Relatives of passengers say Malaysia Airlines playing 'shameful role' (LIVE BLOG)



Chinese relatives of passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are stopped and escorted away by Malaysian police from entering the media center before the start of a press conference at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur on March 19, 2014.



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UPDATE: 3/19/14 5:20 PM ET

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UPDATE: 3/19/14 5:08 PM ET

Vigils for Malaysia Airlines passengers around the world

GlobalPost's Allison Jackson wrote:

As the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 continues, people around the world are still clinging to hope.

From the Philippines to Pakistan, total strangers have been leaving messages, saying prayers and holding candlelight vigils for the 239 passengers and crew on board the Boeing 777-200 aircraft, which disappeared en route to Beijing on March 8.

View the photo essay here.

UPDATE: 3/19/14 11:46 AM ET

Probing deleted files

UPDATE: 3/19/14 11:09 AM ET

Relatives of passengers say Malaysia Airlines playing 'shameful role'

Agence France-Presse — Tempers flared Wednesday among Chinese relatives of passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, as frustration grew with what one called the airline's "shameful role" and the search entered its 12th day.

"We do not have any other way of dealing with this other than to be angry and to cry. Your way of dealing with it is either lying or playing a shameful role," one relative shouted, waving his arms furiously at a representative from the airline. 

The angry exchanges took place at a daily meeting between company officials and family members at a hotel in Beijing, as multinational efforts have failed to find any trace of the plane which had 153 Chinese aboard.

"Look what we have been talking about today — trivial matters," the man shouted angrily. "What are we coming here for? We just want to know where our relatives are and where the plane is."

The questioning from relatives was briefly interrupted as a noisy row erupted at one of the airline's administration desks.

A woman marched to the front of the hall demanding to know why she had to present her marriage certificate to prove her husband was on the plane, in order to get a room at the hotel.

"My husband was on board, and our relatives have had nowhere to stay for two days!" the woman shouted as other family members encouraged her to confront the airline official.

Amid angry exchanges one of her male relatives lunged aggressively at the neck of a man he believed to be an airline administrator, and another shouted: "What sort of person would pretend that their husband is on board the plane?"

UPDATE: 3/18/14 5:00 PM ET

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UPDATE: 3/18/14 4:35 PM ET

Area of Malaysia plane search is now the size of Australia

Reuters — An international land and sea search for a missing Malaysian jetliner is covering an area the size of Australia, authorities said on Tuesday, but police and intelligence agencies have yet to establish a clear motive to explain its disappearance. ... Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference the "unique, unprecedented" search covered a total area of 2.24 million nautical miles (7.68 million sq km), from central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean.

UPDATE: 3/18/14 04:15 PM ET

Longest disappearance

UPDATE: 3/18/14 12:24 PM ET

Live NBC News webcast

UPDATE: 3/18/14 12:07 PM ET

MH370 captain’s politics

GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Patrick Winn reported from Bangkok:

He’s “fanatical,” says one Western media outlet. He’s “obsessive,” says another.

The captain of Malaysia Airlines’ missing jet was even photographed wearing a black T-shirt that proclaims “Democracy is Dead,” which apparently “fuels talk that he hijacked the flight.”

These headlines create a composite image: an oddball radical with an Islamic name, a man possessed by fringe politics — all in a Muslim-majority nation unfamiliar to most in the West.

But these tabloid notions are grossly misinformed.

Full piece here.

UPDATE: 3/18/14 11:04 AM ET

Sighting of plane reported in Maldives newspaper

Business Insider cited a story in Maldives' Haveeru Daily newspaper, which reported that some residents of Maldives said they saw a "low flying jumbo jet" the morning after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing. 

Here's a timeline of the events leading up to the disappearance, via Reuters.

UPDATE: 3/18/14 10:30 AM ET

How does a Boeing 777 full of passengers vanish?

GlobalPost's Jean MacKenzie interviewed two experts at Avascent, an aerospace and defense consulting firm in Washington, DC, for insight on the difficulty of tracking the missing flight.

"Recent efforts to solve the mystery of flight 370 are centering on the plane’s pilots," she wrote. "Only a trained specialist, the theory goes, could have known how to switch off the aircraft’s on-board radar systems, and to program the maneuvers that diverted the Boeing 777 from its expected flight path, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8." 

Read the Q&A here.

