The Associated Press is reporting that officials involved in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are “increasingly certain” that someone with aviation experience shut off the plane’s communications and flew it out into the Indian Ocean.
The reports are based on the totality of a new set of information being reported between last night and this morning. Malaysian authorities are finally confirming the possibility that the plane flew out into the Indian Ocean, after calling a report based on United States intelligence “inaccurate.” That possibility is based on communication the plane had automatically with satellites long after the plane’s communications systems were shut down. The communication, an acknowledgement of the plane’s location typically called a “ping,” is set to happen every hour; investigators suggest that the plane might have flown for four more hours after disappearing with this evidence. The plane’s engines are designed to communicate with neighboring satellites automatically by manufacturer Rolls-Royce, which has declined to comment on the matter.
The plane’s final communication with airports and final communications with satellites arrived at different times, leading American authorities to propose someone with aviation experience “systematically shut down” the plane’s communication. That last communication, the AP reports today, also leads investigators to believe that the plane flew west out to the Indian Ocean, far off course for a flight to Beijing, but on a verifiable plane route.
Military surveillance may also confirm the plane’s path out to sea, potentially to the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands. While Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein could not confirm this, he told the media in a press conference today that it is more than fifty percent certain that military radar caught the plane on its path.
With human intervention and not mechanical error or natural disaster the most likely scenario, the AP report suggests that pilot suicide sit high atop the list of possibilities–that the pilots diverted the plane and flew it straight into the ocean. The other major possibility would be an “act of piracy,” in which case it is possible the plane has landed somewhere and is being kept for a later purpose.
Meanwhile, Reuters cites two sources tracing a much more specific route for the plane–one that commercial pilots often take to travel west, suggesting that the person in charge of the plane had experience flying commercial airliners. The Reuters report suggests that the last confirmed position of the plane was in the direction of Vietnam, but that, with censors shut down, the plane “turned sharply westwards,” towards Indonesia’s Aceh province and through to Phuket, an island off the coast of Thailand. The path is often used to fly to Europe.
One other strange activity in the region–a 5.5 magnitude earthquake off the coast of the Andaman Islands–has been reported, but investigators have yet to incorporate the natural phenomenon into theories of the plane’s fate.