Malaysian authorities have released the transcript of communications between the cockpit crew of missing Flight MH370 and air traffic controllers, saying the exchanges showed nothing untoward.
“There is no indication of anything abnormal in the transcript,” a statement by Defence and Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Tuesday.
Hishammuddin also reiterated that the flight changed course after a deliberate act by those on board.
“MH370’s movements were consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane,” he said.
The 43 separate transmissions over nearly 54 minutes are thick with air-traffic and navigational jargon and give no hint of trouble aboard the ill-fated plane, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 people aboard.
The transcript concludes with Malaysian air traffic control first bidding MH370 “good night”, as it instructs the pilots next to contact controllers in Vietnam, over which the plane was due to fly.
The final entry from just after 1.19am comes from one of the two MH370 pilots, who says “good night, Malaysian three seven zero”.
The plane disappeared from radar shortly thereafter and is yet to be found, though Malaysia now believes it was deliberately diverted and flew on for hours to the Indian Ocean, where it is presumed to have crashed.
The transcript – and particularly the final words from MH370 – have been the subject of much speculation following earlier statements by authorities and the airline that the last transmission from the plane was a casual “All right, good night”.
That apparent non-standard sign-off fuelled speculation that one of the pilots – either Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, or First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27 – diverted the plane on purpose.
Under pressure to clarify the matter, the government corrected the final words late on Monday but until now had not released a full transcript.
Tuesday’s statement said the transcript was “initially held as part of the police investigation”, but gave no other reason for the delay.
Malaysia Airlines had said previously that the last words were believed uttered by First Officer Fariq, but the statement said the ongoing investigation was yet to confirm that.
Malaysia PM visits Perth
Meanwhile Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is set to arrive in Perth on today to thank those searching for Malaysia Airlines flight 370.
He will stay until Thursday, visiting the RAAF Pearce air base to the city’s north, the departure point for the seven-nation search effort.
He will receive a briefing from joint agency co-ordination centre head, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.
“The co-operation with Malaysia has been first class,” Air Chief Marshal Houston told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
He said that until surface debris was found, authorities were unable to narrow the search area and start to exploit underwater technology.
“The reality is it’s the most complex and challenging search and recovery operation I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“If we don’t find anything on the surface, we’ll have to think about what we do next.”
Aussies lead search
Australia continues to lead the search at newly set up Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre under Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.
Houston said the operation would be pursued with vigour but with no objects pulled from the Indian Ocean identified as being from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, it could drag on for weeks, maybe months.
In Kuala Lumpur, the International Air Travel Association (IATA) said Malaysia’s missing jet tragedy illustrates the need to improve in-flight tracking of passenger aircraft.
“MH370 has highlighted the need to improve our tracking of aircraft in flight,” Tony Tyler, head of the airline industry trade body, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief both that an aircraft could simply disappear and that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are so difficult to recover.”