Tag Archives: Indian Ocean

Chinese satellite spots possible MH370 flight debris

Australian Flight Lieutenant Jason Nichols (L), on board a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion, looks ahead towards the HMAS Success as they search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 debris or wreckage in the southern Indian Ocean on March 22, 2014.

Chinese satellites have discovered a new object in the waters of the southern Indian Ocean that may be wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing with 239 people on board.

The Chinese finding was first announced by Malaysia’s defense minister and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, who was handed a note with details during his press conference in the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.

“The news that I just received is that the Chinese ambassador received satellite images of floating objects in the southern corridor and they will be sending ships to verify,” he said. “Beijing is expected to make an announcement in a few hours.”

The discovered object is around 22 meters long and 13 meters wide, the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) said on its website.

It was spotted on March 18 in a remote area off the western Australian coast by China’s high-definition earth observation satellite, Gaofen-1, SASTIND.

According to the Chinese side, the new finding has been spotted about 120 kilometers from the location where possible wreckage was sighted by another satellite on March 16, and south by west of the possible debris, which was announced by Australia on Thursday.

A satellite image of an object spotted in the southern Indian Ocean by the Gaofen-1 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite CNSA

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, carrying 239, people left Kuala Lumpur on March 8 destined for Beijing, but mysteriously disappeared from radar screens around an hour after takeoff.

For the last two weeks, over 20 countries have been making efforts to establish what happened to the Boeing 777 plane, but their efforts have so far proved fruitless.

In recent days, the international search has switched to the southern Indian Ocean far off Australia’s western coast, after floating objects were photographed by the satellites in the area, described by Australian PM, Tony Abbott, as “the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the Earth.”

Six planes and two ships are currently taking part in the operation, with two Chinese aircrafts arriving in Perth on Saturday and two more planes from Japan expected on Sunday.

“This search is an intensive operation,” Warren Truss, Australian deputy prime minister, is cited as saying by the Guardian newspaper. “While these aircraft are equipped with very advanced technology, much of this search is actually visual.”

Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds up a note that he has just received on a new lead in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, during a news conference at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 22, 2014. (Reuters / Edgar Su)

The search will go on as long as necessary because “it is important from the perspective of those who have families… and indeed for the future of the aviation,” Warren promised.

Several people familiar with the matter told Reuters that India has informed Malaysian investigators that it hadn’t any evidence of the missing plane flying through its airspace, which makes the satellite debris lead more solid.

Meanwhile, the hunt has also resumed in the Andaman Sea between India and Thailand (areas already exhaustively swept), to be re checked for possible leads.

The plane ordeal has reportedly sparked tensions between China and Malaysia, with Beijing slamming Kuala Lumpur for not treating the relatives of the flight MH370 passengers well enough, and demanding a step-up in the search.

The Beijing families of those on board the plane issued a statement on Saturday, accusing the Malaysian delegation of “concealing the truth” and “making fools” of the relatives, after they failed to get all the answers during a meeting.

“This kind of conduct neglects the lives of all the passengers, shows contempt for all their families, and even more, tramples on the dignity of Chinese people and the Chinese government,” the statement is cited by Reuters.

Investigators suspect flight MH370 was deliberately diverted thousands of miles from its scheduled path, and are focusing on hijacking or sabotage, adding that technical problems aren’t also ruled out as well.

 RT News.

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Suspected debris of missing Malaysia plane may have sunk – Australia

A photo taken on March 21, 2014, shows a crew member on a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion aircraft participating in the Australian Maritime Safety Authority-led search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean.

An international search has failed to find traces of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean location where two objects were spotted on Sunday. Australia‘s deputy prime minister said the suspected debris may have sunk.

Two objects were spotted on satellite images in the Indian Ocean about 2,500 kilometers southwest of Perth on Sunday, Australian authorities said on Thursday. There have been no signs of wreckage, but the debris was considered a credible lead and sparked a massive search.

