Monday, 31 March 2014 14:34
CHICAGO (AP) - A judge has dismissed civil action by a Chicago law firm and scolded attorneys for what she describes as an improper filing on behalf of a relative of a passenger on missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
In a step toward a full-fledged lawsuit, Ribbeck Law Chartered asked a Cook County court last week to order Malaysia Airlines and Chicago-based Boeing Co. to turn over documents related to the plane's disappearance.
Judge Kathy Flanagan dismissed the request in a ruling Friday, saying it didn't conform to Illinois law.
She has tossed similar filings by Ribbeck in two other airplane crashes and warned the firm it could face "sanctions" if it happens again.
Ribbeck spokesman Mervin Mateo says the firm still planned a full lawsuit if and when plane wreckage is found.
Published in Local News
Tuesday, 25 March 2014 03:36
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Bad weather suspended the search Tuesday for any remains of a Malaysian jetliner as China demanded information a day after Malaysia's leader said the heartbreaking conclusion was that Flight 370 had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors.
Planes and ships have been crisscrossing a remote area of ocean 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Australia, but the search was called off because of waves up to 4 meters (12 feet), high winds and heavy rain.
The suspension comes after a somber announcement late Monday by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak saying the plane had crashed in the sea, but which also left unanswered many troubling questions about why the Boeing 777, which was en route to Beijing on March 8 when it disappeared, was so far off-course.
It also unleashed a storm of sorrow and anger among the families of the jet's 239 passengers and crew — two-thirds of them Chinese.
China responded Tuesday by demanding that Malaysia turn over the satellite data used to conclude that the jet had gone down in the southern Indian Ocean.
Given that 153 of the passengers aboard Flight 370 were Chinese, the incident was a highly emotional one for Beijing. Family members of the missing passengers have complained bitterly about a lack of reliable information and some say they are not being told the whole truth.
Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng told Malaysia's ambassador to Beijing that China wanted to know exactly what led Najib to announce that the plane had been lost, a statement on the ministry's website said.
"We demand the Malaysian side to make clear the specific basis on which they come to this judgment," Xie was quoted as telling Iskandar Bin Sarudin during their meeting late Monday.
There was no immediate response from Malaysia.
The families planned to march on the Malaysian Embassy on Tuesday, and dozens of police were already outside the embassy compound.
Najib, clad in a black suit, read a brief statement on what he called an unparalleled study of the jet's last-known signals to a satellite. That analysis showed that the missing plane veered "to a remote location, far from any possible landing sites."
"It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean," he said.
He did not directly address the fate of those aboard, but in a separate message sent to some of the relatives of the passengers, Malaysia Airlines said that "we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived."
The conclusions were based on a more-thorough analysis of the brief signals the plane sent every hour to a satellite belonging to Inmarsat, a British company, even after other communication systems on the jetliner shut down for unknown reasons.
The pings did not include any location information. But Inmarsat and British aviation officials used "a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort" to zero in on the plane's last direction, as it reached the end of its fuel, Najib said.
In a statement, Inmarsat said the company used "detailed analysis and modelling" of transmissions from the Malaysia Airlines jet and other known flights to describe "the likely direction of flight of MH370."
Najib gave no indication of exactly where in the Indian Ocean the plane was last heard from.
Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said that under international agreements governing air travel "Malaysia needs to take control" and decide how to proceed.
High waves, gale-force winds and low-hanging clouds forced the multinational search to be suspended for 24 hours Tuesday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said in a statement.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had spoken to Najib to offer help with the ongoing search and investigation.
"What up until now has been a search, moves into a recovery and investigation phase," Abbott said. "I have offered Malaysia, as the country legally responsible for this, every assistance and cooperation from Australia."
Abbott also said Australia would waive visa fees for relatives of the passengers and crew on Flight 370 who wanted to come to Australia.
Some of the relatives who gathered to hear Najib met the news with shrieks and uncontrolled sobs. Others collapsed into the arms of loved ones.
"My son! My son!" cried a woman in a group of about 50 gathered at a hotel near Beijing's airport, before falling to her knees. Minutes later, medical teams carried one elderly man out of the conference room on a stretcher, his face covered by a jacket.
Other relatives in Beijing went before cameras to criticize the Malaysian officials who "have concealed, delayed and hid the truth" about what happened to the plane. About two-thirds of the passengers on board were Chinese.
"If the 154 of our loved ones lose their lives, then Malaysia Airlines, the government of Malaysia and the military are really the executors of our loved ones," said a spokesman for the group who, like many Chinese, would give only his surname, Jiang. China includes one Taiwanese national in its total of Chinese on the flight.
Najib's announcement did nothing to answer why the plane disappeared shortly after takeoff. More specifically, it sheds no light on investigators' questions about possible mechanical or electrical failure, hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.
And it is not clear if the latest information can provide an exact location or just a rough estimate of where the jet crashed into the sea.
But several countries had already been moving specialized equipment into the area to prepare for a possible search for the plane and its black boxes, the common name for the cockpit voice and data recorders.
And there is a race against the clock to find any trace of the plane that could lead them to the location of the black boxes, whose battery-powered "pinger" could stop sending signals within two weeks. The batteries are designed to last at least a month and can last longer.
An Australian navy support vessel, the Ocean Shield, was expected to arrive in several days in the search zone, a defense official said. The ship is equipped with acoustic detection equipment that can search for the black boxes. Without them, it would be virtually impossible for investigators to say definitively what happened to the plane.
"We've got to get lucky," said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. "It's a race to get to the area in time to catch the black box pinger while it's still working."
