Satellite company registered ‘routine, automated signals’

Focus turns to Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea

Operation now involves 57 ships 48 aircraft

What to believe? Clarifying conflicting media reports

Plane disappearances: a brief history

Read the latest summary

Matthew Weaver in London and Tom McCarthy in New York

theguardian.com, Friday 14 March 2014 17.56 EDT

9.56pm GMT


We’re going to wrap up our live blog coverage for the day. Here’s a summary of where things stand:

• No tangible clue to the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 had emerged after a week of searching. The plane disappeared north of Kuala Lumpur in the early hours of 8 March with 239 people aboard.

• US ships, helicopters and surveillance aircraft expanded a search on the Indian Ocean side of Malaysia. India sent flights with heat sensors over the remote Andaman Sea islands. “We just have to take it little by little,” a US Navy commander said.

• Flight 370 made significant changes in altitude and took more than one turn after losing contact with ground control, in a pattern that suggests someone was flying it, the New York Times reported, quoting “American officials and others familiar with the investigation.”

• The Indian Ocean search intensified, an Obama administration official said Thursday, based on radar readings and automated transmissions from the plane that registered on a satellite network.

• A satellite company said its network had picked up “routine, automated signals” from the plane, but executives would not say for how long. Such pings are only received when the normal data transmission is not operating, once per hour, the company, Inmarsat, told the Guardian.

9.31pm GMT

Malaysia Airlines flight 370 made significant changes in altitude and took more than one turn after losing contact with ground control, in a pattern that suggests someone was flying it, the New York Times reports, quoting “American officials and others familiar with the investigation”:

Radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military appear to show the missing airliner climbing to 45,000 feet, above the approved altitude limit for a Boeing 777-200, soon after it disappeared from civilian radar and made a sharp turn to the west, according to a preliminary assessment by a person familiar with the data.

The radar track, which the Malaysian government has not released but says it has provided to the United States and China, then shows the plane descending unevenly to an altitude of 23,000 feet, below normal cruising levels, as it approached the densely populated island of Penang, one of the country’s largest. There, the plane turned from a southwest-bound course, climbed to a higher altitude and flew northwest over the Strait of Malacca toward the Indian Ocean.

The Times story cautions that data from engines and radar is “incomplete and difficult to interpret.” Read the full piece here.

Updated at 9.41pm GMT

9.28pm GMT

US ships are moving into the Indian Ocean to undertake a search “due west” of Kuala Lumpur, US Navy Commander William Marks of the US 7th Fleet has just told CNN from aboard the USS Blue Ridge Command Ship, positioned “a little northwest of the Malacca Strait” at 5am local time.

“As you look west, and you transition west to the Indian Ocean, ships alone are really not quite much of a solution, because of the expanse of the ocean,” Marks told CNN. “You have to look at what other assets you have.”

Marks said the navy was using helicopters and surveillance aircraft to look for MH370. “We’re looking essentially west of Kuala Lumpur … due west,” he said.

A P8 Poseidon aircraft has reached the Bay of Bengal and is patrolling for debris, the Navy told the Guardian, and the USS Kidd destroyer also is in the area, Marks said, adding that the search party now includes 57 ships and 40-some aircraft from 13 countries.

“We just have to take it little by little,” Marks said. “That’s the best we can do out here.”

Updated at 9.39pm GMT

8.40pm GMT

Some theorists of the fate of MH370 have picked up on a South China Morning Post story from Friday that suggests an 8 March seismic event on the sea floor between Vietnam and Malaysia may have been tied somehow to the plane’s demise.

The SCMP includes what it says is a statement by Chinese seismologists explaining that “It was a non-seismic zone, therefore judging from the time and location of the event, it might be related to the missing MH370 flight.”

Not hardly true, according to US Geological Survey scientists. “The location coincides with a region of regularly occurring seismicity along the Sunda-Java trench,” the USGS said in a report quoted by NBC News.

“The bump from the plane hitting bottom of the ocean would not be noticeable,” earthquake expert John Vidale of the University of Washington told USA Today.

The location — southwest of Sumatra — is also prone to volcanoes, the USGS added.

Updated at 8.53pm GMT

6.30pm GMT

Guardian transport correspondent Gwyn Topham (@GwynTopham) has confirmed with the satellite company Inmarsat that its network registered “routine automated signals” from MH370.