Bad weather hampered search operations on Thursday, but conditions improved on Friday. Despite clear weather and visibility, the search team failed to find the debris.

“Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating,” Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told journalists in Perth. “It may have slipped to the bottom.”

The search for flight MH370 has so far yielded no results. The plane, traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, around one hour after takeoff. American officials suggested this week that it changed course via the cockpit’s computerized Flight Management System, not by manual control.

The announcement made by Australian authorities on Thursday regarding the possible plane debris raised hopes of a breakthrough.

“Now it could just be a container that’s fallen off a ship. We just don’t know, but we owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle,” said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott during his visit to Papua New Guinea on Friday.

The search for the longest civil aircraft disappearance in modern history continues. Aircrafts and ships have renewed monitoring in the Andaman Sea between India and Thailand.

Australian, New Zealand, and US rescue forces will be joined by Chinese and Japanese ships and planes over the weekend.

Japan will provide tools to assist with the search, including two P-3 Orions based in Perth, said Malaysian transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein. He added that China has deployed five ships and three helicopters to assist with the search.

India said it was also deploying two aircrafts – a Poseidon P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft and a C-130 Hercules transporter – to join the hunt in the southern Indian Ocean and another P-8I and four warships to search in the Andaman Sea.

A number of merchant vessels have also participated in the search, according to Australia’s deputy prime minister. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Abbott noted while in Papua New Guinea that “it’s about the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the Earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it.”

 RT News

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MH370 search at site of ‘best lead’ off coast of Australia kicks off again in the morning light

In this undated handout picture made available by hoegh.com via NTB Scanpix on Thursday, March 20, 2014, of autoliner “Hoegh St. Petersburg” which is expected to reach an area south west of Australia where possible debris of missing airliner MH370 has been spotted.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A freighter used searchlights early Friday to scan rough seas in one of the remotest places on Earth after satellite images detected possible pieces from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane in the southern Indian Ocean.

In what officials called the “best lead” of the nearly two-week-old aviation mystery, a satellite detected two objects floating about 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia and halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.

The development raised new hope of finding the vanished jet and sent another emotional jolt to the families of the 239 people aboard.

One of the objects on the satellite image was 24 meters long and the other was 5 meters. There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from southwestern Australia, said John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division.

“This is a lead, it’s probably the best lead we have right now,” Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a shipping route where containers can fall off cargo vessels, although the larger object is longer than a container.

Four military planes searched the area Thursday without success but will resume later Friday morning, Australian officials said.

The Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg, with a Filipino crew of 20, arrived in the area and used searchlights after dark to look for debris. It will continue the search Friday, said Ingar Skiaker of Hoegh Autoliners, speaking to reporters in Oslo.

The Norwegian ship, which transports cars, was on its way from South Africa to Australia, he said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said another commercial ship and an Australian navy vessel were also en route to the search area.

Satellite imagery experts said the lead is worth investigating.

“It would be very nice if you could see a whole wing floating there, then you could say, `OK that’s an airplane.’ When you’re looking at something like this you can’t tell what it is,” said Sean O’Connor, an imagery analyst with IHS Janes.

Sebjoern Dahl, Hoegh Autoliners, left, Sturla Henriksen, managing director of the Norwegian Shipowners Association, centre, and Ingar Skiaker, CEO of Hoegh Autoliners brief the press in Oslo Thursday March 20, 2014 on the movements of the ship “Hoegh St. Petersburg”. The ship is engaged in searching for possible debris from missing Malaysian Air flight MH370 plane in the Indian Ocean, south-west of Australia

But another analyst said the debris is most likely not pieces of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. There have been several false leads since the Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

“The chances of it being debris from the airplane are probably small, and the chances of it being debris from other shipping are probably large,” said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The development marked a new phase for the anguished relatives of the passengers, who have been critical of Malaysian officials for not releasing timely information about the plane. While they still hope their loved ones will somehow be found, they acknowledged that news of the satellite images could mean the plane fell into the sea.

