was being flown to avoid radar."

This latest claim - combined with yesterday's reports that co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid made a "desperate last-ditch call" just before the plane vanished - adds weigh to the theory that captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah hijacked his own plane after tricking Hamid into leaving the cockpit.

Malaysia's New Straits Times carried a front page story yesterday claiming that Fariq Abdul Hamid tried to use his mobile phone while the plane was in the air.

Citing its source as an investigator, the paper says the call was traced as the plane flew low near Penang.

It's not believed the call connected - but ended abruptly after making contact with a network substation.

The newspaper's sources would not divulge full details of the investigation, including what number Fariq was trying to call.

But it has also revealed Fariq's last communication through the WhatsApp mobile phone app was about 11.30pm on March 7, just before he boarded the plane.

Despite Malaysian acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein immediately denying the claims - saying "If this did happen, we would have known about it earlier" - the Sunday Times cites the reports as the first apparent proof that someone was alive and conscious as the jet flew back over the west coast of Malaysia - well off its planned course.

It quotes a source "close to the investigation" as saying: "If it's true it would lead to the possibility that the pilot shut the co-pilot out of the cabin - asked him to go for coffee and then promptly locked the door - and then took over the plane.

"The co-pilot, unable to gain access, may have tried to use his mobile phone to alert the authorities."

It is likely any call was cut off because the plane was quickly moving away from the telecommunications tower.

Experts have said that it is possible for a mobile phone to be connected to a telecommunications tower at 7,000 feet.

That altitude is low for a large passenger jet such as the MH370 Boeing 777 - unless it was flying very quickly to maintain height.

The New Straits Times also said that Fariq's cousin, Nursyafiqah Kamarudin, 18, had said recently that the 28-year-old co-pilot was very close to his mother.

"If Fariq could make one call before the plane disappeared, it would have been to her," said the cousin.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said earlier in the week that investigators had obtained 'some clues' as to what might have happened, based on the statements from 176 people who had been interviewed.

The crew, he said, were the main subjects of the investigation, a probe which has focused on four possible areas - hijack, sabotage, and personal and psychological problems among the crew or passengers.

The New Straits Times is regarded as a mouthpiece for the Malaysian government - meaning it is unlikely to carry such strong claims without official confirmation.

Meanwhile, the search continues into its sixth week amid fears that batteries powering signals from the black box recorder on board may have died.

The search area narrowed dramatically to an area of the Southern Indian Ocean 1,670 miles off Perth because of a change in thought over the plane's descent.

The Sunday Times says that an assumption MH370 glided for a period of time after running out of fuel has been abandoned and it is now thought that it simply plunged into the sea. Its erratic manoeuvres also probably used up more fuel than first estimated - leading investigators to move the search area further north.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned on Friday that signals picked up during the search in the remote Southern Indian Ocean, believed to be "pings" from the black box recorders, were fading.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared soon after taking off on March 8 from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board, triggering a multinational search that is now focused on the Indian Ocean.

Search officials say they are confident they know the approximate position of the black box recorder, although they have determined that the latest "ping’, picked up by searchers on Thursday, was not from the missing aircraft.

Batteries in the black box recorder are already past their normal 30-day life, making the search to find it on the murky sea bed all the more urgent. Once they are confident they have located it, searchers then plan to deploy a small unmanned "robot" known as an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.

"Work continues in an effort to narrow the underwater search area for when the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle is deployed," the Australian agency coordinating the search said on Saturday.

"There have been no confirmed acoustic detections over the past 24 hours," it said in a statement.

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