“The signals, described as a series of ‘pings’ to the satellite, indicated that its communication system was still working, but not transmitting data,” Gwyn writes, and “such pings are only received when the normal data transmission is not operating, once per hour. The information would support theories that the plane’s system was deliberately switched off”:

David Coiley, vice president, aviation, at Inmarsat, said: “When the system is not transmitting or receiving data on the aircraft, it will send network signalling info to establish that the aircraft satellite communication is switched on, to say that the system could communicate. If we haven’t seen any activity from an aircraft or ship it’s a check. It’s a simple acknowledgement.

“The ping doesn’t say anything other than that the satellite communications is functioning.”

Coiley said an analogy was signalling that mobile phones use that is noticeable as interference (eg near radios) even when not in use, as they establish contact with networks.

Such signals would not transmit location but can indicate a position and distance relative to the satellite which could give a guide to a rough direction of travel over several hours.

The Inmarsat system is installed in over 90% of long haul passenger planes worldwide.

Coiley told Gwyn that any total absence of communication during normal aviation would be “a highly unusual situation. The systems are designed to allow people to communicate when they want to communicate, constantly.”

Updated at 6.39pm GMT

5.32pm GMT

The Associated Press quotes an unnamed US official as saying the MH370 transponder stopped “about a dozen minutes before a messaging system on the jet quit.” The official calls it “key evidence for [possible] human intervention,” AP reports.

It wasn’t clear what “messaging system” the report referred to, however. An unnamed senior Obama administration official was quoted Thursday as saying that the plane continued to send out some Aircraft Communications and Reporting System (ACARS) data for hours after it lost contact with ground control, and a satellite company said its network had registered “routine, automated signals” from the plane.

In other timelines, the loss of ACARS has been placed before the loss of the transponder. Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said early Thursday that the last (ACARS) data were sent at 1:07 a.m., 14 minutes before the transponder signal was lost. Malaysian officials’ statements have proven inconsistent.

4.01pm GMT


• The search for MH370 grew on the Indian Ocean side of Malaysia as military radar readings and satellite readings appeared to suggest the plane flew west for hours. India began conducting overflights with heat sensors of the remote Andaman Sea islands.

• A satellite company said its network registered “routine, automated” signals from the flight. The Guardian is seeking confirmation of reports that the signals lasted hours.

• Two unnamed sources close to the investigation told Reuters that radar showed an unidentified aircraft believed to be MH370 following a route between navigational waypoints in the direction of the Andaman Islands. Malaysia requested additional raw radar data from its neighbors.

• Malaysian officials acknowledged speculation that the plane flew for hours after losing contact and said teams were “working on verifying that detailed information.”

• There has been no confirmed sighting of debris from MH370 a week after it disappeared with 239 passengers on board. The search operation now involves 57 ships, 48 aircraft, and 13 countries.

Updated at 4.09pm GMT

3.32pm GMT

The MH370 pilots were “a middle-aged family man passionate enough about flying to build his own simulator and a 27-year-old contemplating marriage who had just graduated to the cockpit of the Boeing 777,” the Associated Press reports:

Police have said they are looking at the psychological background of the pilots, their family life and connections as one line of inquiry into flight MH370’s disappearance, but there is no evidence linking them to any wrongdoing.

The plane was flown by Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, who was featured in recent a CNN report:

Fariq, the son of a high-ranking civil servant in Selangor state, joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007. With just 2,763 hours of flight experience he had only recently started co-piloting the sophisticated Boeing 777.

He had a short brush with fame when he was filmed recently by a crew from “CNN Business Traveler.” Reporter Richard Quest called it a perfect landing of a Boeing 777-200, the same model as the twin-aisle plane that went missing. An online tribute page to the pilots shows a photo of Fariq in the cockpit with Quest, both smiling.

Neighbor Ayop Jantan said he had heard that Fariq was engaged and planning his wedding. The eldest of five children, his professional achievements were a source of pride for his father, said Ayop, a retiree.

Fariq’s superior, Zaharie, joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and has more than 18,000 flight hours.

Read the full piece here.

Updated at 7.08pm GMT

3.07pm GMT

Satellite company says it registered signals

Inmarsat, the £3bn satellite company, registered “routine, automated signals” from MH370 on its network, the company said in a brief statement on its website.

The statement does not mention for how long the signals were received or when they stopped.

Here’s the statement in full:

14 March 2014: Inmarsat has issued the following statement regarding Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Routine, automated signals were registered on the Inmarsat network from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 during its flight from Kuala Lumpur.

