Sat., 11 pm: Focus turns to pilots as hunt for jet widens
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Attention focused Sunday on the pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight after the country’s leader announced findings so far that suggest someone with intimate knowledge of the Boeing 777’s cockpit seized control of the plane and sent it off-course.
Prime Minister Najib Razak gave the first detailed findings today in the more than weeklong investigation into the missing plane, showing that someone severed communications with the ground and deliberately diverted Flight 307 after it departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8 on an overnight flight with a 12-person crew and 227 passengers.
Satellite data suggest it flew for at least 7 hours and that it could have reached as northwest as Kazakhstan or deep into the southern Indian Ocean, Najib said. “Clearly the search for MH370 has entered a new phase,” Najib said at a televised news conference. “It is widely understood that this has been a situation without precedent.”
Experts say 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. One possibility they have raised was that one of the pilots wanted to divert the plane for some reason – possibly even to commit suicide. Piracy and hijacking also have been cited as possible explanations.
Najib stressed that investigators were looking into all possibilities.
“In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board,” Najib told reporters, reading from a written statement but not taking any questions.
Police today went to the Kuala Lumpur homes of both the pilot and co-pilot of the missing plane, according to a guard and several local reporters. Malaysian police have said they are looking at the psychological state, family life and connections of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. They released no details on their investigation so far.