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Monday, 17 March 2014 | MYT 6:25 PM

Missing MH370: Last words came from co-pilot

KUALA LUMPUR: The last words spoken from the cockpit of flight MH370 that went missing on Mar 8 were believed to have been spoken by the co-pilot, Malaysia Airlines said.

"Initial investigations indicate it was the co-pilot who basically spoke," MAS chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told a news briefing on Monday.

The last message from the cockpit - "All right, good night" - came after one of the plane's crucial signalling systems had been manually disabled.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid have become a primary focus of the investigation into the fate of Flight 370, with one of the key questions being who was controlling the aircraft when the communications systems were disabled.

The last signal from the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was received 12 minutes before the co-pilot's seemingly nonchalant final words.

ACARS transmits key information on a plane's condition to the ground. The plane's transponder - which relays radar information on the plane's location - was switched off just two minutes after the voice message.

After a week of false leads and dashed expectations during an intensive search in the South China Sea, a clearer picture is emerging of the events leading up to and immediately after its disappearance.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak revealed that the plane was apparently deliberately diverted and flown for hours after vanishing from radar - to the west of Malaysia, far from the South China Sea, where the search has now been abandoned.

Here is a timeline of the plane's known last moments on March 8:

TAKE-OFF: Flight MH370 takes off from KL International Airport at 12:41am bound for Beijing.

ACARS SHUTDOWN: The Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), which transmits key information on the plane's mechanical condition, is manually switched off some time between 1:07am - when it sends its last data transmission - and 1:37am, when the next transmission would have been expected.

LAST WORDS: An apparently relaxed final voice communication - "All right, good night" - comes from the cockpit at 1:19am, as the plane passes from Malaysian to Vietnamese air traffic control over the South China Sea. The airline believes it was the co-pilot speaking.

TRANSPONDER SWITCHES OFF: The plane's transponder - which relays radar information on the plane's location and altitude - stops transmitting 14 minutes after the last ACARS transmission, at 1:21am.

LAST RADAR CONTACT: The plane slips off Malaysian civilian radar screens at 1:30am. While it continues to blip on military radars until 2:15am, that sighting is only identified later as Flight MH370.

ROUTE CHANGE: The plane is believed to have turned sharply from its intended route after losing contact with civilian radar, flying west - back over peninsular Malaysia - before turning northwest.

LAST SATELLITE COMMUNICATION: Final, automated, satellite communications with the plane come at 8:11 am - suggesting it may have flown on for hours after the ACARS system and transponder cut out.

The satellite data cannot pinpoint a location for the plane at 8:11am. It places it anywhere on one of two huge arcs - one stretching north from Malaysia up to central Asia, and the other south, deep into the Indian Ocean towards Australia.

A total of 25 countries are now involved in the massive hunt for any sign of the plane, with Australia announcing on March 17 that it is taking charge of the search in the southern arc. - AFP


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