Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid tried to make a call with his cellphone after the plane was diverted from its scheduled route, Malaysia’s New Straits Times reported investigative sources as saying on Saturday.
The newspaper cited unidentified sources as saying the attempted call from Fariq Abdul Hamid’s phone was picked up by a cellphone tower as the plane was about 200 nautical miles northwest of the west coast state of Penang. That was around where military radar made its last sighting of the missing jet at 2:15 a.m. local time on March 8.
“The telco’s [telecommunications company’s] tower established the call that he was trying to make. On why the call was cut off, it was likely because the aircraft was fast moving away from the tower and had not come under the coverage of the next one,” the New Straits Times cited a source as saying.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid tried to make a call with his cellphone after the plane was diverted from its scheduled route
The publication quoted Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein as saying that the report needed to be verified.
However, Hishammuddin Hussein appeared to cast doubt on the report by saying: “If this did happen, we would have known about it earlier.”
The New Straits Times cited separate investigative sources as saying that a signal had been picked up from Fariq Abdul Hamid’s cellphone, but that it could have resulted from the device being switched on rather than being used to make a call.
Malaysia is focusing its criminal investigation on the cabin crew and the pilots of the plane – 53-year-old captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and 27-year old co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid – after clearing all 227 passengers of any involvement, police have said.
Investigators believe that someone with detailed knowledge of both the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial aviation navigation switched off the plane’s communications systems before diverting it thousands of miles off its scheduled course.
According to Malaysian officials, the co-pilot of missing flight MH370 spoke the last words to ground controllers before it vanished.
Investigators are looking into the possibility that Malaysia Airlines jet’s crew were involved in its disappearance.
The search for the plane has extended into two vast air corridors.
Twenty-six countries have been asked to help find the jet, which went missing over a week ago with 239 people on board.
Malaysia says the plane was intentionally diverted and could have flown on either a northern or southern arc from its last known position.
Ahmad Jauhari Yahy, chief executive of Malaysia Airlines, told a press conference on Monday that initial investigations had indicated that co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid had calmly said: “All right, good night” shortly before the plane disappeared.
However, it is not clear whether the last words came before or after one of the plane’s tracking devices was switched off. Officials believe the communications systems were deliberately disabled.
Missing flight MH370’s co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid spoke the last words to ground controllers before the plane vanished
Police have searched the homes of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27.
A flight simulator taken from Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s home was being reassembled and examined at police headquarters, officials said.
Investigators are also looking at passengers, engineers and other ground staff who may have had contact with the aircraft before take-off.
The plane left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing at 00:40 local time on March 8.
Officials say the sign-off to air traffic controllers came at 01:19 as it left Malaysian airspace.
The last transmission from the plane’s Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was received at 01:07.
“We don’t know when the ACARS was switched off after that,” Ahmad Jauhari Yahy said.
“It was supposed to transmit 30 minutes from there, but that transmission did not come through.”
The plane disappeared off air traffic controllers’ screens at 01:21, when it was over the South China Sea.
Searches have started in two air corridors – one stretching from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and another from Indonesia to the Indian Ocean.
Two-thirds of flight MH370 passengers were from China and the country’s state media has been criticizing the Malaysian operation.
Chinese PM Li Keqiang in a phone call asked the Malaysian PM Najib Razak to provide more detailed information about the missing flight “in a timely, accurate and comprehensive manner”, state news agency Xinhua reported on Monday.
The Kuala Lumpur homes of the two pilots of missing Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board are being searched by police.
Malaysian police are also reportedly looking at the family life and psychological state of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27.
This comes after the authorities said the communications systems of the plane had been deliberately disabled.
The Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight is believed to have then changed course.
According to satellite evidence, the Boeing 777 could have continued flying for a further seven hours after its last radar contact, Malaysian PM Najib Razak said.
He added that the plane could be anywhere from Kazakhstan to the Indian Ocean.
Najib Razak stopped short of saying it was a hijacking, saying only that they were investigating “all possibilities”.
In a separate development, India on Sunday suspended its search for the plane around the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands and also in the Bay of Bengal.
Delhi said it acted at the request of the Malaysian authorities.
China – which had 153 citizens on board flight MH370 – has urged Malaysia to continue providing it with “thorough and exact information” on the search.
The homes of Zaharie Ahmad Shah and Fariq Abdul Hamid were searched on Saturday, a senior police officer familiar with the investigation was quoted as saying by Reuters.
“We are not ruling out any sort of motivation at the moment,” the official said.
Malaysian police are also investigating the family life and psychological state of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid
The authorities have so far released no new details on the pilots’ investigation.
However, nothing has been ruled in or out – so terrorism, piracy or even an elaborate suicide are all options now being considered.
Zaharie Ahmad Shah joined Malaysia Airlines more than 30 years ago, and was considered a very experience pilot.
Fariq Abdul Hamid recently graduated to the cockpit of a Boeing 777. It is believed that he was considering marriage.
It was also reported that Fariq Abdul Hamid 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.
Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing at 00:40 local time on March 8 and disappeared off air traffic controllers’ screens at about 01:20.
PM Najib Razak told a news conference on Saturday that new satellite evidence shows “with a high degree of certainty” that the one of the aircraft’s communications systems – the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) – was disabled just before it had reached the east coast of Malaysia.
ACARS is a service that allows computers aboard the plane to “talk” to computers on the ground, relaying in-flight information about the health of its systems.
Shortly afterwards, near the cross-over point between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic controllers, the plane’s transponder – which emits an identifying signal – was switched off, he said.
According to a military radar, the aircraft then turned and flew back over Malaysia before heading in a north-west direction.
A satellite was able to pick up a signal from the plane until 08:11 local time – more than seven hours after it lost radar contact – although it was unable to give a precise location, Najib Razak said.
The prime minister went on to say that based on this new data, investigators “have determined the plane’s last communication with a satellite was in one of two possible corridors”: a northern corridor stretching from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan through to northern Thailand and a southern corridor stretching from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean
Investigators will now focus on trying to obtain the radar data from any of the countries the Boeing 777 may have passed over.
This could include Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India and Pakistan.
Along with the Chinese passengers, there were 38 Malaysians and citizens of Iran, the US, Canada, Indonesia, Australia, India, France, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and the Netherlands on board.