Sat10212017

LAST_UPDATEFri, 27 Oct 2017 9am

[NEWS ARCHIVE 11/3] BOEING 777: KL-Beijing Flight MH370

PIC: mD FilePIC: mD File[UPDATED 11.00PM] Geostrategist Says Passengers Can Sustain Up To 2 Months

KUALA LUMPUR: A geostrategist today dwelled on the prospects of aircraft passengers' survival in the event of a crash at sea.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) geostrategist Prof Dr Azmi Hassan who spoke to Bernama after participating in a BernamaTV programme here, said if flight MH307 had really crashed at sea, survivors could likely sustain for up to two months at sea.

"That is if they are in an emergency dinghy that contains all the essential items such as vests, tents and food," he opined.

Meanwhile, he encouraged anxious families of the missing flight's passengers and crew to remain calm and positive.

"The radar could not detect the aircraft probably because the latter was flying too low. The radar's tracking capability is limited," he said.

On Saturday, Malaysia Airlines (MAS)' MH370 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing carrying 227 passengers including two infants and 12 crew members went off the radar at 1.30 am, about one hour after departing from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.

The aircraft was carrying passengers from 14 countries, half of whom were Chinese nationals and 38 Malaysians.

BERNAMA

[UPDATED 10.50PM] No Idea Where To Look

PHU QUOC, Vietnam: Helicopters and planes criss-cross the sky as scores of boats search below — but officials say the multi-national hunt for missing flight MH370 is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Malaysia on Monday doubled the search radius to 100 nautical miles (equivalent to 185 kilometres) around the point where Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared from radar over the South China Sea early Saturday.

“The biggest problem is just knowing where to look — especially at night,” Vo Van Tuan, a top Vietnamese military officer who is leading Vietnam’s search effort, told AFP.

The vastness of the search zone reflects authorities’ bafflement over the plane’s disappearance.

On the fourth day of searching, the operation had grown to involve 42 ships and 35 aircraft from Southeast Asian countries, Australia, China, New Zealand and the United States. Japan said Tuesday it was sending a plane to join the search efforts.

Vietnam has mobilised its first major search and rescue operation, deploying aircraft, boats and its commercial fishing fleet to help Malaysia search for the jet — even as relatives of the 239 people aboard said their hopes for a miracle were ebbing away.

The hunt to discover the plane’s fate will likely be “a long mission that requires patience,” Vietnamese Major General Do Minh Tuan told AFP as he flew on a military helicopter near the country’s southern Tho Chu island.

“If the plane crashed and sank, some debris will surface, and if we find that we will be able to pinpoint the location of the plane,” he said.

But multiple reports of “suspicious floating objects” have revealed nothing but flotsam, tired Vietnamese rescue officials, putting in 20-hour days, concede.

“In terms of our assessments and predictions - we have little hope of a positive outcome,” Pham Quy Tieu, deputy minister of transport, said Tuesday.

In southern Phu Quoc, normally a sleepy tourist town, hundreds of foreign journalists — who usually face strict visa restrictions — have arrived after the government set up a search and rescue base at the airport.

Officials have taken over rooms in the air traffic control tower at the new Phu Quoc international airport, where the atmosphere is calm and organised, but sparsely furnished rooms hint at Vietnam’s limited resources.

The communist country “has minimal capabilities for search and rescue at sea,” said Vietnam expert Carl Thayer, adding it was geared more towards dealing with natural disasters such as typhoons.

“The longer the search continues (Vietnam) will have problems sustaining its commitment,” he said.

The total search sphere now includes land on the Malaysian peninsula itself, the waters off its west coast, and an area to the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Vietnam has said it will search on land if needed.

That covers an area far removed from the scheduled route of MAS flight MH370, which officials say may have inexplicably turned back towards Kuala Lumpur.

New Straits Times

Nothing Concrete Despite Clues, Reported Sightings

HO CHI MINH CITY: Today marks the fourth day since Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 mysteriously disappeared from the radar screen.

For the media, since Beijing-bound MH370 which ferried 239 passengers and crew members went missing early last Saturday, it has been a wild goose chase, to say the least.

Whenever the media tries to verify a piece of 'hot' information or tip pertaining to the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH370 aircraft - it is eventually debunked!

As such, clues and reported sightings of objects have so far, been proven to be false as 10 countries are jointly involved in a massive search and rescue (SAR) operation to locate the aircraft.

In short, there is hardly a hint of success in pinpointing the location of the missing, 11-year-old Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, leaving the Malaysian media a frustrated lot.

This afternoon was no different. Initially, there were reports that SAR efforts were expanded to include land areas around the Vietnam and Cambodia border. However, the reports were quickly denied by the Vietnamese authorities.

"The Office of National Committee for Search and Rescue, Vietnam stated that the seach range continues to focus on the area where the plane reportedly disappeared.

"No confirmation of the search being expanded to the ground or forest areas," said the Malaysian Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City when asked to comment of the reports.

In the sea, Vietnamese officials announced that efforts were expanded to an area near Con Dao islands, about 185km to the west of Ba Ria Vung Tau Province.

Currently, there are at least 20 Malaysian media personnel here. So have media representatives from Hong Kong and China, apart from those from major international news organisations.

The Malaysian media started to trickle here, hours after news of the disappearance of Flight MH370 near Phu Quoc Island about 2.40am last Saturday.

BERNAMA

Imposters 'More Likely Migrants Than Terrorists'

BANGKOK: The two mystery passengers who triggered an international terrorism probe into a missing Malaysian jet now appear to be young Iranian migrants seeking a new life overseas, officials said Tuesday.

The case of the pair, who travelled with stolen passports, has focused attention on the murky world of people smuggling, particularly through Southeast Asia, which has long been renowned as a hub of illegal migration and human trafficking.

Interpol said Tuesday the two men were believed to have travelled to Kuala Lumpur via Doha using Iranian passports — not reported stolen — under the names of Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, aged 29, and Pouri Nour Mohammadi, 18.

They then switched to stolen Austrian and Italian passports to board Beijing-bound flight MH370, which vanished Saturday with 239 people on board.

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said it appeared increasingly certain “these two individuals were probably not terrorists”.

“The interest seems to be dying down because they might just be people who were being smuggled or trafficked,” he told a news conference in France.

“And from Interpol’s perspective the fear or the concern we should all have is that more than a billion times each year there are people that either cross borders or board planes without having passports screened against Interpol’s database,” he added.

Thai police said a suspected Iranian people smuggler had booked the tickets for the two men on flight MH370 through travel agencies in Pattaya, a seedy seaside city renowned for its flourishing sex industry.

The man, named as “Mr Ali”, reserved the seats under the names of two Europeans whose passports were stolen in the kingdom.

“We believe that these two passports were stolen by a human smuggling gang who send people to work in third countries, especially European countries,” Police Lieutenant General Panya Maman, commander of southern region police, told AFP.

He said “Mr Ali” was believed to live in Malaysia and has links to a gang that specialises in smuggling Middle Eastern people to Europe via third countries. The ring has connections in Pattaya and the Thai resort island of Phuket.

He estimated that 2,000 passports were lost or stolen in Thailand each year.

Iran offered its assistance with the Malaysian investigation into two of its nationals.

“We are offering our cooperation to obtain more information,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said, pledging that Tehran would provide “any information on the Iranians and their status as soon as it is available.”

Local rights groups said they were seeing a rise in the number of migrants fleeing the Islamic republic.

“Over the past few years actually there has been an increase in the numbers of people who have been leaving Iran and coming here,” said Sharuna Verghis, director of Malaysia-based refugee support group Health Equity Initiative.

Some of them are trying to escape persecution after changing their religion, or because they faced gender-based discrimination, she said.

“Mr Ali” made the bookings by phone through Pattaya-based Grand Horizon Travel on March 1, asking for the two cheapest tickets to Europe, Pattaya police chief Colonel Supachai Phuykaeokam told AFP.

A few days later, Grand Horizon — a sub-agent — asked another travel agency, Six Star, to issue e-tickets at his request.

A friend of Ali’s paid for the tickets in cash at the office of Grand Horizon in Pattaya, Supachai said.

Both agencies declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

The flights were booked under the names of Luigi Maraldi, an Italian, and Austrian Christian Kozel — but neither European ever boarded the Malaysia Airlines plane which vanished without a trace over the South China Sea early Saturday.

The flight booked in Kozel’s name was from Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt via Beijing and Amsterdam, while the final destination for the Maraldi ticket was Copenhagen.

Both Maraldi and Kozel had their passports stolen in Thailand in the past two years.

Travel documents seen by AFP confirm that the one-way tickets were issued in Pattaya on March 6 and cost 20,215 baht (US$625) each.

Maraldi has said his passport was stolen when he rented a motorbike in Phuket in July 2013.

He told police he left the passport with a Thai woman looking after the shop, but when he returned she had given it to somebody else.

Kozel also reported his passport missing in Phuket, on March 14, 2012, according to police.

According to one diplomatic source in Bangkok, tourists often lose their passports after leaving them as deposits for rental scooters.

New Straits Times

Loud noise Reported, Believed Linked To Missing Plane

MARANG: Eight villagers here lodged police reports today claiming that they had heard a loud noise last Saturday coming from the direction of Pulau Kapas and believed it was linked to the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight on that day.

All of them, from Kampung Pantai Seberang Marang, made the reports at the Marang district police headquarters at about 10.30 am.

One of them, Alias Salleh, 36, said he and seven fellow villagers were seated on a bench about 400 metres from the Marang beach at 1.20 am when they heard the noise, which sounded like the fan of a jet engine.

"The loud and frightening noise came from the north-east of Pulau Kapas and we ran in that direction to find out the cause. We looked around the Rhu Muda beach but did not see anything unusual," said the lorry driver.

Replying to a question, Alias said they lodged the police report so that it would be of help to the authorities who were trying to locate the missing MAS aircraft.

MAS Flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing about an hour after taking off from the KL International Airport at 12.41 am Saturday.

It was flying above the South China Sea off Kelantan at that time. It should have landed in Beijing at 6.30 am but has disappeared without a trace.

Another villager, Mohd Yusri Mohd Yusof, 34, said when he heard the strange noise, he thought a tsunami was about to strike.

"My friends and I heard the ringing noise for about two minutes. I decided to lodge the police report after seeing the media reports on the lost flight," he said.