UPDATE: 3/18/14 10:23 AM ET

Thailand radar data delay

UPDATE: 3/18/14 09:58 AM ET

The passengers and crew

The Associated Press published short profiles of some of the passengers and crew on the missing plane.

The passengers include chemistry lecturer Kranti Shirsath, award-winning calligrapher Meng Gaosheng, art teacher Maimaitijiang Abula and mechanical engineer Paul Weeks.

UPDATE: 3/18/14 09:45 AM ET

How do we track airplanes?

GlobalPost's Timothy McGrath put together a list of seven technologies for tracking flights.

"We carry around cell-phone GPS in our pockets and use Google Earth to peruse the planet. Air travel, you'll be terrified to learn, is way behind the times," he wrote. 

UPDATE: 3/18/14 09:33 AM ET

Impact of US-Malaysia relationship on search efforts

GlobalPost's Sarah Wolfe wrote:

There's a chance rocky relations between Malaysia and the United States may be hampering American efforts to help with the search.

Despite US offers of more help, only two FBI agents are present in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, where local officials are scouring the records of dozens of passengers and two pilots for clues into the jetliner's disappearance on March 8.

Read more here.

UPDATE: 3/18/14 08:24 AM ET

Hunger strike threat

UPDATE: 3/18/14 08:21 AM ET

Plane search spans Asia, but investigation shows little progress

Reuters — China deployed 21 satellites to scour its territory for a missing Malaysian jetliner, while Australia said it had drastically narrowed its sector of the search area but was still looking in an expanse of ocean the size of Spain and Portugal.

Malaysia said on Tuesday it had conferred with the US and Chinese ministers on the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, an unprecedented 26-nation operation that now spans Asia from the Caspian Sea to the southern Indian Ocean.

Investigators are convinced that someone with deep knowledge of the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial navigation diverted the jet, carrying 12 crew and 227 mainly Chinese passengers, perhaps thousands of miles off its scheduled course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

But intensive background checks of everyone aboard have so far failed to find anyone with a known political or criminal motive to crash or hijack the plane, Western security sources and Chinese authorities said.

China has begun to search for MH370 in Chinese territory, which falls within the northern search corridor, said state news agency Xinhua, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news conference that 21 satellites were involved.

"In accordance with Malaysia's request, we are mobilizing satellites and radar to search over the Chinese section of the northern corridor which the Malaysians say the plane may have flown over," he said.

UPDATE: 3/17/14 4:47 PM ET

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UPDATE: 3/17/14 2:00 PM ET

Central Asian states say no sightings of missing plane

Agence France-Presse — The Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan on Monday said there had been no sightings of the missing Malaysian passenger jet following reports that it may have reached their airspace.

According to one of the possible scenarios, the Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane that mysteriously went missing on March 8 could have flown north as far as the ex-Soviet country of Kazakhstan.

"There was no unsanctioned use of Kazakhstan's airspace on that day," the head of the country's civil aviation authority, Serik Mukhtybayev, told the Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency.

Mukhtybayev said that "Kazakhstan could be seen as one of the extreme points of this flight," but added that the plane would already have been spotted on the way.

"Before reaching Kazakhstan, the plane would have to cross the territory of other countries en route, where the air zone is also carefully monitored."

He said that Malaysia had not made an official request to Kazakhstan to look for the plane but that it was ready to help.

Here's a timeline of the last few minutes of the flight before it vanished:

And a videographic on what is known so far about the trajectory of the plane:

UPDATE: 3/17/14 12:47 PM ET

Sifting through misinformation

There have been inaccurate reports and conspiracy theories about the missing Malaysia Airlines plane — one of the ridiculous theories came from a Malaysian shaman who performed a ritual at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to rescue the plane from elves. 

Silly theories aside, why are we seeing so much misinformation?

"Though I hate the rumors and overreaching on a story like this, I see the fundamentally human process driving empty quotes and unsubstantiated reporting," wrote Craig Silverman in Poynter.

"This is how we cope with big, uncertain events: we grasp for ways to relate, to process them through our own lens. And when there is a dearth of information, we push, prod and search and speculate. We fill the empty air of cable news and conversation with anything."

