Mystery is deepening around the fate of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370 after Xinhua tweeted Sunday the passenger plane could have landed at the time when it was detected yesterday by a British satellite.
Inmarsat, which is a UK telecom firm, claimed earlier the flight had made a contact with its satellite network, meaning the plane might have been flying for more than five hours after it disappeared.
David Stupples, professor in electronic engineering at City University in London, has told Xinhua that the signal intercepted by an Inmarsat satellite could revealed the route the missing flight took.
He said that for the aircraft to suddenly disappear and have no secondary radar coming in would have meant that either this plane had met with “a sudden and catastrophic event,” or somebody had switched off all of the secondary systems, the transponder systems, and the communication systems, and then taken the aircraft down in height.
Stupples added that the maximum range of the radar would have been 402 kilometers. If the aircraft was taken down to 6,000 meters it would then disappear from the radar because it would be over its horizon.
Crew ‘not trained’ to switch off telecom systems
The British expert also said he had spoken to a colleague, who is a Boeing 777 captain, and he said that “the crew is not trained specifically on disabling all those systems because you have to go through quite a few circuit breakers to disable them,” because they are normally set up on the ground by ground staff as the aircraft is prepared for flight.
“But if it is somebody external to the flight crew, who has somehow got access to the flight deck, then they would have to disable all of the flight systems, the communications systems onboard,” he noted.
Indian Ocean scenario
The expert said that the 200-ton plane would need a runway of about 2,500m to land, adding it was quite likely the jet was going to be picked up by primary radars, used for defense, if it headed towards any landmass.
“If I wanted to stay totally cloaked I would fly out over the Indian Ocean because there is hardly any radar there,” Stupples said.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said earlier that investigators “have determined the plane’s last communication with a satellite was in one of two possible corridors.”
The northern route stretches from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan through to northern Thailand, while the southern could take the airliner from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean. There is also a theory that maybe Flight 370 landed in a remote Indian Ocean island chain.
Malaysia said on Sunday the number of countries involved in efforts to find a missing passenger jet had nearly doubled to 25 as it began a new push to find the plane across a vast arc of land and ocean.
“The number of countries involved in the search and rescue operation has increased from 14 to 25, which brings new challenges of coordination and diplomacy to the search effort,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s defence and transport minister.
Malaysia’s government said Sunday that police had searched the homes of the two pilots of a missing airliner and were examining the captain’s home flight simulator, but cautioned it was “normal” procedure. “Police searched the home of the pilot on Saturday, 15 March,” a statement by the transport ministry said.
The Kuala Lumpur homes of Mr Zaharie and Mr Fariq were searched on Saturday, a senior police officer familiar with the investigation was quoted as saying by Reuters. Media also reported the pilots hadn’t asked to fly the plane together.
Nothing has been ruled in or out – so terrorism, piracy or even an elaborate suicide are all options now being considered, the BBC’s Jonah Fisher in Kuala Lumpur reports.
Mr Zaharie joined Malaysia Airlines more than 30 years ago, and was considered a very experience pilot, while Mr Fariq recently recently graduated to the cockpit of a Boeing 777. It is believed that he was considering marriage.
It was also reported that Mr Fariq had drawn scrutiny after he and another, unnamed pilot invited two female passengers to sit in the cockpit during a flight in 2011, according to the Associated Press.