BERNAMA

[UPDATED 9.20PM] Chinese Vessels Find No Trace Of Missing Plane

ABOARD JINGGANGSHAN: A second Chinese naval vessel on Tuesday joined the massive international hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, but has so far found no clues, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

Upon its arrival on Tuesday morning, Jinggangshan teamed with Mianyang, which arrived Monday, and promptly started search operations.

The two naval vessels are providing a non-stop, 24-hour search with all their monitoring systems activated, including radar, infra-red and optoelectronic searching devices.

Two shipboard helicopters of Jinggangshan have also carried out an air search.

The weather condition at the target sea area is good, with a wind force 5-6, and wave height of about two metres. The visibility is more than five nautical miles (about 9.26 km).

"The search involves air, sea and underwater forces, and it can increase our chances of finding the missing plane," said Deputy Chief of Staff of South China Sea Fleet, Wang Yongxiang.

"We will carry out immediate rescue or salvage operations once we spot persons in distress, suspicious floating objects or underwater targets," Wang added.

The sea surface is calm, as Xinhua reporters saw from a helicopter that sometimes hovers only 30 metres above the sea surface. No floating objects have been identified except for two wood boards.

The vessel Jinggangshan has twice discovered suspicious objects which turned out to be a life vest and an oil barrel unrelated to the plane.

According to the Chinese navy, another two warships are expected to reach the area on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning respectively, and a depot ship has been ordered to prepare to move into the Gulf of Thailand to replenish the searching vessels.

Dozens of ships and planes from around 10 countries are scouring the waters around Flight MH370's last known location, but no solid clues have been found so far.

The Boeing 777 aircraft suddenly vanished from radar early Saturday morning while carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Among the passengers, 153 are Chinese.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered an all-out search and rescue effort. Several Chinese civilian ships have already been sent to assist the mission.

BERNAMA

Rulers Express Sadness Over Missing Plane

KUALA LUMPUR: The Conference of Rulers today expressed sadness over the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) aircraft and called on the people of all races, religions and political affiliations to come together to face the tragedy.

It said in a statement that it was following the developments in the search and rescue efforts closely and appreciated all the efforts being taken to locate the lost Boeing 777-200ER.

"The cooperation and the assistance from the various countries engaged in the search for the missing aircraft are most appreciated," said the statement, issued by the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal, Datuk Seri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad.

The Conference of Rulers said it was hoped that with the mercy and guidance of 'Allah' (God), these efforts would be fruitful.

It also prayed for the relatives of the 227 passengers and 12 crew of Flight MH370 to be given the strength, courage and calmness to face the situation.

Flight MH370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing about an hour after taking off from the KL International Airport at 12.41 am Saturday. It should have landed in Beijing at 6.30 am on the same day.

BERNAMA

Search For Missing Jet Covers Mountainous, Forest Areas

HANOI: Massive search for the missing Malaysian plane will be expanded to scour mountainous and forest areas, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) quoted Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army, Lt Gen Vo Van Tuan as saying.

“We have informed units and localities on land, including Military Zones 5, 7 and 9, and localities in the western, southeastern and central regions to deploy forces to seek the plane,” Tuan said on Tuesday while instructing the operation.

Units managing border areas were requested to increase coordination with Lao and Cambodian forces in searching border areas in their territories, he said.

Two hotlines were also set up at the command office in Phu Quoc Island, southern Kien Giang province to promptly provide information relating to the search.

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Transport Pham Quy Tieu told a press conference on Phu Quoc the same day that Vietnamese forces will continue the operation on a wider area.

Accordingly, the search will be expanded to the east of the initially suspected area, 277 kilometres from Tho Chu Island in Kien Giang province, and the south and west of Con Dao Island, 185 kilometres off the coast of the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

Tieu urged the deployment of aircraft and naval ships for the operation, affirming that Vietnam will do its utmost to seek the missing jet.

He also asked the Kien Giang province to continue to urge local fishermen for support and be prepared if there were any objects that appear to be from the plane are found.

Meanwhile, Phu Quoc International Airport was requested to be prepared for rescue work, if necessary.

The naval ship HQ888 has examined waters off southern Ba Ria Vung Tau province without finding any fragments spotted by a Hong Kong commercial aircraft on Monday, according to the National Committee for Search and Rescue.

The Boeing 777-200 plane operated by Malaysia Airlines left Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) for Beijing at 12.41am on Saturday, and lost contact with authorities at around 1:30am the same day.

The aircraft was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members.

BERNAMA

[UPDATED 8.27PM] Four Sightings Reported To Police

KOTA BARU: Police have received four reports from individuals in the state claiming to see an aeroplane flying low near their areas at the time Malaysian Airline flight MH370 went missing early Saturday.

State police chief Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said a bus driver also made a police statement that he had seen an aeroplane at the Penarik, Setiu junction in Terengganu.

He said two of the reports were filed in Tumpat and two here.

"One of the reports was filed on Sunday and three on Monday. We believed that these men were sincere in making the reports and wanted to assist the authorities," he said in a press conference this evening.

New Straits Times

Iran Offers Help With Probe Into Missing Airliner

TEHRAN: Iran offered its assistance Tuesday with a Malaysian investigation into two of its nationals believed to have been travelling on stolen passports on an airliner missing for days.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Iran was “following up on reports regarding the possibility of two Iranian passengers aboard the plane.”

“We are offering our cooperation to obtain more information,” she said, pledging that Tehran would provide “any information on the Iranians and their status as soon as it is available.”

Malaysian police said Tuesday that one of two suspect passengers aboard the missing jet was an Iranian illegal immigrant, as hopes for the 239 passengers and crew ebbed away.

Fears of terrorism were stoked by the weekend revelation that two men boarded the flight using stolen European passports. But police said people-smuggling was emerging as the likeliest explanation for the identity fraud.

One of the pair has been identified as 19-year-old Iranian Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, Malaysia’s national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters.

“We believe he is not likely to be a member of any terror group and we believe he was trying to migrate to Germany,” Abu Bakar said, adding that authorities had not yet identified the other man.

Authorities have doubled the search radius to 100 nautical miles around the point where Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared from radar over the South China Sea early Saturday, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

With the aviation industry and authorities baffled over the plane’s fate, investigators say they are ruling nothing out over how a huge Boeing 777-200 jet could have completely vanished.

New Straits Times

Iranian People-Smuggling Link As Search Widens

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police said Tuesday one of two suspect passengers who flew on a missing passenger jet was an Iranian illegal immigrant, as relatives of some of the 239 people on board said their hopes for a miracle were ebbing away.

Authorities have doubled the search radius to 100 nautical miles (equivalent to 185 kilometres) around the point where Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared from radar over the South China Sea early Saturday, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

“We are intensifying our search and rescue, and hoping against hope there is still an opportunity for us to rescue (the passengers and crew),” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters.

The parliament of Muslim-majority Malaysia observed a moment of silence and prayer for the 227 passengers and 12 crew.

The 34-year-old son of Malaysian security guard Subramaniam Gurusamy was on the flight to do business in Beijing for an oil company.

“My three-year-old grandson is asking: ’where is Dad?’ We tell him father has gone to buy sweets for you,” Gurusamy, 60, said as he broke down in tears.

“Please bring back my son. I am praying for divine intervention. That is the only hope we have.”

Fears of terrorism were stoked by the weekend revelation that two men boarded the flight using stolen European passports. But police said people-smuggling was emerging as the likeliest explanation for the identity fraud.

One of the pair had been identified as a 19-year-old Iranian, Malaysia’s national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters.

“We believe he is not likely to be a member of any terror group and we believe he was trying to migrate to Germany,” he said, adding that authorities had not yet identified the other man.

Khalid said police were not ruling anything out, focusing their investigations on various theories including a hijacking, sabotage or psychological problems among passengers or crew.

The two passports — one Italian and one Austrian — were stolen over the past two years in Thailand, where police have long been battling a thriving trade in Western documents used by criminal gangs.

An Iranian man identified as “Mr Ali” made the two bookings by phone through a travel agency in the Thai resort of Pattaya on March 1, asking for the two cheapest tickets to Europe, Thai police say.

“We believe that these two passports were stolen by a human-smuggling gang who send people to work in third countries, especially European countries,” Lieutenant General Panya Maman, commander of Thailand’s southern police region, told AFP.

New Straits Times

[UPDATED 7.02PM] Interpol Chief Says Malaysia Incident Unlikely To Be Terrorist

LYON, France: The head of international police agency Interpol said on Tuesday he did not believe the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane at the weekend was a terrorist incident.

"The more information we get, the more we are inclined to conclude it is not a terrorist incident," said Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble.

He also said two Iranian passport holders had swapped their passports in Kuala Lumpur and used stolen Italian and Austrian passports to board the now missing Malaysian airliner.

New Straits Times

Passengers' Families Received Counselling

SHAH ALAM: Five families of passengers on board the Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight that went missing on Saturday received counseling from the Welfare department at a hotel in Putrajaya today.

Director general Datuk Norani Hashim said the families had personnally approached the department's counselors to seek emotional and psychological support.

"As most of the Malaysian passengers are Chinese, we also assigned 11 Chinese counselors, just in case. It may help to make them feel more at ease," she told reporters here today.

Norani launched the Selangor-level Child Protection Policy for Voluntary Child Welfare Organisations here today.

A total of 19 counselors from the department and 28 more from other agencies have been assigned on shift to provide 24-hour counseling services to more than 100 affected family members who are temporarily staying at the Everly Hotel.

MH370 which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members went missing about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang for Beijing at 12.41 am on Saturday.

The aircraft was scheduled to arrive at its destination at 6.30 am the same day.

BERNAMA

China Satisfied With M'sian Efforts

KUALA LUMPUR: CHINA is satisfied by the efforts carried out by Malaysia in handling the search and rescue(SAR) operations of the missing MH370 aircraft, said its ambassador Huang Huikang.

"Malaysia has done a lot to conduct the emergency SAR as well as dealing with the needs of the needs of the passengers' families and next-of-kins."

He was asked to comment on some criticism by some quarters that Malaysia was slow in reacting to the tragedy and should be doing more than what is already done.

"I have also explained to the Chinese media that rescue operations are being carried out in an orderly manner.

"We must be patient in these difficult times and be calm and patient because some things are beyond our knowledge.

Huang, who has been the Chinese ambassador in Malaysia since Jan 8 said everyone should wait and pray for the safety of the flight passengers and crew and hope for the best outcome.

Today also marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Malaysia.

