MH370: ACARS Turned Off Before Final Radio Call (Updated)
Malaysian officials Sunday confirmed someone in the cockpit of Flight MH370 turned off the aircraft's ACARS system before sending the final radio transmission ("all right, good night) a non-standard response to an ATC handoff that is normally answered with a read back. The revelation has focused even more attention on the possible involvement of the crew in what is now presumed to be the intentional diversion of the aircraft. Officials seized the elaborate flight simulator the captain of the flight built at his home to determine if he'd been practising the unusual flight profile that was apparently used by whomever was in control of the aircraft. On Saturday, officials confirmed the aircraft's automatic engine monitoring system sent its last signal to a satellite almost seven hours after data link and transponders aboard the Boeing 777 were "deliberately" turned off early last Saturday morning. There were also reports the aircraft climbed as high as 45,000 feet and spent time at 23,000 feet, all adding up to potential destinations for the aircraft that include the restive Xinjiang region of western China. That's where militant ethnic Uyghur Muslims have staged grisly attacks, including a knife massacre in a train station that killed 29 people two weeks ago and a more recent attack that killed six. At a news conference, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said the last ping from the aircraft was at 8:11 a.m. Saturday, perhaps over the Indian Ocean. All the maneuvering that led to the long flight is "consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane," Razak said.
The new information has, of course, led to more speculation on the fate of the passengers and crew and possible crew involvement in the caper. Malaysian officials searched the homes of the two pilots on Friday and are going through the personal backgrounds of everyone aboard. Malaysia has come under intense criticism for allegedly withholding critical information about radar returns and satellite uplinks but the prime minister defended his officials on Saturday. “We have shared information in real time with authorities who have the necessary experience to interpret the data,” he said in a prepared statement read at a news conference. “We have been working nonstop to assist the investigation, and we have put our national security second to the search for the missing plane.”