Malaysian Co-Pilot Likely Spoke Last Words Before Going Offline

Malaysian Airline System Bhd. said an initial investigation indicated that co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid spoke the last words before all communications were cut off on the flight that went missing 10 days ago.

“Alright, good night,” was said to the air traffic controllers in Malaysia at 1:19 a.m. local time on March 8 as flight 370 entered Vietnamese airspace, the carrier’s Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya and Civil Aviation Chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in Kuala Lumpur today.

Flight 370 lost contact and disappeared from radar screens less than an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur with pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 52, at the controls. About 26 countries are working together in search of the aircraft, which was carrying 239 passengers and crew.

The neutral hand-off gives no indication of the ensuing drama, with the plane remaining operational for hours even after losing contact with ground controllers. While the two men in the cockpit didn’t ask to fly together, the investigation has honed in on their background for clues to what might have caused the deliberate diversion of the airliner.

The plane’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, which transmits text messages and data to and from the planes, was last received at 1:07 a.m., Ahmad Jauhari said. The next transmission was to be made 30 minutes after, which didn’t come, he said.

“We don’t know when it was switched off,” Ahmad Jauhari said. The Acars system was switched off “any time between then to the next 30 minutes,” after the last transmit, he said.

The Acars system was disabled before the last voice transmission from the cockpit, Malaysian officials said today. The order of events suggests that the plan to take over the plane and hide it from the ground began before the pilot signed off with air-traffic controllers.

Satellite transmissions that weren’t turned off along with other communications systems showed the aircraft operated for almost seven hours after last making contact, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on March 15. That may have taken the Boeing Co. 777-200 more than 3,000 miles from where it was last tracked west of Malaysia and pushed it to the limits of its fuel load if it was airborne the whole period.

Police searched the houses of the two pilots and took a flight simulator from Zahari’s home, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.

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