New Straits Times

[UPDATED 6.25PM] People From Diverse Ethnic Backgrounds Hold Special Prayers

GEORGE TOWN: People from diverse ethnic backgrounds held four special prayers today to extend their thoughts for the 239 passengers and crew on board the missing Malaysia Airlines B777-200ER aircraft.

The four sessions were conducted by the Buddhist, Muslim, Christian as well as Hindu fraternities in the wake of the mystery relating to the flight from Kuala Lumpur enroute to Beijing last Saturday.

Be it non-governmental organisations, religious groups and police personnel, Penangites from all walks of life prayed for the safe return of passengers on board the plane.

It was a solemn atmosphere at the Mahindarama Buddhist Temple in Jalan Kampar here where police personnel joined the temple committee to chant for about an hour in the presence of seven Buddhist priests, led by the Venerable E. Indaratana.

They observed a two-minute silence in solidarity to pray for the search and rescue operations to locate the passengers and crew's whereabouts as soon as possible

Special guest Penang Special Police branch chief Senior Assistant Commssioner Cheong Koon Kock expressed his grave concern for the fates of those on board MH370.

"We are here to pray that there will be light at the end of tunnel in the time of anguish and uncertainity.

"Our prayers and thoughts are with everyone on board MH370," Cheong said.

Also present were the temple chairman Kung Kok Chye and Southwest district police chief Superintendent Lai Fah Hin.

Meanwhile, the nation's anguish was too much for police personnel to bear when several policemen broke down in tears at the state police contingent headquarters.

Some 1,500 police personnel from the contingent and district divisions converged in a solat hajat to pray for a speedy recovery of MH370.

State police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi led the prayers.

In a related development, several police personnel from the Christianity background offered their prayers at St George's Church in Lebuh Farquhar today morning.

MH370 mysteriously went off the radar about 1.30am on Saturday, between the east coast and Vietnam's southern coast.

The fate of the aircraft carrying 227 passengers of 14 nationalities and a Malaysian cabin crew of 12 remains unknown.

New Straits Times

Passenger Who Used Stolen Passport Identified

SEPANG: The authorities have identified one of the passengers who used a stolen travel document from Austria as 19-year-old Iranian.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar Abu Bakar revealed the Iranian as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad.

"Our investigation has shown that the Iranian is believed do not belong to any terrorist group and wanted to migrate to Germany.

"His mother was waiting for him in Frankfurt and knew that her son was using a stolen passport," he said.

Khalid also released the pictures of the two passengers who had used the stolen passports to board MH370.

Immigration director-general Datuk Aloyah Mamat said the two suspects were using the stolen passports to enter and exit the country.

She said the on-duty immigration officers who processed the two stolen passports had complied to standard operating procedures and made the verifications which were in order before allowing them to proceed.

Khalid also clarified that there was no five passengers that did not board MH370 and said all passengers who booked the flight had boarded MH370.

There was only one passenger who did not take the flight as she had cancelled her ticket due to date mixed up, he added.

Khalid said the investigation into the missing aircraft covered four areas- hijacking, sabotaging, personal problem of crews and passengers as well as their psychological state.

He also said that Malaysian and China securities were working very closely with each other.

New Straits Times

Qatar Ready To Assist In Search And Rescue Mission

KUALA LUMPUR: Qatar is ready to assist Malaysia in search and rescue (SAR) missions to find the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370, which has been missing since early Saturday.

This was conveyed by Qatar's ambassador to Malaysia, Essa Mohamed Al-Mannai, during a courtesy call on Dewan Negara President Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang at Parliament House here, today.

"He (the ambassador) conveyed his sadness over the disappearence of flight MH370, which was carrying so many passengers.

"He and Qatar itself feel compelled to provide the necessary assistance as Qatar and Malaysia have a good relationship and share close ties," Abu Zahar told reporters after the one-hour visit.

He said Qatar and foreign countries that were concerned and expressed a desire to help during this trying times proved that Malaysia was a open country, which had good relations with many countries.

The meeting was to strengthen existing ties, that had long prevailed between the two Muslim countries, especially in the economic, business and political aspects.

New Straits Times

[UPDATED 4.48PM] MCA Volunteers On Standby To Help Passengers' Family Members

SEPANG: The MCA Crisis Relief Squad is ready to serve the needs of grieving family members of passengers on board MH370, with 300 volunteers on standby to help.

MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said 100 over volunteers were professionals from different backgrounds and would be able to converse in Chinese languages.

"MCA will go all out to help the grieving families during these trying times.

"We are also on standby for families from China, who need our help the most," he said in a press conference here earlier.

Families from China who need help translating and counselling help can call or text +6019-6696273.

On Saturday, Beijing-bound MH370 went missing more than an hour after departing the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, with 239 people on board.

Search and rescue efforts involving at least nine nations, 35 aircraft and 47 vessels, have been scouring the South China Sea for the past 60 hours.

At press time, no signs of the aircraft were spotted and officials have vowed to intensify search stretching nearly 200 nautical miles off Vietnam waters, where the flight was last spotted on the radar.

-New Straits Times

[UPDATED 4.44PM] Search And Rescue Scope Expanded To Straits Of Malacca

KUALA LUMPUR: The search and rescue scope has been expanded beyond the flight path to the West Peninsular of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) said in a statement at 11.15am today.

It said the authorities were looking at a possibility of an attempt made by the missing MH370 flight to turn back to Subang.

“As we enter into Day 4, the aircraft is yet to be found.

“All angles are being looked at. We are not ruling out any possibilities,” the airlines said.

MAS added that the SAR mission is aided by various countries - Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines and the United States of America.

The airlines said the assets deployed to cover the search and rescue were extensive, where nine aircraft and 24 vessels were deployed on this mission.

It said apart from the search in the sea, search on land in between these areas was also being conducted.

“The search and rescue teams have analysed debris and oil slick found in the waters. It is confirmed that it does not belong to MH370.”

MAS also said it had a special task force to take care of families of the passengers.

It said Mercy Malaysia, Tzu Chi and others were also helping the airlines by providing special psychological counseling to families and the MH crew.

MAS added that the Chinese government officials in Malaysia were working closely with the airlines.

It said a representative from the embassy was stationed at the Emergency Operations Centre to assist with the emergency management and matters related to families in Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, the Prime Minister’s special envoy to China, Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting is there to assist and coordinate all operational matters with MAS.

MAS said the B777-200 aircraft that operated MH370 underwent maintenance on Feb 23, 12 days before the particular flight on Mar 8. The maintenance was conducted at the KLIA hangar and there were no issues on the health of the aircraft.

The next check is due on June 19.

It said the aircraft was delivered to the airlines in 2002 and had since recorded 53,465.21 hours with a total of 7525 cycles.

“All MAS aircraft are equipped with continuous data monitoring system called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) which transmits data automatically.

“Nevertheless, there were no distress calls and no information was relayed.”

MAS reiterates that it would continue to be transparent in communicating with the general public via the media on all matters affecting MH370.

“We regret and empathise with the families and we will do whatever we can to ensure that all basic needs, comfort, psychological support are delivered. We are as anxious as the families to know the status of their loved ones.

“To the families of the crew on board MH370, we share your pain and anxiety. They are of the MAS family and we are deeply affected by this unfortunate incident.”


-New Straits Times

[UPDATED 4.21PM] No Intel On Terrorism But IGP Says Won’t Rule Out Possibility

SEPANG: Malaysian police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed today that MH370 investigators have not unearthed any intelligence that may point to the possibility of terrorist links to the jet’s disappearance.

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) refused to say, however, that this means that investigators have ruled out terrorism or hijacking as possible reasons to why the aircraft went missing so suddenly from radar.

“We have no prior intel or information of any involvement of terrorists,” IGP Khalid told a press conference at the Sama-Sama Hotel here this afternoon.

“We are looking into all angles... four main angles. Give us some time to go through all this,” he said, before telling reporters that the police have not ruled out terrorism in its probe.

He said all four angles of investigations are still given “equal weightage”.

The four angles Khalid listed are hijacking, sabotage, psychological problems of the passengers and crew members and personal problems among the passengers and crew.

Flight MH370 has been missing for nearly four days now since its departure from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 12.41am on Saturday.

The Beijing-bound Boeing B777-200 aircraft was carrying 239 people onboard, including 12 crew members and two infants.

MORE TO COME

-The Malay Mail

[3.28PM]

This is the first time the 2 passengers entered the country using the same passport, and left the country using the same document embedded with the same biometric feature. - Puan Aloyah Mamat, Chief of Immigration.

[3.26PM]

We are looking through all photographs and video footages.

[3.25PM]

The police is considering all possibilities but the investigation will be focusing on the four areas (mentioned earlier).

[3.24PM]

Over 40 million cases of people travelling with fake/false passports around the world.

[3.22PM]

We know the Iranian wishes to migrate to Germany because we are in contact with his mother. But he did not arrived in Frankfurt as promised.

[3.21PM]

Only one passenger did not board the flight. She mistook the date and informed the airline to cancel her booking.

[3.19PM]

We have not received the profiles and photographs of the passengers yet. But once we do, we (police) will study them closely.

We are going to study the behavioral pattern of the passengers.

[3.18PM]

Someone who boarded the plane might want to make a high-value insurance claim for the family.

[3.17PM]

We are looking into all angles, the four main areas: hi-jacking, sabotage, psychlogical problem, personal problem between passengers.

[3.15PM]

When the Iranian arrived at the immigration, his fake passport was accepted as his face/thumbprint matched the one on the passport.

[3.14PM] Q&A

Everybody who booked the flight boarded the aircraft.

[3.10PM]

Going through all profiles, photographs, and video footages related to the members of the aircraft.

2 passengers have been identified to be carrying false passports. One of them, an Iranian named Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehdad, 19 years old, migrating to Germany.

Checking with other police organizations for his profile. Likely not a member of any terrorist group.

[3.09PM] by Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar

Appointed investigator Datuk Hadi Ho for investigation after receiving reports about this missing aircraft.

4 main possibilities:

1. Hijacking

2. Sabotage

3. Psychological problem of a passenger

4. Personal problem between passengers

[3.08PM]

Conclusion: All departments have followed the Immigration SOP on the subjects.

[UPDATED 3.00PM] Press Conference By Chief Immigration

Italian suspect arrived at KLIA 2028 hours, arrived at KLIA and presented his passport and boarding pass for clearance.

Immigration said the bearer of the passport and the image matched.

Austrian subject presented himself at 2007 for immigration for clearance, both passport and boarding pass.

Immigration posed relevant questions to the subjects for their visit into the country.