Circa's editor-in-chief Anthony De Rosa put together the key details about the missing flight:

UPDATE: 3/17/14 12:08 PM ET

No ransom note received

Kyodo News International — With the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet turning into a criminal investigation with the focus on the pilots, Malaysia said Monday it has not received any ransom note and there has been no claim of responsibility.

Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also the acting transport minister, said there is still hope that the plane is intact.

"The fact that there is no distress signal, there is no ransom note, there is no party claiming to be responsible, there is always hope," he told a daily press conference.

Authorities are now probing possible foul play after it was confirmed that two signal transmission devices aboard the Boeing 777 — the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System and the transponder — were deliberately switched off.

UPDATE: 3/17/14 11:59 AM ET

Planning could hold key to disappearance

Reuters – Whether by accident or design, whoever reached across the dimly lit cockpit of a Malaysia Airlines jet and clicked off a transponder to make Flight MH370 vanish from controllers' radars flew into a navigational and technical black hole.

By choosing one place and time to vanish into radar darkness with 238 others on board, the person — presumed to be a pilot or a passenger with advanced knowledge — may have acted only after meticulous planning, according to aviation experts.

Understanding the sequence that led to the unprecedented plane hunt widening across two vast tracts of territory north and south of the Equator is key to grasping the motives of what Malaysian authorities suspect was hijacking or sabotage.

By signing off from Malaysian airspace at 1:19 a.m. on March 8 with a casual "all right, good night," rather than the crisp radio drill advocated in pilot training, a person now believed to be the co-pilot gave no hint of anything unusual.

Two minutes later, at 1:21 a.m. local time, the transponder — a device identifying jets to ground controllers — was turned off in a move that experts say could reveal a careful sequence.

"Every action taken by the person who was piloting the aircraft appears to be a deliberate one. It is almost like a pilot's checklist," said one senior captain from an Asian carrier with experience of jets including the Boeing 777.

There is so far no indication whether the co-pilot was at fault or had anything to do with turning off the transponder. Pilots say the usual industry convention is that the pilot not directly responsible for flying the plane talks on the radio.

UPDATE: 3/17/14 11:29 AM ET

Runways where the plane could have potentially landed

WNYC published an infographic showing locations of runways in 26 countries that meet length and other requirements that may be needed for the plane to land. 

UPDATE: 3/17/14 11:12 AM ET

Known chain of events

UPDATE: 3/17/14 10:56 AM ET

Pakistan and India say they know nothing about missing plane

Reuters — Aviation officials in Pakistan, India and Central Asia as well as Taliban militants said they knew nothing about the whereabouts of a missing Malaysian jetliner on Monday after the search for Flight MH370 extended into their territory.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished on March 8 about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard and investigators are now increasingly convinced it was diverted thousands of miles off course.

Malaysia said it had sent diplomatic notes to all countries along an arc of northern and southern search corridors including India and Pakistan, requesting radar and satellite information as well as land, sea and air search operations.

Indian defense officials rejected the possibility of a plane flying for hours above the country undetected.

"The idea that the plane flew through Indian airspace for several hours without anyone noticing is bizarre," a defense ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "These are wild reports, without any basis," he said, adding a pilot would have to know the precise location of all Indian radars and surveillance systems to be able to get around them.

Explaining why this was unlikely, he said surveillance was so tight on India's border facing its nuclear arch-rival Pakistan that the air force scrambled a pair of Sukhoi fighters last month after an unidentified object showed up on the radar. It turned out to be a weather balloon drifting towards the Pakistan border.


Pakistani officials said they had detected nothing suspicious in the skies after the plane vanished.

"We have checked the radar recording for the period but found no clue about the ill-fated flight," the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.

Central Asian countries Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, at the northern end of the search arc, said no unidentified planes had entered their air space on March 8.

"Even if all on-board equipment is switched off, it is impossible to fly through in a silent mode," the Kazakh Civil Aviation Committee said in a statement sent to Reuters. "There are also military bodies monitoring the country's air space."

As the search widened, some observers suggested the plane might have flown to remote mountainous areas abutting Pakistan's border with Afghanistan where Taliban militants are holed up.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, who are seeking to oust foreign troops and set up an Islamic state, said the missing plane had nothing to do with them.

"It happened outside Afghanistan and you can see that even countries with very advanced equipment and facilities cannot figure out where it went," he said. "So we also do not have any information as it is an external issue."

