London: The mystery of the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft deepened yesterday, as a senior military official suggested it had not only turned around but flown back across the Malay peninsula.
Flight MH370 was bound for Beijing when it vanished in the early hours of Saturday morning with 239 people on board. Until yesterday, the last known contact with the flight was thought to be around 1.20am — 40 minutes after take-off from Kuala Lumpur — after the plane had crossed Malaysia’s east coast and was flying over the South China Sea towards Vietnam.
But air force chief Tan Sri Rodzali Daud said the plane was detected at 2.40am near Pulau Perak, an island in the Malacca Strait, several hundred kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur. “After that, the signal from the plane was lost,” he told the Berita Harian newspaper.
An unnamed military official told Reuters news agency: “It changed course after Kota Bharu (on the east coast) and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait.” Pilots are supposed to inform their airlines and air traffic control if they change course. MH370 never did so; nor did it issue a distress call.
It is unclear why the west coast contact, if correct, was not made public until now. Asked on Monday why crews were searching the strait, the country’s civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told reporters: “There are some things that I can tell you and some things that I can’t.”