Malaysian authorities have concluded that a passenger jet missing since last week was hijacked and deliberately steered off course, a government official involved in the investigation told The Associated Press.
“It’s conclusive,” the official told The AP.
According to the report, investigators have determined that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was diverted from its intended destination of Beijing by one or more people with significant flying experience.
In previous days U.S. officials noted that the plane’s main communications systems were switched off separately, an indicator of a manual attempt to evade contact.
Even with a determination of hijacking, many questions remain about the fate of the plane and the nature of the takeover in the cockpit. Searchers have failed to find any evidence of the plane, which disappeared from civilian radar last week less than an hour after takeoff. Malaysian officials had said earlier that they were investigating all crew members, as well as the plane’s 227 passengers.
“It’s looking less and less like an accident,” said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly. “It’s looking more like a criminal event.”
If the flight continued after the transponder fell silent, officials and experts said, it must have been turned off in the cockpit.
“You’ve got an airplane that’s continuing to fly; you’ve got systems that are becoming non-operational. It had to be a deliberate action to turn them off,” said Ron Carr, who spent 39 years flying for the U.S. Air Force and American Airlines before becoming a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. “Somebody’s clearly operating the aircraft. I have a hunch it was hijacked.”
an automatic stream of data from the plane ended at about the same time the transponder stopped. But a satellite that had been receiving the data continued to reach out to the plane on an hourly basis, and for at least four hours it received confirmation that the plane still was flying.
“It is telling us the airplane continued to operate” for several hours, said a third U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so that he could speak candidly about a politically sensitive investigation.
Significantly, the transponder and the data flow did not stop at the same time, as they would if the plane had exploded or crashed into the ocean.
“They both did stop, and they did not stop simultaneously,” the official said. “A simultaneous stopping is something that we have seen before in in-flight breakups, airplanes that have exploded or come apart in the air.”
The data stream that was interrupted shortly after 1 a.m. on March 8 flows through a two-way onboard computer system known as ACARS, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System.
SOURCE Washington Post