Stephen McDonnell — ABC Australia March 15, 2014
Malaysia’s prime minister says investigators have not confirmed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was hijacked, but the plane’s movements are consistent with the “deliberate action” of someone on board.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Najib Razak confirmed that the plane’s systems were gradually switched off and the plane deviated far to the west of its flight path.
The Boeing 777-200ER disappeared a week ago with 239 people onboard during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Mr Razak says new satellite data shows “with a high degree of certainty” that communications and reporting systems on MH370 were turned off before the plane reached the Malaysian peninsula.
He says a short time later the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.
“It then flew in a westerly direction back over Peninsular Malaysia before turning north-west,” he said.
“Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.”
Malaysian authorities are refocusing their investigation into the crew and passengers on board MH370 due to the new information, Mr Razak says.
“Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear, we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path,” he said.
Mr Razak says authorities have not been able to pinpoint the plane’s last satellite contact due to the type of satellite data, but the plane could have ended up in a wide search area as far north as Kazakhstan.
“Based on this new data the aviation authorities of Malaysia and their international counterparts have determined that the plane’s last communication with the satellite was in one of two possible corridors,” he said.
“The northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to southern Thailand or the southern corridor stretching across from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
“The investigation team is working to further refine the information.”
The search for the plane originally centred on the South China Sea, but authorities have shifted their focus west of the intended flight path to the Indian Ocean.
Mr Razak says 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft have been involved in the search.
“It is widely understood that this has been a situation without precedent,” he said.
Earlier an unnamed Malaysian official told Associated Press that hijacking was no longer just a theory, but “conclusive”.
The offiial said no motive had been established and it was not known where the plane had been taken.