[UPDATED 2.35PM] Search For MH370 Widens As Frustrations Grow

KUALA LUMPUR: Dozens of ships and aircraft from multiple nations scoured an expanded swathe of Southeast Asia today for any sign of a Malaysian jet that vanished with 239 people on board, as frustration mounted over the baffling disappearance.

Authorities had announced late yesterday they were doubling the search radius to 100 nautical miles (equivalent to 185 kilometres) around the point where Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared from radar over the South China Sea early Saturday, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

China, which had 153 of its nationals on board the plane, said it would harness 10 satellites equipped with high-resolution imaging to help, as Boeing said it was joining a US government team to figure out what happened to its 777-200 plane.

The vast stretch under consideration reflects authorities’ puzzlement over the disappearance of the aircraft, with 40 ships and more than 30 planes finding no sign of it on the fourth day of searching.

Malaysian authorities and airline officials have come under fire from China for their inability to provide any indication of what happened, and for a string of contradictory statements.

But a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) statement stressed: “We are as anxious as the families to know the status of their loved ones.”

The search sphere now includes land on the Malaysian peninsula itself, the waters off its west coast, and an area to the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

That covers an area far removed from the scheduled route of MAS flight MH370, which officials say may have inexplicably turned back towards Kuala Lumpur.

Hapless authorities and airline officials have held a number of press conferences since the drama erupted but have had no answer for the most burning questions over whether the plane exploded, ditched in the sea, was hijacked, or any number of other scenarios.

The plane, captained by a veteran MAS pilot, had relayed no indications of distress, and weather at the time was said to be good.

Vietnam asked fishing boats off its southern coast — where the flight dropped off radar — for help in the effort but said it feared the worst.

“In terms of our assessments and predictions — we have little hope of a positive outcome,” Pham Quy Tieu, deputy minister of transport, said today.

‘Emotional breakdown’

Emotions were running high after China’s state media blamed Kuala Lumpur for a lack of information. Tearful relatives of the missing Chinese passengers voiced frustration, while clinging to fading hopes.

“I hope it is a hijacking, then there will be some hope that my young cousin has survived,” a man in his 20s surnamed Su said in Beijing.

“My uncle and aunt had an emotional breakdown, they are not eating, drinking and sleeping.”

Yesterday, conflicting information deepened the anguish of relatives, with tests on oil slicks in the South China Sea showing they were not from the Boeing 777 and reports of possible debris from the flight also proving to be false alarms.

Malaysian embassy officials have been processing visa applications for Chinese families wanting to take up an offer from MAS to travel to Kuala Lumpur to be closer to the operation.

A team of Chinese officials from government ministries came to Malaysia, tasked with investigating the incident and helping family members already there.

Malaysia has launched a terror probe after at least two of the passengers were found to have travelled on stolen passports.

Two European names from Austria and Italy were listed on the passenger list, but neither man boarded the plane.

Both had their passports stolen in Thailand in the last two years and questions swirled over how the two passengers using their documents managed to board the flight.

The United States has sent an FBI team to help investigate, but US officials stressed there was as yet no evidence of terrorism. Yesterday, the US Navy sent a second ship to the South China Sea to help in the search.

Malaysia’s police chief said one of the passengers had been identified, but gave no further details.

Civil aviation boss Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman — who has called the episode an “unprecedented missing aircraft mystery” — yesterday denied another official’s earlier claim that CCTV footage indicated the men were of Asian appearance.

But he sparked social media ridicule for evoking Ghanaian-born footballer Mario Balotelli — an Italian citizen — in arguing that skin colour is no indication of nationality.

One Twitter user responded by saying: “Nice work in looking for the least obvious cause for an airplane crash.”

AFP

[UPDATED 2.12PM] Thai Police Doubt Terror Link To Stolen Passports

BANGKOK: Thai police suspect two men travelling on stolen passports on a Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared on Saturday were not involved in terrorism but instead evidence was suggesting they could have been asylum seekers.

Interpol confirmed on Sunday that at least two passengers on the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing used passports stolen in Thailand within the last two years leading to speculation that the plane had been attacked.

Thai police and foreign police investigators have been questioning two travel agents in the resort city of Pattaya, where the tickets were bought for the two men who boarded the flight using the stolen passports.

"We haven't ruled it out but the weight of evidence we're getting swings against the idea that these men are or were involved in terrorism," Pattaya chief of police Supachai Puikaewcome told Reuters on Tuesday.

Both of the tickets, bought for the travellers by two Iranians, were for travel on from Beijing to Europe at the cheapest price, Supachai said.

"Judging by the ticket booking alone, if it was terrorism they would have specified the route and the plane they wanted to take. Instead, they asked for the most cost-effective ticket and did not specify the route or the airline."

Police were hoping to question one of the Iranians who had paid for the tickets in cash. Supachai identified him only as Hasem and said he was known to be in Pattaya.

A second Iranian, who Supachai identified as Kazem Ali, had booked the tickets by telephone with a Pattaya travel agent. Ali was believed to be in Iran.

"We're looking into all angles including the possibility that these men were involved in human smuggling as Mr Ali had a relationship with the travel agency and had booked through them previously, very possibly for Iranian nationals," Supachai said.

Police on the Thai holiday island of Phuket said both of the passports had been stolen there. An Italian man reported his passport stolen last year while the other passport, which belonged to an Austrian man, was reported stolen in 2012, an immigration police officer said.

-REUTER

[UPDATED 2.10PM] First Officer Fariq Cared And Loved My Many

SHAH ALAM: MH370's first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid is known as a good man who is cared and loved by many.

Fariq is often seen attending congregational prayers at Surau Al-Mawaddah, located only about 50 metres from his house when he is off duty.

"He is a good kid with great attitude and is always respectful towards the elders," said Ahmad Sarafi Ali Asrah, 50, Surau Al-Mawaddah's head Imam.

Ahmad said Fariq was also polite and always participated in events and activities organised by the surau.

"I can't imagine how Fariq's family is coping with this test because even I cannot stop thinking about him although I am only a neighbour," said Ahmad who regards Fariq as one of his own children.

Ahmad shed tears when asked about his reaction when he first received news that Fariq's plane was missing.

"Fariq's father was calm when he informed me that his son was on the plane. We did not ask him further for we did not want him to break down in tears.

"We will not lose hope and we urge everybody to stand together and pray for the best upon MH370 missing tragedy. May Allah be with them," he added.

It was indeed an emotional moment during the meeting with Surau Al-Mawaddah officials as they shed tears during the interview with reporters, here, today.

Fariq's family are known as respectful, humble and have good relationship with the neighbours.

"Their house is not far from the surau and their family often contributes and participates in all activities and events organised by the surau," said Surau Al-Mawaddah's second Imam, Sulaiman Ismail, 67.

At Fariq's house, close friends and relatives came to visit and show their support.

His parents were still in shock and were not ready to make any statement about their eldest son.

One of his friends who was at the house today said Fariq was a brilliant student and had always wanted to become a pilot.

"We studied together in Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) Taiping from 2004 to 2005.

"Flying had always been his passion and he never stopped from pursuing his dream to become a pilot," he said.

-New Straits Times

[UPDATED 01.36PM] Hazrin, Come Home

KUALA LUMPUR: For the family of Mohd Hazrin Hasnan, 33, who was one of the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) crew on board the missing MH370 jetliner, hope is still there for his safe return.

The MAS crew member has been working as a flight attendant for more than 10 years.

The only boy in his family, Mohd Hazrin is married with a five-year-old daughter and expecting a second child in May.

Hazrin or fondly known as Rain by his friends and family is a well-liked MAS crew, his sister Norzarina Hasnan, 35 said.

Norzarina said Hazrin had really good work ethics among his peers and passengers.

“Even if he was tired, Hazrin would try to ensure the passengers are comfortable and their needs are met. He was committed to his work 100 percent and he doesn’t complain even if he’s tired.

“Usually he flies to London or Paris; we didn’t know that he was going to China. When we heard the news that day, we were devastated but we have to be strong for him.

“I had a dream about him that night on March 8. In my dream I saw my brother dressed in his MAS uniform with his badge and he had a big smile,” Norzarina told the New Straits Times.

Norzarina added that Hazrin was very close to his six sisters and would often make the time to meet up with everyone when he’s not working.

Despite not having any additional information about what’s happening, the family is praying and keeping it together, Norzarina added.

“What we know is from the news; we are as clueless as everyone. We’re waiting to hear something from the authorities soon and staying positive.

“Hazrin’s wife is strong in handling this matter and his daughter seem to think her father is working, unaware of the real situation.

“It’s been an emotional and testing time for us especially when we see his face on the TV or newspaper,” she said.

- New Straits Times

[UPDATED 01.35PM] Moment Of Silence Observed In Parliament

KUALA LUMPUR: The parliament today observed a moment of silence in prayer for the passengers, crew and their families of flight MH370 at the beginning of the second session of the 13th Parliament here.

Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia also expressed sympathy to all those affected since the aircraft was reported to lose all contact en route to Beijing.

"The country was shocked with the news of the MH370 aircraft that went missing on Saturday morning.

"We are saddened by the incident and extend our sympathy to the families of passengers and crew," he said.

He said the Dewan Rakyat prays the rescue mission will be made easy.

"We hope they will stay strong in this trying times," he added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was also present during the question and answer session, also extended his sympathy.

"The government assures that all possible efforts will continue to be made to locate the missing aircraft with cooperation from various countries," he said before answering a question.

The Dewan Rakyat session first day went on without the presence of Pakatan Rakyat MPs who were reported not to attend in protest of the overturn of High Court decision acquitting Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Their absence was also said to be due to the nomination for the upcoming Kajang by election.

The MPs are expected to return to the Parliament House tomorrow (Wednesday) after the one day protest.

- New Straits Times

[UPDATED 01.14PM] Six Member Delegation From China Arrives In KL

SEPANG: A six-member delegation, believed to be from Beijing, arrived at the KL International Airport (KLIA) here today, most probably in relation to the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) aircraft.

The delegation members arrived at 8 am and were escorted to a special room before leaving the airport in a China embassy vehicle at 9.30 am.

They declined to be interviewed by the local and foreign reporters who had been waiting at the airport since early morning.

The media was unable to get details about the delegation.

Yesterday, 10 government officials from China arrived to assist Malaysia to conduct an investigation into the disappearance of Flight MH370.

The Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, went off the radar at 1.30 am on Saturday, about an hour after departing KLIA.