A commander with the Pakistani Taliban, a separate entity fighting the Pakistani government, said the fragmented group could only dream about such an operation. "We wish we had an opportunity to hijack such a plane," he told Reuters by telephone from the lawless North Waziristan region.

In Delhi, the defense official said that theoretically the aircraft could have flown a path hugging close to the Himalayas where radar is less effective because of the mountains.

But again for that sort of "terrain masking," you'd need intelligence and the skills of a military pilot, he said. In Port Blair, capital of the remote, forested Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Indian Navy Ship Kesari returned to its base after being recalled following a two-day search scanning the Andaman Sea.

A senior defense source there said that if the plane had crashed in the area light debris could have drifted a vast distance. "I would estimate that debris would be traveling at least 15 nautical miles an hour, so you can imagine how far it would be after more than a week," he said.

UPDATE: 3/17/14 8:34 AM ET

Where is Malaysia Airlines MH 370?

Agence France-Presse — An investigation into the pilots of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 intensified Monday after officials confirmed that the last words spoken from the cockpit came after a key signaling system was manually disabled.

US intelligence efforts were also focusing on Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, according to a senior US lawmaker.

"I think from all the information I've been briefed on from, you know, high levels within homeland security, national counterterrorism center, intelligence community, that something was going on with the pilot," said Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

"I think this all leads towards the cockpit, with the pilot himself, and co-pilot," McCaul said on Fox News Sunday.

Malaysia's transport minister confirmed Sunday that an apparently relaxed final voice communication from the cockpit — "All right, good night" — came after the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) had been deliberately shut down.

ACARS transmits to the ground key information on a plane's condition.

It has not been confirmed who gave that final voice message. But the assumption is the person would have known the ACARS system had been disabled.

The plane's transponder — which relays radar information on the plane's location — was switched off 14 minutes after ACARS went down.

Shortly afterwards the plane disappeared from civilian radar, but Malaysia has since confirmed that the air force tracked it for hours on military radar — without taking action.

The plane went missing early in the morning of March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard, spawning a massive international search across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean that has turned up no trace of wreckage.

'Contradictory information' 

Two-thirds of the passengers on board the flight were Chinese, and state media in China attacked Malaysia anew on Monday for its handling of the crisis.

"The contradictory and piecemeal information Malaysia Airlines and its government have provided has made search efforts difficult and the entire incident even more mysterious," the China Daily newspaper wrote in an editorial.

"What else is known that has not been shared with the world?" it asked.

For relatives of those on board, the indications that the plane was taken over in some way provides a slim hope that it might have landed undetected somewhere and that those on board are still alive.

"If they found the wreckage of the plane then that would be finalized because there's no hope," said Australian David Lawton, whose brother was on the plane.

"But while you've got hope, you've got worries too. Because if they're alive, are they being treated well, or what's happening?" he told Fairfax media.

The number of countries involved in the physical search for the jet has nearly doubled to 25, after satellite and military radar data projected two dauntingly large and contrasting corridors the plane might have flown through, to the north and south.

"We are now looking at large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries, as well as deep and remote oceans," said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's minister of both transport and defence.

The southern corridor extends deep into the southern Indian Ocean towards Australia, while the other stretches north in an arc over south and central Asia.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday said he had no information that the aircraft may have come anywhere close to Australia.

"But all of our agencies that could possibly help in this area are scouring their data to see if there's anything that they can add to the understanding of this mystery," Abbot told reporters.

The China Maritime Search and Rescue Center has asked Chinese merchant ships in the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the waters to the west of Australia to provide assistance.

Political dimension?

The Malaysian authorities have stressed that the backgrounds of all the passengers and crew are being checked — as well as engineers who may have worked on the plane before take-off.

Police have searched both pilots' residences and are examining a flight simulator that Captain Zaharie had installed at his home.

Zaharie was a member of the party of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

A day before the flight, a Malaysian court overturned Anwar's 2012 acquittal on charges he sodomized a male former aide and sentenced him to five years in jail.

Anwar calls the charges a sham cooked up by Malaysia's long-ruling government to drive him from politics.

There is, however, no indication yet that Zaharie's political affiliations have figured in the investigation.

First Officer Fariq's record was queried after a South African woman said he had allowed her and a friend to ride in the cockpit of a 2011 flight, in violation of security rules imposed after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Hishammuddin noted that the two pilots "did not ask to fly together" on flight 370.

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