Malaysian leader: plane's disappearance deliberate
The Associated Press - By EILEEN NG - Associated Press LINK
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The missing Malaysian jetliner was deliberately diverted and continued flying for more than six hours after severing contact with the ground, meaning it could have gone as far northwest as Kazakhstan or into the Indian Ocean's southern reaches, Malaysia's leader said Saturday.
Investigators now have a high degree of certainty that one of the plane's communications systems — the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System — was disabled before the aircraft reached the east coast of Malaysia, Najib said. Shortly afterward, someone on board switched off the aircraft's transponder, which communicates with civilian air traffic controllers.
Najib confirmed that Malaysian air force defense radar picked up traces of the plane turning back westward, crossing over Peninsular Malaysia into the northern stretches of the Strait of Malacca. Authorities previously had said this radar data could not be verified. "These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane," Najib said.
Although the aircraft was flying virtually blind to air traffic controllers at this point, onboard equipment continued to send "pings" to satellites. The prime minister said the last confirmed signal between the plane and a satellite came at 8:11 a.m. — 7 hours and 31 minutes after takeoff. This was more than five hours later than the previous time given by Malaysian authorities as the possible last contact. Airline officials have said the plane had enough fuel to fly for up to about eight hours.