Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian authorities Thursday denied news reports that a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet may have continued flying for some time after its last contact, saying these reports are “inaccurate”, even as no trace of the aircraft that went missing Saturday was found on the sixth day of search operations.
“The last transmission from the aircraft was at 1.07 a.m., which indicated everything was normal,” said Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at a press conference.
“Rolls Royce and the Boeing team are here in Kuala Lumpur, and are working with us and the investigation team since Sunday. These issues have never been raised,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 with 239 passengers and crew on board vanished without a trace about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur early Saturday. The Boeing 777-200ER was presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea.
The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 a.m. Saturday and was due to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on the flight included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.
Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. Saturday when it was flying over the Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control area in Vietnam.
At the press conference Thursday, Hishamuddin also said nothing has been found at the site where Chinese satellites spotted three floating objects in the hunt for the missing jet.
“A Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency surveillance plane was dispatched this morning to investigate potential debris shown on Chinese satellite images,” the minister said adding that “we deployed our assets, but found nothing.”
It was reported that the satellite images showed three suspected floating objects of various sizes, the largest one estimated to be roughly 22 metres by 24 metres.
Meanwhile, aircraft and vessels sent out by Vietnam Thursday too did not find any debris in the waters where the Chinese satellites reportedly spotted the three objects, Vietnamese Deputy Transport Minister Pham Quy Tieu said.
According to Hishamuddin, the aircraft operating flight MH370 had been fully serviced and was fit to fly according to engineering and maintenance records.
“The last routine maintenance service was conducted Feb 23, 2014, the next service was due June 19.”
Touching on the radar signals, the official said it was suggested there was a possibility the aircraft has passed over the Strait of Malacca, adding “we have the duty to investigate any possibility”.
He added the US team was of the view that there were “reasonable grounds for Malaysian authorities to deploy resources to conduct search on the western side of peninsula Malaysia”.
“Under the circumstances, it is appropriate to conduct the search if the evidence suggests there is a possibility of finding even a minor evidence to suggest the aircraft would be there.”
However, he said the main efforts of the search mission has “always been in the South China Sea”.
A dozen nations have deployed assets to help hunt for the aircraft, but no trace has been found so far.
At present, there are 43 ships and 40 aircraft searching for the plane, with 26 ships and 25 planes in the South China Sea and 17 ships and 15 aircraft in the Strai of Malacca Strait, according to Hishammuddin.
In Beijing, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said Thursday that China would not give up search for the missing passenger jet “as long as there is a glimmer of hope”.
Li made the remarks at a press conference shortly after the conclusion of China’s annual legislative session.
“We will not give up any suspected clue that is being found,” he said. “We are also looking very closely at all suspected clues showing on satellite images.”
Li said that the Chinese government has asked all engaged in the ongoing massive international search to enhance coordination to investigate the cause and to locate the missing plane.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines announced Thursday that the flight codes of its missing plane, MH370 and MH371, will be dropped and replaced by new ones.
“As a mark of respect to the passengers and crew of MH370 March 8, 2014, the MH370 and MH371 flight codes will be retired from the Malaysia Airlines’ Kuala Lumpur-Beijing-Kuala Lumpur route,” the airline said in a website update.
With effect from March 14, new numbers will replace MH370 and MH371 — MH318 for Kuala Lumpur-Beijing and MH319 for Beijing-Kuala Lumpur — it said.