This information was provided to our partner SITA, which in turn has shared it with Malaysia Airlines.

For further information, please contact Malaysia Airlines.

“Such signals are very reliable,” but would not indicate location, an Inmarsat executive told NPR’s Frank Langfitt:

David Coiley, vice president of aviation at Inmarsat, declined in an interview to discuss the specifics of the Malaysia Airlines case. But he said that in general, such signals are very reliable. ‘I‘d say way over 99 percent. It’s highly unusual to get a false positive that the system was still operating when in fact it wasn’t,’ he said.” [...]

Coiley, the Inmarsat executive, told Frank that the pings received by its satellites would not include data on altitude or a plane’s position.

Updated at 3.19pm GMT

2.55pm GMT

India’s navy says it has nearly doubled the number of ships and planes deployed to search the Andaman Sea, according to AFP.

It said six ships and five aircraft were now scouring for any sign of the vanished plane in the Andaman Sea, which surrounds India’s remote Andaman and Nicobar group of islands.

“We want to cover the area and it should be strictly done,” Indian naval spokesman DK Sharma told AFP.

India had earlier deployed three ships and three aircraft in the search.

The Indian ships and aircraft were looking in an area “designated” by the Malaysian navy in the southern region of the Andaman Sea, Sharma said.

2.25pm GMT

Malaysia’s prime minister Mohd Najib Tun Razak has prayed for the passengers and crew at a mosque near Kuala Lumpur airport. He has also had another briefing on the expanding search operation for the plane.

In a Facebook update he paid tribute to the tireless efforts of those involved in the operation.

2.10pm GMT

Some 2.3 million internet users have joined the search for the plane by scanning the Tomnod website and its access to satellite imagery, writes Carmen Fishwick.

Tomnod is run by commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe, which soon after the plane’s disappearance repositioned two of its five satellites over its last known location in the Gulf of Thailand, and have since moved them as the search headed west.

Tomnod users are provided with a randomly chosen map from the search area and are told to drop a pin if they see signs of aeroplane wreckage, life rafts, oil slicks or anything that looks “suspicious”.

An algorithm then finds where there is overlap in tags from people who tagged the same location, and the most notable areas are shared with authorities. A Tomnod spokesperson said that as of Thursday every pixel had been looked at by human eyes at least 30 times.

Despite the huge online search party, the Tomnod hunt has so far have proved inconclusive. But that – and the fact crowdsourcing was disastrously discredited during the hunt for the Boston bombers and the search for adventurer Steve Fossett’s single-engine plane – hasn’t stopped millions of people searching the maps and tagging over 745,000 images they believe may be signs of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane.

Three users explain why they’ve giving up their time to scour tens of thousands of kilometres of satellite imagery for free.

1.54pm GMT

Indian aircraft have searched over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, after suggestions that the missing plane last headed towards the heavily forested archipelago, according to Reuters.

Popular with tourists and anthropologists alike, the islands form India’s most isolated state. They are best known for dense rainforests, coral reefs and hunter-gatherer tribes who have long resisted contact with outsiders.

Two sources told Reuters the unidentified aircraft appeared to be following a commonly used navigational route that would take it over the islands.

The Indian Navy has deployed two Dornier planes to fly across the island chain, a total area of 720 km (447 miles) by 52 km), Indian military spokesman Harmeet Singh said in the state capital, Port Blair. So far the planes, and a helicopter searching the coast, had found nothing.

“This operation is like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Singh, who is the spokesman for joint air force, navy and army command in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The Defence Ministry said the Eastern Naval Command would also search across a new area measuring 15 km by 600 km along the Chennai coast in the Bay of Bengal.

The shape of this area, located 900 km west of Port Blair, suggested the search was focusing on a narrow flight corridor.

1.27pm GMT

The USS Kidd is en route to the western tip of the Strait of Malacca to aid the search at the request of the Malaysian government, writes the Guardian’s US security editor Spencer Ackerman.

It left from the Gulf of Thailand yesterday and the Navy expects it will be in the Strait by Saturday, according to navy spokeswoman Lauryn Dempsey.

Additionally, a P8 Poseidon surveillance plane is also on its way to the area, flying from Kadena Air Force Base in Japan.

These are the only planned US military assets aiding the search at the moment. The USS Pinckney, which was in the Gulf of Thailand to aid the search,

has now returned to the Strait of Singapore for pre-planned maintenance.

12.27pm GMT

The French aviation site Air Info has a more detailed map of the missing plane possible flight path based on that Reuters story.