“If it turns out that it is truly MH370, then we will accept that fate,” said Selamat Bin Omar, the father of a Malaysian passenger. The jet carried mostly Chinese and Malaysian nationals.

But he cautioned that relatives still “do not yet know for sure whether this is indeed MH370 or something else. Therefore, we are still waiting for further notice from the Australian government.”

Malaysian officials met with the relatives Thursday night in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, but journalists were kept away. After the meeting, groups of people left looking distraught.

Hamid Amran, who had a child on Flight 370, said questions asked at the meeting made it “apparent that Malaysia’s military is incapable of protecting its own airspace.”

He said he “believes that my child and all the other passengers are still alive. I will not give up hope.”

A man who would only give his surname, Lau, said he was there to support a Chinese couple who had lost their only son.

“It appears some families are slowly accepting the worst outcome,” he said.

Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the relatives in Kuala Lumpur were being given updates by high-level officials “two or three times a day.”

“We do take care of the next of kin, and assuming it is confirmed, that the aircraft is located somewhere close to Australian, we will obviously make arrangements to fly the next of kin there,” he said.

A group of Malaysian government and airline officials flew Thursday night to Beijing to meet families there.

Young said the ocean in the search area is thousands of meters (feet) deep.

DigitalGlobe, a Longmont, Colo.-based company, said it provided the images to Australian officials. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority released two images of the whitish objects. They were taken March 16, but Australian Air Commodore John McGarry said it took time to analyze them.

“The task of analyzing imagery is quite difficult, it requires drawing down frames and going through frame by frame,” he said.

The hunt has encountered other false leads. Oil slicks that were seen did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be sea trash. Chinese satellite images showed possible debris, but nothing was found.

But this is the first time that possible objects have been spotted since the search area was massively expanded into two corridors, one stretching from northern Thailand into Central Asia and the other from the Strait of Malacca to the southern Indian Ocean.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein made it clear Thursday that although international search efforts are continuing both on land and in sea in the northern and southern hemispheres, the effort is mostly concentrated south of the equator over the vast Indian Ocean.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein made it clear Thursday that although international search efforts are continuing both on land and in sea in the northern and southern hemispheres, the effort is mostly concentrated south of the equator over the vast Indian Ocean

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.

via MH370 search at site of ‘best lead’ off coast of Australia kicks off again in the morning light | National Post.

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Flight MH370 : last message to Malaysia sent ‘after communications disabled’

Revelation suggests person who delivered ‘All right, good night’ message from missing plane knew system had been shut down

The person in control of missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 issued their last communication to air traffic control after the first set of aircraft communications was disabled, Malaysian authorities have confirmed, adding further weight to suspicion that the plane was hijacked.

The latest revelation suggests that the person who delivered the “All right, good night” message to Kuala Lumpur air traffic controllers just before the Boeing-777 disappeared from their radar at 1.22am and diverted from its scheduled flightpath to Beijing was also aware that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (Acars) had been manually shut down.

Investigations still do not appear to know who was at the helm and what their intentions were when the aircraft disappeared from civilian radar more than a week ago.

Experts on aircraft maintenance have explained that the plane’s communications system can only be disabled manually – a process that requires switching a number of cockpit controls in sequence until a computer screen necessitates a keyboard input.

Authorities have not yet disclosed whether the person who issued the last message to controllers was Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, or co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, or an unknown third person. It is also unclear if such messages are recorded by air traffic control and are available for expert analysis to determine who the voice belongs to.

Malaysia Airlines could not be reached for comment and Malaysia’s transport ministry declined to comment.

