SEPANG: There are indications on military radar that flight MH370 could have made a “turn-back”, RMAF chief Jeneral Tan Sri Rodzali Daud said.
Authorities are also puzzled on the lack of signals from the plane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) emergency beacon, which can help rescuers locate the aircraft.
He added recordings captured from the radar had shown a turn-back, which is an aviation term that refers to a flight which had deviated from its original route and into a reciprocal heading.
“We are also baffled by the lack of signals from the ELT. From the recording on the radar, we realised that there is a possibility that the aircraft had made a turn-back.
“We hope that we can get a better picture on the situation soon,” he said yesterday.
MAS group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said a turn-back could be launched when a pilot is unable to proceed on a planned flight path, and he would inform the air traffic control tower of his intention.
“But no distress signal was issued. We are equally puzzled as well,” he added.
Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman declined to answer when asked if it was possible for a Boeing 777 to turn off all its diagnostic information instruments and disappear from radar during a flight.
“It is better that we get (the information) from the right sources (on) the technical issues of the aircraft,” Azharuddin said.
Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the search operations had been widened due to the possibility of the turn-back scenario.
Armed Forces chief Jeneral Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zain said 22 aircraft, 40 vessels and one helicopter from the armed forces had been deployed for the search mission, while five countries had also sent their assets.
A senior airline pilot instructor said a turn-back is not unusual and is done due to medical emergency, technical problems or even security reasons.
The pilot will have to inform the respective ATCs and the ATC officer concerned would need to alert his counterpart at the airport where MH370 had intended to land.
“The communications between the pilot and ATC would have lasted several minutes and been recorded. The pilot would also inform MAS of his impending return to allow the airport to make the necessary arrangements such as readying the plane’s parking bay and re-fueling.
“A turn-back by MH370 is very unusual as there was no official communication prior to the manoeuvre,” he said.