Malaysian plane probe spotlights cockpit crew

March 17, 2014 6:23 am
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A boy rides his bicycle past the home of missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur on March 16, 2014/AFP
A boy rides his bicycle past the home of missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur on March 16, 2014/AFP

, KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 17 – An investigation into the pilots of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 intensified Monday after officials confirmed that the last words spoken from the cockpit came after a key signalling system was manually disabled.

US intelligence efforts were also focusing on Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, according to a senior US lawmaker.

“I think from all the information I’ve been briefed on from, you know, high levels within homeland security, national counterterrorism centre, intelligence community, that something was going on with the pilot,” said Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

“I think this all leads towards the cockpit, with the pilot himself, and co-pilot,” McCaul said on Fox News Sunday.

Malaysia’s transport minister confirmed Sunday that an apparently relaxed final voice communication from the cockpit – “All right, good night” – came after the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) had been deliberately shut down.

ACARS transmits to the ground key information on a plane’s condition.

It has not been confirmed who gave that final voice message. But the assumption is the person would have known the ACARS system had been disabled.

The plane’s transponder – which relays radar information on the plane’s location – was switched off 14 minutes after ACARS went down. READ: Disappearance of Malaysian jet appears ‘deliberate’

Shortly afterwards the plane disappeared from civilian radar. It continued to show up as a blip on military radar, but was not immediately identified as the same flight.

The plane went missing early in the morning of March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard, spawning a massive international search across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean that has turned up no trace of wreckage.

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