Malaysia’s police chief, Khalid Bakar, has said authorities were investigating all crew, passengers and ground staff involved with MH370 under a penal code that includes hijacking, sabotage and terrorism. Police had questioned Zaharie’s friends and family, and dismantled and reassembled at headquarters a flight simulator Zaharie kept in his house on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Police also searched Fariq’s home, although it was unclear if anything was confiscated.

According to Malaysia Airlines, the pilot and co-pilot did not ask to fly together, reducing the probability of a co-ordinated plan between the pilots to hijack the aircraft.

Khalid told reporters that all 239 people on board – 228 passengers and 11 Malaysian crew – were being investigated for suspicious activity, but that police were waiting for background information from some of the nations whose citizens were on the plane.

Eight days after the Boeing-777 vanished, with no concrete leads on its whereabouts, investigators are now searching for the plane along two possible flight corridors from the its last known location at 2.15am last Saturday over the Malacca strait – one stretches south from Indonesia towards the Indian Ocean, a vast expanse with very little radar coverage; the other reaches north from Thailand up towards central Asia, a heavily militarised area whose airspace is carefully scrutinised.

There are 25 countries assisting in the search, said Malaysia’s defence and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein – raising the additional challenges of co-ordinating ground, sea and aerial efforts as well as the delicate diplomatic issue of sharing significant sensitive information, from satellite data to primary and secondary radar playback, as well as any ground, sea and aerial co-ordination efforts.

“This is a significant recalibration of the search,” Hishammuddin told reporters on Sunday. “From focusing mainly on shallow seas, we are now looking at large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries, as well as deep and remote oceans.

The search was already a highly complex, multinational effort. It has now become even more difficult.”

Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, has already spoken with the heads of state of Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and India; the foreign ministry has briefed at least 22 countries regarding the new search efforts as well as any additional countries that may be able to provide assistance.

Those countries include Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia, with special assistance regarding satellite data requested from the US, China and France.

Surveillance airplanes and maritime vessels will also be needed in the search for the missing jet along the southern corridor, where the Indian Ocean can reach depths of two miles and radar coverage is patchy at best.

Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the plane departed for Beijing with enough fuel only to reach its scheduled destination, so it would have been likely to run out after about seven hours’ flight time – if flying at normal cruising altitudes. But with reports emerging that the aircraft may have been flying at altitudes as high as 45,000ft, authorities also confirmed on Sunday that the plane need not have been flying for the duration of the period it was picked up by satellites.

The satellite “pings” that were last read at 8.11am on Saturday – six hours after Malaysian military radar last detected the aircraft over the Malacca strait at 2.15am – could still have been transmitting data from the ground, if the plane were to have landed, said Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Abdul Rahman.

“The plane can still transmit pings from the ground as long as there is electrical power,” he said.

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Investigators look for motive in Malaysia plane disappearance

A police car is seen coming from the compound of the home of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the captain of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Shah Alam, near Kuala Lumpur

A police car is seen coming from the compound of the home of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the captain of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Shah Alam, near Kuala Lumpur

(Reuters) – Malaysian police are investigating the personal, political and religious backgrounds of the pilots and crew of a missing jetliner, a senior officer said on Sunday, as they try to work out why someone aboard flew the plane hundreds of miles off course.

The government also appealed for international help in the search for the Malaysia Airlines plane across two corridors stretching from the Caspian Sea to the southern Indian Ocean, diplomats said.

No trace of the Boeing 777-200ER has been found since it vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, but investigators believe it was diverted by someone who knew how to switch off its communications and tracking systems.

“We are not ruling out any sort of motivation at the moment,” a senior police official with knowledge of the investigation told Reuters.

The disappearance of Flight MH370 has baffled investigators, aviation experts and internet sleuths since the plane vanished from civilian air traffic control screens off Malaysia’s east coast less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.

At a news conference on Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said investigators believed somebody steered the plane west, far from its scheduled route.

Electronic signals it continued to exchange periodically with satellites suggest it could have continued flying for nearly seven hours after being last spotted by Malaysian military radar off the country’s northwest coast.