The plane was carrying passengers from 14 countries, with more than half of them Chinese nationals and 38 Malaysians.

- BERNAMA

[UPDATED 12.54PM] ‘Impossible’ That MH370 Skipped All Radars, Expert Says

KUALA LUMPUR: It is “impossible” for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 to have escaped all radar detection in the area where it was travelling, unless it entered remote territories, an aviation analyst has said, as the mysterious disappearance of the large aircraft continues to baffle experts around the world.

Frost and Sullivan Asia Pacific aerospace and defence consultant Ravi Madavaram listed areas like Alaska or the Atlantic Ocean as among the few remote areas where airships could possibly fall off the radar, but stressed that it would only be for “brief moments”.

“With so many borders and countries around the sea, it is impossible to skip all the radars,” he told The Malay Mail Online in an email interview.

The search for MH370 entered is fourth day today after more than 80 hours since the large aircraft carrying 239 people mysteriously vanished from sight at 1.30am on Saturday morning.

Experts and investigators have been thrown off by how the numbers have not added up over MH370’s disappearance, and despite intensive search efforts, the aircraft has remained missing, leaving behind not a shred of evidence.

The Boeing B777-200 aircraft was hovering somewhere 120 nautical miles off the coast of Kota Baru when it was last seen on radar.

A large battalion of military aircraft and sea vessels from at least nine nations have been circling the areas where MH370 was last seen — covering a wider expanse of 100 nautical miles today in the waters of the South China Sea, the Straits of Malaccca and Penang — but still, to no avail.

Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, in hours after the aircraft went missing on Saturday, has said none of the control rooms in neighbouring countries found the jetliner on their radar.

Azharuddin said that the controllers had crossed checked with counterparts in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam before informing MAS of its missing flight.

With no sign of the aircraft on radar, experts are now toying with the possibility of a mid-air explosion or a major malfunction onboard the aircraft, caused by electrical or technical failures.

But Ravi discounted the likelihood of a total power cut onboard, saying that while it could be possible, it is very rare and has never happened before.

He pointed out that Boeing aircrafts are supported by three electrical power sources — two generators, one in each engine, an auxiliary power unit (APU) and a ram air turbine (RAT).

“For the aircraft to have total electrical failure, all three systems should have failed at the same time.

“This is pretty rare and has not happened,” said Ravi.

Asked if an electrical failure would affect distress signals, the expert pointed out that such malfunctions are typically reported by pilots to the Air Traffic Control (ATC).

At the time of the incident, however, the Subang ATC had not received any distress signals, even though military radar had detected the possibility that the aircraft might have made a turnaround in mid-flight.

“Total electrical failure all of sudden is remotely possible but with redundancy in the current aircraft’s, can be ruled out,” Ravi insisted.

The sudden disappearance of MH370 from radar in the early hours of March 8 and without any distress signal sent has continued to fuel widespread speculation on what happened inside the plane to cause it to disappear from sight.

Malaysian authorities say they cannot rule out terrorism as a cause for the airliner’s disappearance, especially after two passengers were found to have used stolen identities to board the aircraft.

The Boeing 777-200 aircraft left Kuala Lumpur and was about 40 minutes into its journey to Beijing when it vanished from the skies with 239 people on board.

-The Malay Mail

[UPDATED 12.52PM] MH370: A Look At Some Of The 38 Malaysian Passengers On Board

KUALA LUMPUR: Twelve colleagues, a family of three, a couple on honeymoon and a woman who had just celebrated her retirement over lunch earlier that day. These are some of the 38 Malaysians on board the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.

Four days after their flight took off at midnight for Beijing, it feels like the whole world is looking for them. Well, to be more exact, 10 countries, 35 aircraft and 47 ships at the last count.

Among the 12 Malaysian Freescale Semiconductor employees who boarded MH370 on March 8 is 31-year-old Tong Soon Lee. He is supposed to get married later this year.

“Even the date has been set,” his uncle told The Malay Mail Online at the Everly Hotel in Putrajaya where the passengers’ next-of-kin are being housed.

The engineer, he said, is a very ambitious young man and a jovial person.

Then there is Datin Biby Nazli Mohd Hassim, 62, whom a family friend describes as being very down to earth.

“I call her Kak Biby. She loves to cook and will call us to her house in Penang during those days to cook for us footballers.

“They are very pleasant people even though her husband is a big shot,” he said.

Biby, the wife of former Celcom chief executive officer Datuk Mohamed Ramli Abbas, was travelling with her two daughters, Dina, 30 and Maria, 32 as well as her younger sister Noorida.

Just hours before boarding the late night flight, 57-year-old Noorida’s colleagues threw her a retirement party. According to the KL City Hall website, she was the Administrative Assistant Secretary at the Health and Environment Department. She was supposed to retire on April 1.

Having married for a year, young couple Muhammad Razahan Zamani, 24 and his wife Norliakmar Hamid, 33, finally decided to go for their honeymoon in Beijing, and boarded MH370 last Saturday morning.

For another family, the trip to Beijing was a chance to have a family vacation before their son went off to college.

Tan Ah Meng, 46, and his Taiwanese wife Chuang Hsiu Leng, 48, was taking their eldest son, who according to Singapore’s Straits Times (ST) had just graduated from St Andrew’s Junior College in Singapore, on vacation in Beijing while he waited to enrol in a US college.

Nineteen-year-old Tan Wei Chew, who attended the junior college at 15 on scholarship, has two younger brothers aged 14, and 12, according to the Singapore daily.

Another couple — Chen Weihoing, 42 and Tan Sioh Peng, 41 — were on vacation without their children. Their son Eric Chen, 15, told the New Straits Times (NST) his parents had skipped their routine of praying at a temple near their house in Klang before going on vacation. Chen has an 11-year-old brother.

Another passenger Chng Mei Ling, 33, who is an engineer for Flexsys America LP in Pennsylvania, had just bought a house in South Park township back in October 2013. Her neighbours told Post Gazette, however, that she was hardly around for them to get to know her.

Kuala Langat Umno division deputy chief Zurihan Yusop’s elder brother, 50-year-old Muzi, was also among the group of Freescale Semiconductor employees sent to Beijing for a one-month training. He is the production manager at the Kelana Jaya-based office.

Another employee, 32-year-old Ramlan Safuan checked in on his Facebook page at KLIA before boarding the flight.

The Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) and the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) alumni’s post was followed by a friend’s joke about itik pancung and having dog soup in China.

Ramlan responded in disgust. He also told another friend, Din Tambang, that they would hang out when he returns.

About 12 hours later, the same check-in post was flooded with messages from friends who were concerned about his whereabouts and pleaded for him to respond.

Meanwhile, mother of three Nor Fadzillah Mat Rahim, 37, was described as the “the best daughter-in-law”, a crying Hajah Puteh told The Malay Mail Online when approached.

Then there is Senior Marketing Manager at Malaysia Land Properties Sdn Bhd Stanley Wong Sai Sang who was not supposed to be on MH370, his wife said.

She said he had missed an earlier flight and was forced to take the later one. It was his birthday, but there wasn’t time to celebrate as he was rushing from work to the airport to catch the flight to Beijing.

Tan Ku Leng said her husband was with two other colleagues.

He was also Selangor executive councillor Ronnie Liu’s schoolmate at Sekolah Menengah Raub in Pahang.

Petronas Marketing Manager Puspanathan Subramaniam, 34, who was described as kind, helpful and very funny by a relative, was supposed to be on a work trip to Beijing for two weeks.

The Singapore daily also reported that he was looking forward to be back to celebrate her sister’s belated birthday.

Authorities, experts, family members and friends are still searching for answers four days on, as the Boeing 777-200 plane carrying 239 passengers and crew from 13 different countries, fell off the radar at 1.30am, March 8, some 120 nautical miles east of Kota Baru.

Malaysian authorities also announced that it would expand the search area for the Malaysia Airline jet missing since Saturday, doubling it to 100 nautical miles starting this morning.

-The Malay Mail

[UPDATED 12.40PM] Family Members Of Passengers Coping Well With Situation

PUTRAJAYA: Family members of the ill fated Malaysia Airlines MH370 passengers are coping well with the heartbreaking situation, thanks to the counsellors and caregivers provided by Malaysia Airlines (MAS).

Malaysia Public Service Department Psychology Management Division director Dr Abd Halim Mohd Hussin said the condition of the family members was getting better from day to day.

"We know that it is extremely difficult and distressing for the family to wait for the updates but as of now they are handling their emotion well through the help of our 37 caregivers and counsellors," he told the media at the Everly Hotel today.

Abd Halim said all the family members had been asking counselors the same questions during the counseling sessions since the MH370 aircraft went missing for more than three days.

"They are becoming anxious over the development of the mysterious incident as they waited longer.

"What we could do is listen to them, be around them, show and give them concern and comfort that they deserve from time to time.

"All the processes comply with MAS regulations as we are here to assist the family members who are in trauma following the incident," he said.

He also said that the team of counsellors were ready to assist the Chinese family members upon arriving at the KLIA.

"We are working on the matter and in fact we have a list of counsellors who can communicate in Mandarin to help them whenever needed," he said.

-New Straits Times

[UPDATED 12.25PM] A Pilot Explains Why MH370 Crew May Not Have Sent Out Distress Signal

KUALA LUMPUR: An emergency in a cockpit could occupy the full attention of the airplane’s entire crew that may prevent its pilot from radioing any ground support for immediate help, an Airbus A330 captain said .

An aviator’s priorities are to maintain control of the airplane above everything else, pilot Bill Palmer ― who also authored Understanding Air France 447 ― wrote on CNN’s website today, as authorities remain stumped over the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) jet in mid-flight, three days after the incident.

Drawing parallels between the disappearance of MH370 and the Air France 447, an Airbus A330 that crashed in an area beyond radar coverage in the ocean north of Brazil in June 2009, Palmer said the lack of a radio or distress signal was not surprising.

Like the Air France plane, Palmer pointed out that the Malaysia Airlines aircraft was a state-of-the-art, fly-by-wire airplane, a Boeing 777, with an excellent safety record.

Both did not get a chance to send a distress call, he noted.

“The recovery of the Malaysian aircraft's flight data and cockpit voice recorders would be important in determining the cause of the accident.

“Flight data recorders contain data from more than 1,000 aircraft parameters, including altitude, vertical speed, airspeed, heading, control positions and parameters of the engines and most of the aircraft's onboard systems, captured several times per second.

