Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight Tracked Into Malacca Strait

In an unexpected turn of events, Malaysia's military has revealed that it tracked the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft with radar over the Strait of Malacca. The report contradicts civilian air traffic control that earlier reported the aircraft last made contact over the Gulf of Thailand.
malaysia airlines boeing 777-200er
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
In an interview with Reuters, a Malaysian military source confirmed that the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft with 239 passengers on board changed course travelling to the other side of the Malay peninsula. "It changed course after Kota Baru and took a lower altitude," said the military official. "It made it into the Malacca Straits."

The Staits of Malacca run along the west coast of Malaysia and are considered to be one of the world's busiest shipping channels. Malaysia Airlines reported on Saturday that flight MH370 had contact off the Malaysian town of Kota Baru on the east coast. The development was first reported by the Berita Harian newspaper that quoted Royal Air Force of Malaysia Chief General Tan Sri Rodzali Daud who indicated that the signal had been tracked to Pulau Perak on the west coast of Malaysia. 

"The last time the plane could be traced by an air control tower was near Pulau Perak, which is on the Straits of Malacca at 2:40am," said Daud. "After that, the signal from the plane was lost." However, on Wednesday, Daud denied making the remarks quoted by local media. He said that he "did not make any such statements," but the air force had "not ruled out the possibility of an air turn-back."

malaysia airlines missing flight
Copyright Image: BBC News
In the first statement released by Malaysia Airlines regarding the missing aircraft, it was reported that air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft at 2:40am. However, that was later corrected to 1:30am. 
Singaporean air traffic surveillance also allegedly picked up a signal that MH370 "made a turn back before it was reported to have climbed 1,000 metres from its original altitude at 10,000 metres."

Several news agencies reported over the weekend that the aircraft went missing at approximately 1:30am as it was flying above the South China Sea between Malaysia's east coast and the southern coast of Vietnam. It was reported that the plane went off radar screens at its last known location of 065515 North and 1033443 East.
malaysia airlines missing flight
Copyright Photo: Reuters
Police reports from Malaysia's east coast residents suggested that huge lights and an aircraft flying at nearly 1,000 metres above sea level was witnessed off Kota Baru. But search and rescue operations have failed to locate any sign of the aircraft in the South China Sea. Indications suggest that the flight may have turned back given that search and rescue operations have expanded to the Straight of Malacca and the Andaman Sea. 

Meanwhile, search and rescue operations continue for the missing aircraft with the participation of Armed Forces from a number of countries besides Malaysia including Australia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the United States. 

Authorities also continue to investigate the possibility that up to four people may have boarded the aircraft using stolen passports. Interpol has identified at least two of the suspects that were travelling on stolen European passports. The two individuals were identified as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, and Delavar Seyedmohammaderza, 29. Both were Iranians believed to be seeking asylum in Europe.

Malaysia airlines missing flight
Copyright Image: M. Zainudin/Malaysian Insider

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