The satellite data revealed by Najib suggests the plane could be anywhere in either of two arcs: one stretching from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, or a southern arc heading from Indonesia to the vast southern Indian Ocean.

A source familiar with official U.S. assessments said it was thought most likely the plane had headed south into the Indian Ocean, where it would presumably have run out of fuel and crashed. Air space to the north is much busier, and the plane would likely have been detected.

Underlining the scale of the task ahead, Malaysian officials listed more countries they were contacting for assistance in searching along the two arcs, which they said were of equal importance.

They range from the former Soviet central Asian republics to the north to Australia in the south, along with France, which administers a scattering of islands deep in the southern Indian Ocean uninhabited except for a handful of researchers.

The Indian Ocean is one of the most remote places in the world and also one of the deepest, posing potentially enormous challenges for efforts to find wreckage or the flight voice and data recorders that are the key to solving the puzzle.

PILOTS’ HOMES SEARCHED

Najib said that in light of the mounting evidence that the plane was deliberately diverted, the investigation into the aircraft’s crew and passengers would be stepped up.

Within hours, special branch officers had searched the homes of the captain, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and first officer, 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid, in middle class suburbs of Kuala Lumpur close to the international airport.

A journalist films the home of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid in Shah Alam, near Kuala Lumpur

A journalist films the home of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid in Shah Alam, near Kuala Lumpur

An experienced pilot, Zaharie has been described by current and former co-workers as a flying enthusiast who spent his off days operating a life-sized flight simulator he had set up at home.

The Transport Ministry said experts were examining the simulator but appealed to the public “not to jump to conclusions regarding the police investigation”.

The senior police official said the flight simulator programs were looked at closely, adding they appeared to be normal ones that allowed players to practice flying and landing in different conditions.

Postings on his Facebook page suggest the pilot was a politically active opponent of the coalition that has ruled Malaysia for the 57 years since independence.

A day before the plane vanished, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to five years in prison, in a ruling his supporters and international human rights groups say was politically influenced.

Asked if Zaharie’s background as an opposition supporter was being examined, the senior police officer would say only: “We need to cover all our bases.”

Malaysia Airlines has said it did not believe Zaharie would have sabotaged the plane, and colleagues were incredulous.

“Please, let them find the aircraft first. Zaharie is not suicidal, not a political fanatic as some foreign media are saying,” a Malaysia Airlines pilot who is close to Zaharie told Reuters. “Is it wrong for anyone to have an opinion about politics?”

Co-pilot Fariq was religious and serious about his career, family and friends said, countering news reports suggesting he was a cockpit Romeo who was reckless on the job.

EXPERTS DOUBT MILITANT GROUPS INVOLVED

No details have emerged of any passengers or crew with militant links that could explain a motive for sabotaging the flight.

Southeast Asia’s homegrown Islamist militant groups, such as Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which carried out the Bali bombings in 2002, have been quiet in recent years after security forces either arrested or shot dead numerous members.

Experts said they doubted the remaining militants had the skills or capabilities to carry out a complex hijacking.

“JI has not been involved with violence in the region since 2007,” said Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.

“The other groups that are active in Indonesia, in trying to make terrorist plots, are all not very competent. I would be extremely surprised if any group from Indonesia, the Philippines or Malaysia itself would be directly involved.”

Malaysia said the latest analysis of satellite data showed the last signal from the missing plane at 8:11 a.m. local time, almost seven hours after it turned back over the Gulf of Thailand and re-crossed the Malay peninsula.

The data did not show whether the plane was still flying or pinpoint its location at that time, presenting searchers with a daunting task. Seven hours’ more flying time would likely have taken it to the limit of its fuel load.

India had been searching in two areas, one around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and a second further west in the Bay of Bengal, both in the direction the plane was heading when it dropped off Malaysia’s military radar. Both searches have been “paused” awaiting further instructions from Malaysia, defense officials said on Sunday.

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