“The cockpit voice recorder archives the last hours of not just cockpit voices and sounds but also all radio and onboard inter-airplane communications,” he wrote.

It has been since the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 aircraft fell off the radar at 1.30am, carrying 239 crew members and passengers from more than 10 countries.

Search involving 10 countries intensified with 34 aircraft and 40 ships scouring 100 nautical miles from the Igari checkpoint and near Penang on the Straits of Malacca.

Palmer said once the wreckage is located, an examination of the debris and its distribution will tell investigators if the airplane was intact upon impact and the angle at which it hit.

“Metallurgical and chemical analysis of the parts will determine the stresses and angles that caused the parts to fail, and if explosives were present.

“These findings of fact will drive the creation of theories by investigators about what caused the loss of the airplane and its passengers,” Palmer said.

He also pointed out that MH370’s route heading north from Kuala Lumpur was over sparsely populated and heavily forested mountainous areas of Malaysia and the Gulf of Thailand.

Reports of a possible course reversal observed on radar could be the result of intentional crew actions but not necessarily, he said.

“During Air France 447's 3½-minute descent to the Atlantic Ocean, it too changed its heading by more than 180 degrees, but it was an unintentional side effect as the crew struggled to gain control of the airplane,” Palmer said.

In the case of the Air France plane, he pointed out that it took five days of intensive searching before the first floating wreckage was found, and nearly two years to locate the remains of the aircraft on the ocean floor 12,000 feet below, broken into thousands of pieces by the impact with the water.

Location of the wreckage may be aided by underwater locator beacons on the airplane's flight recorders, if they have not been damaged in the impact like those on the French plane were, Palmer added.

He also said that the recovery for MH370, if it is in the water, would be easier than the long and expensive effort to recover parts of the Air France plane from the 4 kilometre-deep ocean, where most of the airplane and many of its victims remain.

The wreckage of the Air France flight was located in April 2011, with the flight recorders recovered and analysed that May.

According to media reports, the crew had failed to react swiftly and effectively to technical problems, resulting in a stall, which over almost four minutes, sent 228 passengers and crew plunging into the Atlantic ocean.

“The investigation of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be sure to take many months, if not years.

“We will know the truth of what happened when the aircraft is found and the recorders and wreckage are analysed.

“In the meantime, speculation is often inaccurate and unproductive,” he said.

The search and rescue operations for MH370 is led by the Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.

-The Malay Mail

[UPDATED 12.00PM] A group of family of one of the MH370 passengers from Beijing is scheduled to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 8pm today.

[UPDATED 11.27AM] Boeing Caught In Malaysia Mystery Without Jet Wreckage To Study

KUALA LUMPUR: Boeing Co. finds itself ensnared in the mystery over Malaysian Airline System Bhd.’s lost 777 as a team assisting US investigators confronts a central challenge in the case: There is no wreckage.

The 777, Boeing’s current top-selling wide-body, has only been involved in one fatal accident in its 19-year history. Malaysia Airlines’ 777-200 had no major incidents in its past, according to FlightGlobal’s Ascend Online database, although one wingtip was dislodged in a taxiway accident two years ago.

With no debris to help direct an accident probe and no reports of trouble before communications were lost, the plane remains among possible focal points for the inquiry into how Flight 370 vanished en route to Beijing on March 8 with 239 people on board. That saddles Chicago-based Boeing with a negative association that may not lift until evidence is found to point the blame, said Robert Mann, an aviation consultant.

“I don’t think we’re going to know anything until anyone can find an airplane,” said Mann, a former American Airlines executive who heads aviation consultant R.W. Mann & Co. of Port Washington, New York.

The lack of debris means the group of Boeing specialists sent to assist US National Transportation Safety Board investigators dispatched to Malaysia is limited in the help it can provide, said John Purvis, a retired investigator who used to head accident probes for the planemaker.

Boat crews

Boeing technicians have assisted past inquiries into planes that vanished at sea by joining boat crews to help sort aircraft parts from other flotsam, said Purvis, a Seattle-based consultant who was involved in investigations of an Air India Boeing 747 blown up off the coast of Ireland in 1985 and Korean Air jet shot down by a Soviet jet fighter in 1983.

Unless pilots were able to glide to a water landing like the US Airways jet whose 2009 splashdown was dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson,” the missing plane would have “broken up badly,” Purvis said. A nighttime ditching at sea would be even more challenging, and no debris has been found.

“If you hit the water in anything close to normal airplane speeds, it’s just a lot of little pieces,” Purvis said. “If it broke up in flight, it’s the same way but scattered more widely.”

Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman, said the company had no comment beyond a statement expressing “deepest concern” for relatives of those aboard Flight 370 and the dispatching of technical advisers to work with the NTSB.

Stock slide

Boeing fell the most on the Dow Jones Industrial Average yesterday, dropping 1.3 per cent to US$126.89, amid questions about the Malaysian jet as well as a fresh setback for its 787 Dreamliner. The planemaker is searching for hairline wing cracks on 43 undelivered jets, its marquee model and one whose history includes a commercial debut that ran more than three years late.

“News of the wing and inspections likely lower first- quarter deliveries, plus the 777 aircraft incident in Asia will likely weigh on the Boeing stock this week,” said Peter Arment, an analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc. in New York.

Boeing’s stock slide might have been steeper if not for the track record of the 777 during almost two decades in service, said George Ferguson, senior analyst for air transport with Bloomberg Industries. Deliveries total 1,178, according to Boeing’s website, and orders are sold out through 2016.

“The reputation of the airplane is so solid,” said David Greenberg, an aviation consultant and former operations executive at Delta Air Lines Inc. and Korean Air Lines Co.

Wing fix

Malaysia Airlines flies mostly Boeing aircraft, with the US planemaker accounting for 70 of 96 jets. The 777-200 flown by Malaysian Air is out of production. The longer-range variants of that model retail for as much as US$296 million (RM970 million). Buyers typically get a discount.

Some 777s are programmed to automatically radio data about the engines and other equipment during flight. Those telemetry broadcasts include a plane’s location and that information was used to help find the Air France Airbus Group NV A330 that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. Officials from Malaysian Air and Boeing haven’t said whether the plane had such equipment.

The only fatalities in a 777 accident occurred last year in the Asiana Airlines Inc. crash in San Francisco, where investigators have focused on pilot error. Only two other 777 accidents were serious enough to destroy a plane.

The 777 is a favourite among airlines because the plane can carry more than 350 passengers in a three-class cabin, giving carriers first- and business-class seating as well as coach, and fly almost all the routes operated by four-engine jumbos.

Superlatives include its range — 7,725 nautical miles (14,305 kilometres) for the long-haul 777-200 — and the ability to put as many as 550 people in an all-economy cabin, according to Boeing’s website.

“If you’re Boeing, you want to find this airplane — you want to find out what happened because it just doesn’t help your reputation as an aircraft manufacturer,” Bloomberg Industries’ Ferguson said in a phone interview about the Malaysian jet. “For them, it’s probably a little bit excruciating.”

-Bloomberg

[UPDATED 11.23AM] Specialist Aviation Site: Sabotage Most Common Cause Of En Route Crashes

KUALA LUMPUR: Sabotage and deliberate action are the main causes for an aircraft to crash while cruising at comfortable altitudes, according to the specialist aviation site, Flightglobal.

En-route accidents to airliners are extremely rare, the website reported, noting that its Ascend Online database showed such accidents account for just over 10 per cent of all fatal crashes.

Ascend Online also shows that a total of 46 western-built jet airliners have crashed, killing all on board while in the en-route phase.

Of these, 13 were caused by sabotage, two more by hijackings and one was shot down. Three more were caused by undetermined causes where flight crew suicide is suspected, it added.

“These various examples of deliberate action account for 19 of the accidents — and exclude hijackings that began during climb or descent, such as the four during the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” the report said.

The next most common cause of an en-route crash is loss of control, which accounts for eight events, it added.

After that, some form of airframe, component or system failure. Such events have resulted in eight accidents, Flightglobal reported.

Four accidents were caused by in-flight explosions or fires, the most notable being the loss of a Swissair Boeing MD-11 in 1998, which is believed to have been the result of a malfunction of the in-flight entertainment system, it said.

A further four accidents were caused by mid-air collisions. Other causes include suspected fuel exhaustion and loss of power at one each. In some cases, in-flight events happen so rapidly that the flight crew are unable to issue any form of mayday, but it is extremely unusual, it reported.

The sudden disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from radar in the early hours of Saturday, March 8 and without any distress signal sent has fuelled widespread speculation.

Malaysian authorities say they cannot rule out terrorism as a cause for the airliner’s disappearance, especially after two passengers were found to have used stolen identities to board the aircraft.

The Boeing 777-200 aircraft left Kuala Lumpur and was about 40 minutes into its journey to Beijing when it vanished from the skies with 239 people on board.

The aircraft was last seen on radar about 120 nautical miles from Kota Baru on Malaysia’s east coast.

Three days into its mission, a multi-country search involving 35 aircraft and 47 ships has yet to find the jumbo jet.

-The Malay Mail

[UPDATED 10.25AM] In Beijing, Water Bottles Fly Over Missing MH370

KUALA LUMPUR: Four Malaysia Airlines (MAS) employees bore the brunt of anger from frustrated families in China as yet another day dawned without new leads on the missing flight MH370.

The MAS officials could only dodge the onslaught as family members of the 138 Chinese passengers lobbed water bottles in their direction, unable to deliver any news on the fate of the Beijng-bound jumbo jet that carried their loved ones among its 239-people load, the New York Times (NYT) reported last night.

“All Malaysians are liars!” one man yelled in Chinese, the English-language daily reported, before adding, “Do you know what ‘liars’ means?”

“Tell him in English,” the Chinese man shouted at the one woman among the four MAS employees, whom NYT said was the interpreter.

The other three men were MAS senior managers and included Ignatius Ong Ming Choy, head of a MAS subsidiary budget airline, Firefly.

NYT reported that none of the MAS officials responded to the Chinese man as it was unclear if the interpreter translated the accusation.

Throughout the day, MAS staff — many whom were volunteers — but identifiable by their bright blue vests had offered bottled water and helped the families of the Chinese passengers clear the necessary red tape brought on by the disaster: passport, visa and hotel forms in a hotel room in Beijing.

The first water bottle flew towards MAS staff after Ong asked who wished to fly to Kuala Lumpur and who wished to stay behind in Beijing, NYT reported.

Today is the third day since MH370 vanished from radar in the early hours of Saturday, March 8.