12.21pm GMT

The Chinese are joining the westward focus of the search. The marine patrol ship Haixun 31 is heading for the Strait of Malacca, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

12.09pm GMT


Here’s a roundup on the latest on the search operation for the missing plane.

The Malaysian authorities have indicated they are open minded to reports which cite US officials, suggesting the missing plane change course and headed west. The acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed that the search has extended into the Indian Ocean.

Radar and satellite information from other countries, including the US, is now being shared with Malaysia. This is currently being “digested,” Hussein said.

Military radar-tracking evidence suggests the plane was deliberately flown across the Malay peninsula towards the Andaman Islands, according to Reuters. Its sources said the plane appeared to have flown between navigational waypoints west of Malaysia indicating it was being flown by someone with aviation training.

Rolls-Royce has issued a statement denying that its engines sent out signals from the missing aircraft after it vanished from air traffic control screens. A team of experts from the UK, including staff from Rolls-Royce is due to arrive in Malaysia to help with the investigation.

The Wall Street Journal claims the search is now focused hundreds of miles west from the plane’s original flight path based on “pings” picked up by satellite. The White House said that an unspecified “possible piece of information, or pieces of information, has led to the possibility that a new search area may be opened up over the Indian Ocean”.

There has been no confirmed sighting of debris from MH370 almost a week after it disappeared with 239 passengers on board. The search operation now involves 57 ships, 48 aircraft, and 13 countries.

Read More Here


Satellite data shows hijacked MH370 was last seen flying towards Pakistan OR Indian Ocean as investigators search pilots’ luxury homes and reveal one had home-made flight simulator

Officials confirmed missing plane was hijacked by one or several people

Could have turned off communication system and steered it off-course

Now believed plane could have flown for another seven hours

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak refused to confirm the reports

Investigators working to establish motive and where plane was taken

Both captain and co-pilot are now said to be under investigation

Police raided the pair’s luxury homes in upmarket Kuala Lumpur suburb

By Wills Robinson and Richard Shears and Kieran Corcoran

PUBLISHED: 23:29 EST, 14 March 2014 | UPDATED: 15:32 EST, 15 March 2014

Investigators say the missing Malaysia Airlines jet was hijacked, steered off-course and could have reached Pakistan.

A Malaysian government official said people with significant flying experience could have turned off the flight’s communication devices.

The representative said that hijacking theory was now ‘conclusive’, and, as a result, police have raided the luxury homes of both the captain and the co-pilot.


The last known position of MH370 was pinpointed as it headed east over Peninsular Malaysia. Radar pings then suggest the plane could have then taken two paths along ‘corridors’ which are currently being searched, which are a fixed distance from the radar station in the Indian Ocean (left)

Entrance: The gates outside the home of co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid which has been searched by police

Journalists gathered outside Hamid’s home in Shah Alam as police turned their attention to those on board as part of the wide-ranging probe

Investigators have now raided the homes of both Capt. Zahari Ahmad Shah (left) and Fariq Abdul Hamid in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur

Zahari Ahmad Shah, 53, the pilot, and Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, are now being investigated as police in Kuala Lumpur search for signs of foul play.

The search operation has now been focused on two ‘corridors’, one which extends from  north west from Thailand to the Kazakstan-Turkmenistan border and the other which opens out into the southern Indian Ocean.


The ‘corridors’ stretching north and south through the countries surrounding Malaysia are based on a satellite reading from seven and a half hours after the flight took off.

When the signal was received at 8.11am on March 8, the plane could have been anywhere along the red lines pictured above.

When the satellite in question received the signal, beamed into space, all it could tell would be how to adjust its systems to get a stronger read, an official told the Washington Post.

Combined with previous data, and the maximum flight distance of the plane, investigators have been able to plot a rough area from which they think the signal would have come.

The data cannot show where exactly the plane was, or which direction it was travelling in.

Countries in the plane’s potential flightpath have now joined a huge diplomatic effort to locate the missing passengers, but China described the revelation as ‘painfully belated’.

While Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak refused to confirm that flight MH370 was taken over, he admitted ‘deliberate action’ on board the plane resulted in it changing course and losing connection with ground crews.

The plane’s communication system was switched off as it headed west over the Malaysian seaboard and could have flown for another seven hours on its fuel reserves.

It is not yet clear where the plane could have been  taken, however Mr Razak said the most recent satellite data suggests the plane could have headed to one of two possible flight corridors.

