As the Malaysian government confirms that the MH370 crash was ‘an accident’, we republish the cockpit communication aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, from its taxi on the runway to its final message at 1.19am of ‘all right, good night’.
The last 54 minutes of cockpit communication aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 – published exclusively by The Telegraph – reveals conversations between the co-pilot and the control tower, and other air traffic controllers, from the time the Boeing 777 was taxiing to its last known position thousands of feet above the South China Sea.
It includes exchanges from a point at which investigators believe the plane had already been sabotaged, as well as the last words of Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, the co-pilot: “All right, good night.”
The Boeing 777 aircraft disappeared on March 8 last year, carrying 239 passengers and crew shortly after taking off from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing.
Analysts said the sequence of messages appeared “perfectly routine”. However two features, they said, stood out as potentially odd.
The first was a message from the cockpit at 1.07am, saying the plane was flying at 35,000ft. This was unnecessary as it repeated a message delivered six minutes earlier.
But it occurred at a crucial moment: it was at 1.07am that the plane’s Acars signalling device sent its last message before being disabled some time in the next 30 minutes, apparently deliberately. A separate transponder was disabled at 1.21am but investigators believe the Acars was shut down before Hamid’s final, 1.19am farewell.
The other odd feature, one reason for suspicions at the time that the plane’s disappearance was no accident, was that its loss of communication and subsequent sharp turn west occurred at the handover from air traffic controllers in Kuala Lumpur to those in Ho Chi Minh City.
“If I was going to steal the aeroplane, that would be the point I would do it,” said Stephen Buzdygan, a former British Airways pilot who flew 777s.
“There might be a bit of dead space between the air traffic controllers … It was the only time during the flight they would maybe not have been able to be seen from the ground.”
On Thursday, Malaysia’s government released a statement formally declaring the crash of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident, and its passengers “presumed dead”, clearing the way for families to seek compensation payments.
Despite an ongoing Australian-led search of the supposed crash region – the most expensive search and rescue operation in history – not trace of the plane has yet been found.
International investigators are looking into why the Boeing jet veered thousands of miles off course from its scheduled route before eventually plunging into the Indian Ocean.
In March 2014, Malaysia began contacting the handful of nations with deep sea detection equipment for help in what may be a long search for the aircraft’s black box. The area of interest spans 9,000 sq miles of waters up to 13,000ft deep with strong currents.
Warren Truss, Australia’s deputy prime minister, acknowledged that the apparent debris may never be found. “Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating,” he said at the time.
“It’s also certain that any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance over that time, potentially hundreds of kilometres.”
Malaysia also asked the United States for undersea surveillance technology, Pentagon officials said.
Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transport minister, said that the search had been proving frustrating and cautioned: “This is going to be a long haul”.
“We have to trench down and the focus is to reduce the area of search and possible rescue,” he added.
Malaysia Airlines disclosed on March 21 last year that the aircraft was carrying some lithium ion batteries, which are deemed “dangerous” cargo and can overheat and cause fires.
They have been responsible for 140 incidents on planes in the last 23 years according to the US Federal Aviation Administration, including one when a UPS cargo plane crashed during an emergency landing in 2010.
But Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, the airline’s head, said that the batteries, which are used in laptops and mobile phones, were packed and carried in accordance with regulations and were unlikely to have posed a threat.
He has previously revealed that Hamid, the co-pilot, spoke the final message on the plane but at the time he would not comment on whether Hamid appeared to have been under duress.
According to the cockpit transcripts, from the moment of sign-in at 12.36 when the plane was still on the ground, Hamid, a 27-year-old flying enthusiast, gave routine accounts of its location, ascent and altitude.
Although he took a slightly casual approach and at times departed from formal wording, nothing in his banter gives any sign that the plane was about to fly off course and disappear.
Some experts said that they did not see anything to make them feel something sinister might have been going on.
The Telegraph has repeatedly asked Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority and the office of Najib Razak, the Malaysian prime minister, to confirm the communications record. Only the prime minister’s office responded, saying that it would not release this data.
Relatives of Chinese passengers on board MH370 vented their fury on Malaysian officials in the weeks after the plane went missing in their first meeting in Beijing, denouncing them for time-wasting.
“We wanted to see you in the first 24 and 48 hours, so that we wouldn’t have had to bear the suffering of the last 13 days,” shouted one anguished relative, his voice quivering. Chinese citizens make up 153 of those on board Malaysia Airlines flight 370, two thirds of the total.
*This article was originally published on March 21, 2014