The Boeing 777-200 aircraft left Kuala Lumpur and was about 40 minutes into its journey to Beijing when it vanished from the skies with 239 people on board.

The aircraft was last seen on radar about 120 nautical miles from Kota Baru on Malaysia’s east coast.

Three days into its mission, a multi-country search involving 34 aircraft and 40 ships has yet to find the jumbo jet.

Intense speculation is swirling around the presence of two passengers who were on the flight with stolen passports.

Malaysian authorities say they cannot rule out terrorism as a cause for the airliner’s disappearance.


-The Malay Mail

[UPDATED 10.12AM] Hishammuddin Joins Search And Rescue

KUALA LUMPUR: Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein is scheduled to join the Search and Rescue mission at the site in locating the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 today.

“I will be going to the SnR site today.

“Can't just sit and wait. Thinking 24/7 what else we can do,” he said in his tweet.

He also urged Malaysians to continue to pray for the passengers and their families.

The SAR operation was launched on Saturday after Flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing about an hour after taking off from the KL International Airport at 12.40am Saturday.

It should have landed in Beijing at 6.30am the same day.


-New Straits Times

[UPDATED 9.29AM] MH370 Probe Finds Scant Evidence Of Attack, Say Sources

KUALA LUMPUR: Investigators in Malaysia are voicing scepticism that the airliner that disappeared early Saturday with 239 people on board was the target of an attack, US and European government sources close to the probe said.

The fate of the Malaysian airliner that vanished about an hour into a flight to Beijing remained a mystery, as a massive air and sea search, now in its third day, failed to turn up any trace of the Boeing 777 plane.

Neither Malaysia’s Special Branch, the agency leading the investigation locally, nor spy agencies in the United States and Europe have ruled out the possibility that militants may have been involved in downing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

But Malaysian authorities have indicated that the evidence so far does not strongly back an attack as a cause for the aircraft’s disappearance, and that mechanical or pilot problems could have led to the apparent crash, the US sources said.

“There is no evidence to suggest an act of terror,” said a European security source, who added that there was also “no explanation what’s happened to it or where it is.”

Meanwhile, dozens of ships and aircraft from 10 countries were still scouring the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam as questions mounted over possible security lapses that could have led to a downing of the Boeing 777-200ER after it climbed to an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,670 meters).

Interpol confirmed on Sunday at least two passengers used stolen passports and said it was checking whether others aboard had used false identity documents.

Even so, one US source said Malaysian authorities were leaning away from the theory that the plane was attacked. Their view was mostly based on electronic evidence that indicates the flight may have turned back toward the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur before disappearing.

Even that information has not been clearly confirmed, and investigators and intelligence sources say the fate of the Flight MH370 is still shrouded in mystery.

One reason was that the aircraft had failed to make automatic contact with a flight data-monitoring system after vanishing from radar screens, two people familiar with the matter said yesterday. Such contact could have helped investigators determine what happened.

The aircraft was equipped with a maintenance computer capable of talking to the ground automatically through short messages known as ACARS. “There were no signals from ACARS from the time the aircraft disappeared,” a source involved in the investigations said.

Also raising doubts about the possibility of an attack, the United States extensively reviewed imagery taken by spy satellites for evidence of a mid-air explosion, but saw none, a US government source said. The source described US satellite coverage of the region as thorough.

With no success so far, authorities were planning to widen the search from today, Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the head of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority, told reporters yesterday.

“Unfortunately we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,” he said. “As far as we are concerned, we have to find the aircraft. We have to find a piece of the aircraft if possible.”

Azharuddin said a hijacking attempt could not be ruled out as investigators explore all theories.

A senior police official told Reuters that people armed with explosives and carrying false identity papers had tried to fly out of Kuala Lumpur in the past, and that current investigations were focused on two passengers who were on the missing plane with stolen passports.

“We have stopped men with false or stolen passports and carrying explosives, who have tried to get past KLIA (airport) security and get on to a plane,” he said. “There have been two or three incidents, but I will not divulge the details.”

Azharuddin also said the two men with stolen passports did not look like Asians, but he did not elaborate. Airport CCTV footage showed they completed all security procedures, he said.

“We are looking at the possibility of a stolen passport syndicate,” he said.

About two-thirds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew now presumed to have died aboard the plane were Chinese. The airline said other nationalities included 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans.

A senior source involved in preliminary investigations in Malaysia said the failure to find any debris indicated the plane may have broken up mid-flight, which could disperse wreckage over a very wide area.

“The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” said the source.

Asked about the possibility of an explosion, the source said there was no evidence of foul play and that the aircraft could have broken up due to mechanical causes.

Still, the source said the closest parallels were the bomb explosions on board an Air India jetliner in 1985 when it was over the Atlantic Ocean and a Pan Am aircraft over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988. Both planes were cruising at around 31,000 feet at the time.

Underlining the lack of hard information about the Malaysian plane’s fate, a US Navy P-3 aircraft capable of covering 1,500 square miles (3,900 square km) every hour was sweeping the northern part of the Strait of Malacca, on the other side of the Malaysian peninsula from where the last contact with MH370 was made.

No distress signal was sent from the lost plane, which experts said suggested a sudden catastrophic failure or explosion, but Malaysia’s air force chief said radar tracking showed it may have turned back from its scheduled route before it disappeared.

Superior safety record

The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records of any commercial aircraft in service. Its only previous fatal crash came on July 6 last year when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 struck a seawall on landing in San Francisco, killing three people.

US planemaker Boeing declined to comment.

The passenger manifest issued by the airline included the names of two Europeans who were not on the plane. Their passports had been stolen in Thailand during the past two years.

An Interpol spokeswoman said a check of all documents used to board the plane had revealed more “suspect passports”, which were being investigated.

“Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol’s databases,” Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said.

A Thai travel agent who arranged the tickets for the two passengers using the stolen passports said she had booked them on the flight via Beijing because they were the cheapest tickets, the Financial Times reported.

The travel agent in the resort of Pattaya said an Iranian business contact she knew only as “Mr Ali” had asked her to book tickets for the two men on March 1.

She had initially booked them on other airlines but those reservations expired and on March 6, Mr Ali had asked her to book them again. She told the newspaper she did not think Mr Ali, who paid her in cash and booked tickets with her regularly, was linked to terrorism.

-Reuters

[UPDATED 9.27AM] China Terror Warning Received Days Before MH370 Vanished

KUALA LUMPUR: The head of Taiwan’s intelligence agency has revealed that the island’s security officials received a warning about possible terrorist attacks in China targeting Beijing’s airport or subway system days before a Malaysia Airline jet went missing.

South China Morning Post yesterday reported Taiwan National Security Bureau chief Tsai De-sheng as saying that he had passed on the warning to Chinese authorities after receiving it on March 4.

The paper said there is no indication that the warning was connected to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which vanished from radar in the early hours of Saturday, March 8.

The Boeing 777-200 aircraft left Kuala Lumpur and was about an hour into its journey to Beijing when it vanished from the skies with 239 people on board. The aircraft was last seen on radar about 120 nautical miles from Kota Baru on Malaysia’s east coast. Three days into its mission, a multi-country search has yet to find the aircraft.

Intense speculation is swirling around the presence of two passengers who were on the flight with stolen passports.

Malaysian authorities say they cannot rule out terrorism as a cause for the airliner’s disappearance.

Taiwan spy chief Tsai did not specify how the bureau received the warning which came three days after a knife attack at Kunming railway station left 29 civilians dead, the paper said.

China Airlines yesterday confirmed that a call was received on March 4 and said information received had been passed to Taiwan’s Civil Aviation Authority and Aviation Police, it added.

-The Malay Mail

[UPDATED 9.26AM] No Automated Messages From Missing MH370, Say Sources

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian passenger jet that disappeared on Saturday did not make automatic contact with a flight data-monitoring system after vanishing from radar screens, two people familiar with the matter said.

The Boeing 777-200ER is equipped with a maintenance computer capable of talking to the ground automatically through short messages known as ACARS.

These help technicians prepare any necessary repairs and shorten turnaround times at the destination.

Automated ACARS error messages from an Airbus A330 that vanished in the Atlantic in 2009 focused attention initially on inconsistent speed readings as a possible cause of that crash.

Although black-box evidence later showed that pilot error was mainly to blame for the loss of the Air France jet, the burst of error messages was a sign that basic electrical systems continued to work during the aircraft's four-minute descent.

In the case of the Malaysia Airlines jet, however, investigators have no such evidence to help them discover what happened to the passenger plane, the people said.

"There were no signals from ACARS from the time the aircraft disappeared," a source involved in the investigations said.

Flight MH370 disappeared early on Saturday about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet (10,670 metres).

Malaysia yesterday called the disappearance an unprecedented mystery as a massive air and sea search now in its third day failed to find any trace of the plane or 239 people on board.

In addition to standard ACARS messages, airlines can install a system sold by Boeing called Airplane Health Management which provides real-time troubleshooting and allows Boeing to monitor the flight as well as the airline, according to its brochure.

This optional system was not installed on the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, people familiar with the matter said.

US planemaker Boeing declined to comment.

-Reuters

[UPDATED 9.17AM] Malaysia Hunt Spans Sea To Space As Debris Seen Near Vietnam

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia widened the search area for a missing jetliner, dispatching ships to check debris in the South China Sea, as the hunt for clues spread to space with satellite surveillance in a mystery entering its fourth day.

Vietnam’s coastal waters will be a target for patrol planes today after some objects were spotted on the surface. That moved the inquiry east of the route of Malaysian Airline System Bhd.’s Flight 370 after focusing on the Gulf of Thailand, where an oil slick once seen as a crash marker proved to be marine fuel.

Earth orbit offers the latest vantage point from which to seek the Boeing Co. 777-200. A Vietnamese satellite will photograph the Tho Chu Island area in the Gulf of Thailand, the news website Infonet said, while China’s Xinhua news agency reported that the country also is deploying satellites. The probe into two fliers using stolen passports continued.

“Where you have an airplane go down in the water, it’s not unusual to have a period where you are searching and don’t know where it is yet,” said John Hansman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Everybody wants to have an answer right away. It takes a while to find the evidence.”

Australia and the US are part of a nine-nation, air-sea search for the twin-aisle jet, which was en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people when it vanished from radar screens on March 8.

Awaiting daylight

Surface vessels kept searching overnight, and aircraft will rejoin the probe today “as soon as the sun comes out,” Doan Huu Gia, chief commander of the country’s aviation search and rescue coordination center, said yesterday at a briefing in Hanoi.