Countries in the plane’s potential flightpath have now joined a huge diplomatic effort to locate the missing passengers, but China described the revelation as ‘painfully belated’.

While Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak refused to confirm that flight MH370 was taken over, he admitted ‘deliberate action’ on board the plane resulted in it changing course and losing connection with ground crews.

The plane’s communication system was switched off as it headed west over the Malaysian seaboard and could have flown for another seven hours on its fuel reserves.

Compound: A view of the entrance to Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s residence. Police have been stationed outside for the last week

Luxury: Shah is said to live at the property with his wife Faisa

Officers are said to have spent two hours searching the pilot’s home today inside the luxury compound

Both pilots live in the upmarket Kuala Lumpur district of Laman Seri, about an hour’s drive from the city centre

A security guard stands at a main gate of the missing Shah’s house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur

Shah’s property would have looked similar to this one and is set in an estate which is said to be popular with high-income earners

It is not yet clear where the plane was taken, however Mr Razak said the most recent satellite data suggests the plane could have headed to one of two possible flight corridors.

The last radar contact was made at 8.11am on March 8 along one of the corridors, seven hours and 31 minutes after take off, but the plane could have deviated further from these points.

U.S. investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the passengers are being held at an unknown location and suggest that faint ‘pings’ were being transmitted for several hours after the flight lost contact with the ground.

NASA has also joined the international search operation, analysing satellite data and images that have already been gathered.

Malaysian authorities and others are urgently investigating the two pilots and 10 crew members, along with the 227 passengers on board.


Radar coverage of the area where flight MH370 went missing is patchy and often not even switched on, according to aviation experts.

It has emerged today that civilian systems do not cover large swatches of the areas the plane could have gone, and that military systems are often left off to save money.

Air Vice Marshal Michael Harwood, a former RAF pilot, said: ‘Too many movies and Predator [drone] feeds from Afghanistan have suckered people into thinking we know everything and see everything.

‘You get what you pay for. And the world, by and large, does not pay.’

Air traffic control teams rely transponders signals to track planes- but investigators believe that the device was intentionally switched off on the missing aircraft.

Military systems, meanwhile, are often limited, switched off , or routinely ignore aircraft they do not think are suspicious.

A Rear Admiral in the Indian armed forces, which are aiding search efforts over the Andaman Islands, said: ‘It’s possible that the military radars were switched off as we operate on an “as required” basis.’

However, experts have suggested that a disappearing transponder signal would be treated more seriously over Europe or America, and that a parallel situation would be unlikely to develop.

Today, a police van with a large contingent of officers inside passed through a security gate at the entrance to the wealthy compound where father-of-three Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah lives with his wife Faisa.

Four plain-clothed police officers were also, reportedly, seen at the home of the other pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27.

Both pilots live in the upmarket Kuala Lumpur district of Laman Seri, about an hour’s drive from the city centre – and each was visited today by a team of detectives who arrived in a white ‘people mover’ vehicle.

The homes are substantial and are, said one resident, typical of high income earners.

It is believed a team of search specialists entered Shah’s house and spent two hours searching for signs of foul play, before moving into search the co-pilot’s home a short distance away.

The New Straits Times reported last night that before police turned up at Hamid’s home, his two brothers arrived there in a Mini Cooper, believed to belong to a friend.

They hurried into the house and remained there for a short time before hurrying away in the same car, taking with them transparent blue plastic bags containing clothes and toiletries.

Hamid’s father, Abdul Hamid left with them. An hour later, the plain clothed officers left the house carrying two brown bags.

The concentration by police on the homes of the Captain and the co-pilot adds to suspicion that one – or both – of them might have had been responsible for the plight of the aircraft.

However, if it was diverted into the Indian Ocean, the task of the search teams becomes more difficult, as there are hundreds of uninhabited islands and the water reaches depths of around 23,000ft.

The maximum range of the Boeing 777-200ER is 7,725 nautical miles or 14,305 km.

It is not clear how much fuel the aircraft was carrying though it would have been enough to reach its scheduled destination, Beijing, a flight of five hours and 50 minutes, plus some reserve.

Experts have previously said that whoever disabled the plane’s communication systems and then flew the jet must have had a high degree of technical knowledge and flying experience.

In Shah’s house a flight simulator has been set up and is understood to have interested police following up one line of investigation – that he had used the equipment to practice making his real-life Boeing 777 ‘invisible’ by turning off all communications.

Read More and  Watch Video Here


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