The possible debris area is 60 kilometres southeast of the Vietnamese coastal city of Vung Tau, said Lai Xuan Thanh, chief of the country’s civil aviation agency. Vietnam is also sending ships to investigate what appears to be metal pieces.

A plane alerted Hong Kong air traffic controllers about the discovery, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said in a statement on its website. Malaysian officials said they were directing ships toward the Hong Kong region, and Vietnam said the multinational search flotilla totalled 40 vessels, backed by 34 aircraft.

The latest sighting came as the search for Flight 370 left authorities confounded as to how a jet with one of the industry’s best safety records could vanish from radar without a distress call and leave no trace over water or land, even after days of patrols by surface vessels, planes and helicopters.

Watery search

“This was a relatively long flight going over large areas of water,” MIT’s Hansman said by telephone. “So there’s a reasonably large area that has to be searched to find something. I’m convinced something will turn up in the next few days.”

Closed-circuit television footage of the two travellers with stolen passports gave investigators another set of clues to examine. Austria and Italy said the passports were stolen from their nationals. The Royal Thai Police is probing the two thefts, which occurred in Phuket in 2012 and last year, spokesman Piya Uthayo said in Bangkok.

“We are trying to ascertain if the two holders of false passport entered Malaysia, legally or illegally,” Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said in a mobile-phone text message. The Financial Times reported that Malaysian authorities have given US investigators biometric details on the travellers with the stolen passports.

Ticket numbers

Tickets purchased with the pilfered passports on the flight, which belonged to Luigi Maraldi of Italy and Christian Kozel of Austria, had consecutive numbers, according to the Chinese e-ticket verification system Travelsky.

Men using the passports purchased the tickets on March 6 from Six Star Travel Co. in Pattaya, Thailand, city police Commander Supachai Phuykaeokam said by phone. The person with Maraldi’s documents had a final destination of Copenhagen, while Frankurt was listed as the last stop for the person posing as Kozel, the commander said.

An officer at Six Star Travel declined to comment. The Financial Times cited a travel agent as saying she was asked to arrange the trips for the two men by an Iranian contact. Neither Maraldi nor Kozel was on the Malaysian aircraft, their governments said.

Evidence that typically might be spotted after a terrorist incident is lacking so far, said two US officials. At the same time, the absence of clues isn’t enough to rule out such an attack, said the officials, who asked not to be identified while discussing intelligence activities.

No anomalies

The early warning system for the North American Air Defence Command detected no anomalies related to Flight 370, said one of the officials. Norad’s infrared and visual imagery can pick up heat sources such as explosions and missile launches, the official said.

US intelligence agencies also haven’t turned up a burst of chatter online or on the airwaves of the type that often follows an attack, the second official said.

Before takeoff from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Airline removed the baggage of five passengers who didn’t board after checking in, said Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation. “There are issues about the passengers that did not fly on the aircraft,” he said without elaborating.

China passengers

Chinese travellers accounted for the largest group aboard Flight 370, with 153 people, and that country’s government prodded the carrier to hasten the inquiry. Also aboard were three US citizens, according to the US State Department. The US Navy sent two destroyers and aircraft into the region, according to the Defense Department.

Flight 370 departed Kuala Lumpur at about 12:41am local time March 8 and was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6:30am. Security screening was performed as usual, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd. said. Controllers lost radar contact about an hour into the flight as the plane neared Vietnamese airspace.

The aircraft, which disappeared without providing any distress signal, may have made an “air turn-back,” said Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. That means the plane may have deviated from its planned route, said Malaysian Air Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya.

Finding the jet’s flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders, the units known collectively as an aircraft’s black box, would help investigators unravel what happened in the final moments of Flight 370.

Honeywell’s equipment

Honeywell International Inc. manufactures the 777’s recorders and the so-called emergency locator transmitter, a separate beacon that sends a homing signal in the event of a sharp impact such as a crash. The black-box unit emits a ping when underwater, where the ELT won’t work.

Steve Brecken, a Honeywell spokesman, declined to comment beyond a company statement expressing sympathy for relatives and loved ones of Flight 370’s passengers and crew.

A team from the US National Transportation Safety Board is in Malaysia, joined by specialists from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing.

While Muslim-majority Malaysia hasn’t seen any recent major terrorist attacks on home soil, it has been used as a transit and planning hub, according to a 2012 report by the US State Department. China has occasionally been the target of what it calls terrorist attacks by Uighurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic group from the nation’s northwest Xinjiang region.

Malaysia Airline said it dispatched more than 150 “Go Team” members, consisting of senior managers and caregivers, to Beijing to attend to passengers’ families. The stock fell 4 per cent to 24 sen in Kuala Lumpur. Allianz SE, Europe’s biggest insurer, said it provides liability coverage to the airline.


-Bloomberg

[UPDATED 8.46AM] In Sepang, Grief As Flight Attendants Remember MH370 Crew

SEPANG: Sorrow reigned as around 100 Muslims, half of them flight attendants, held a special prayer last night for the safe return of the crew and passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.

Sobs could be heard amid the hushed silence as the mam recited the closing prayer. As he finished, many broke into tears and hugged each other for support.

“When I prayed just now, I remembered his face,” Zulkarnain Mohd Refflis, 43, said of MH370 flight steward Mohd Hazrin Mohamed Hasnan (picture, bottom right).

Hazrin was a member of crew on board the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared in the early hours of Saturday, about one hour into its journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

There were 239 people aboard the Boeing 777-200 airliner, 12 were crew.

Zulkarnain, a MAS flight steward from 1996, described Mohd Hazrin as a fun guy who loved cars and motorbikes.

“The last time we spoke, he said make sure you bring your Harley,” said Zulkarnain, another motorcycle enthusiast.

Many of those present had fond memories of leading steward Wan Swaid Wan Ismail.

“Swaid and I go way back to 1992. We used to work together at Regent Hotel, he was in brasserie, I was in fine dining,” said one time housemate Jesmet Rasdee, 40.

“During weekends we would cook together, both in our shorts. If one of us was grinding the chillies, the other would do the frying,” said Jesmet, who joined MAS in 1997, two years after Wan Swaid.

Orphaned at 11, Wan Swaid was usually a quiet man, Jesmet said.

Retired stewardess Dzuriazrilla Dzulkefli, 44, said in-flight supervisor Patrick Francis Gomes had been a dear friend.

“We used to hang out together with others going shopping and eating out,” she said.

“All crew members have almost similar personalities… After we were trained in basic class, even if you were originally selfish, you would automatically become friendly and helpful,” she added.

The flight crew were brought together last night by Ismail Nasaruddin, who heads the over 1,400-strong National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam).

“From Saturday up until now, every night we have prayed and gathered, until we hear news… We are sad on behalf of family members and friends on MH370,” Ismail said.

Malaysia has roped in neighbouring countries as well as China and the US in massive search-and-rescue operations at two separate locations ― near Vietnam in the South China Sea and in the vicinity of Penang in the Straits of Malacca.

-The Malay Mail

[UPDATED 8.43AM] Immigration Chief Admits To Weaknesses At KLIA

PUTRAJAYA: The Immigration Department has come under fire after two men were found to have boarded flight MH370 with stolen passports.

Department director-general Aloyah Mamat admitted there were flaws in the security system, and that continuous checks and improvements were made to ensure these were not exploited.

“Flaws exist even in the best security systems, even ours.

“That is why security checks and internal audits are conducted consistently to test the health and integrity of systems such as that at KLIA.

“KLIA security measures and procedures pass international standards and regulations, but dubious parties will always try to search for weaknesses and exploit them,” said Aloyah.

“For obvious reasons, we cannot reveal our security measures to ensure their integrity.

“However, known measures in immigration such as biometric scans, metal detectors and 24-hour closed circuit TV monitoring are backed up by experienced officers on the ground.

“Throughout the years, all related national security agencies have worked together to create a proficient and constantly updated security web at KLIA,” she said.

Aloyah also said all immigration officers underwent thorough training and extensive screening before being hired.

“They are expected to be perceptive, informative and up-to-date on current immigration security issues, cases of security breaches and their counter-measures.”

Aloyah said all possible scenarios were being investigated with an internal probe under way to re-assess whether security measures were up to par.

“Security checks are heavily supervised and my officers act according to security regulations.

“I am personally heading an internal investigation to assess immigration security at KLIA, as well as liaising with related agencies on the issue.

‘‘Nothing is confirmed yet because we are still investigating.”

Questions were raised after Interpol confirmed that two passports — one belonging to Austrian Christian Kozel and the other to Italian Luigi Maraldi — were recorded in its Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database but used by two passengers who had boarded MH370.

Interpol is also conducting checks on all other passports used to board MH370.

At KLIA, two MAS passengers confirmed there had been no apparent effort to beef up security following the disappearance of MH370.

One passenger boarding a flight to Thailand, and who declined to be named, said: “Security is as per normal, no panic, nothing seems amiss.”

Jasbinder Singh Dhillon, a MAS passenger en route to New Delhi, India, said: “The security at KLIA was as any other day.

“There was no sign of heightened security measures.

“The immigration officers seemed relaxed and there was no increase in personnel either, which is surprising considering the magnitude of the incident.”

-The Malay Mail

[UPDATED 8.40AM] Kin Of MH370 Passengers Begin Arriving From Beijing

KUALA LUMPUR: The international arrival hall at KL International Airport was filled with a slew of media members waiting for the first Chinese families to arrive from Beijing at 8am yesterday.

Members of support group NGO Tzu Chi Buddhist Association was seen waiting to assist the relatives as they settled in at their hotel.

After an hour of waiting and no sign of the passengers, a MAS officer told reporters that the flight had landed safely and the airline has ferried away 227 people, with two from each family.

The passengers were believed to have gone through a secure route, which brought them right to their transport and straight to their hotel.

MAS public relations officer Malini Saundrarajan later confirmed the 8am MAS flight did carry 227 passengers from Beijing, who were family members of passengers from the MH370 flight.

“More family members will be arriving tomorrow,” she added.

-The Malay Mail

 


For previous days' stories on the topic, click the link below:

[NEWS ARCHIVE 11/3] BOEING 777: KL-Beijing Flight MH370

[NEWS ARCHIVE 10/3] BOEING 777: KL-Beijing Flight MH370

[NEWS ARCHIVE 8/3 - 9/3] BOEING 777: KL-Beijing Flight MH370