The U.S. Pacific Command said before Najib's announcement that it was sending a black box locator in case a debris field is located.
The Towed Pinger Locator, which is pulled behind a vessel at slow speeds, has highly sensitive listening capability that can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet (6,100 meters), Cmdr. Chris Budde, a U.S. 7th Fleet operations officer, said in a statement. He called it "a prudent effort to pre-position equipment and trained personnel closer to the search area."
The U.S. Navy has also sent an unmanned underwater vehicle to Perth that could be used if debris is located, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. The Bluefin-21, expected to arrive in Perth on Wednesday, has side-scanning sonar and what is called a "multi-beam echo sounder" that can be used to take a closer look at objects under water, he added. It can operate at a depth of 4,500 meters (14,700 feet).
The search for the wreckage and the plane's recorders could take years because the ocean can extend to up to 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) deep in that part of the ocean. It took two years to find the black box from an Air France jet that went down in the Atlantic Ocean on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009, and searchers knew within days where the crash site was.
Thursday, 20 March 2014 00:01
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - An Australian search and rescue official says that planes have been sent to check on two objects possibly related to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight that were spotted on satellite imagery in the Indian Ocean about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth.
But John Young of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority cautioned Friday against expectations that this may help solve the mystery of the plane that went missing with 239 people on board nearly two weeks ago.
Young told reporters, "We have been in this business of doing search and rescue and using sat images before and they do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our views on that until they are sited close-up."
Tuesday, 18 March 2014 02:44
WASHINGTON (AP) — Ever since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, a fascinated public has asked: Why can somebody in the cockpit shut of the transponder?
It turns out there are several legitimate reasons why a pilot might want to shut off this key form of communication that allows air traffic controllers to identify and track airplanes.
Authorities believe that Flight 370's transponder was intentionally shut off, delaying search and rescue efforts and helping to conceal the plane's location — a mystery unsolved more than 10 days after the Boeing 777 vanished.
It's rare for a pilot to turn off a transponder during flight, but occasionally there is cause.
— Sometimes a transponder malfunctions, giving out incorrect readings.
— The device could have an electrical short or catch on fire. Pilots would want to shut it down rather than risk a fire spreading to the rest of the cockpit or airplane.
— Pilots used to routinely turn off transponders on the ground at airports so as not to overwhelm air traffic controllers with so many signals in one location. That is increasingly less the case as pilots now use "moving map" displays that take the transponder data and show them the location of other planes on the ground, helping guide them around airports without mishaps.
"As long as there are pilots, they'll be able to switch off systems," said Andrew Thomas, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Transportation Security.
Airplanes have two transponders. There are two knobs in the cockpit — one on the right, the other on the left — that control one or the other. When one transponder is on, the other is normally in standby mode.
To turn off a transponder, a pilot turns a knob with multiple positions and selects the "off" setting. The second transponder doesn't automatically activate if the first one is shut down — a knob would also have to be turned. In this case, it appears one transponder was turned off, and the second not activated.
Ross Aimer, a retired United Airlines pilot and former 777 instructor, said it is possible that one pilot could reach up and turn off the transponder without the other pilot seeing it, say if one was looking away or distracted.
If the plane was in contact with an air traffic controller, the controller would alert the pilots that the transponder signal had been lost. But, Aimer — now head of Aero Consulting Experts — said, if they were not in contact with an air traffic controller, a pilot might miss it if the other shut down the transponder.
In the case of the missing Malaysian plane, even pilots are a bit puzzled by somebody turning off the transponder.
John Gadzinski, a Boeing 737 captain, said that among fellow pilots "there is a raised eyebrow like Spock on 'Star Trek' — you just sit there and go, 'why would anybody do that?'"
Monday, 17 March 2014 03:55
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Australia took the lead Monday in searching for the missing Boeing 777 over the southern Indian Ocean as Malaysia requested radar data and search planes to help in the unprecedented hunt through a vast swath of Asia stretching northwest into Kazakhstan.
Investigators say the Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 239 people was deliberately diverted and its communications equipment switched off shortly after takeoff during an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8. Suspicion has fallen on anyone aboard the plane with aviation experience, particularly the pilot and co-pilot.
Malaysian police confiscated a flight simulator from the pilot's home Saturday and also visited the home of the co-pilot, in what Malaysia's police chief Khalid Abu Bakar later said was the first police visits to those homes. The government issued a statement Monday contradicting that account by saying that police first visited the pilots' home on March 9, the day after the flight.
Malaysia's government in the meantime was sending out diplomatic cables to all countries in the search area, seeking their help with the search, as well as to ask for any radar data that might help narrow the task.
The search initially focused on seas on either side of peninsular Malaysia, in the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca.
Over the weekend, however, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that investigators determined that a satellite picked up a faint signal from the aircraft about 7 ½ hours after takeoff. That meant the plane would have been somewhere on a vast arc stretching from Kazakhstan down to the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.
Had the plane gone northwest toward Kazakhstan, it would have crossed over countries with busy airspace, and some experts believe the person in control of the aircraft would more likely have chosen to go south. However, authorities are not ruling out the northern corridor and are eager for radar data that might confirm or rule out that path.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament that he agreed to take the lead scouring the southern Indian Ocean for the "ill-fated aircraft" during a conversation Monday with Malaysia's leader.
"Australia will do its duty in this matter," Abbott told parliament. "We will do our duty to the families of the 230 people on that aircraft who are still absolutely devastated by their absence, and who are still profoundly, profoundly saddened by this as yet unfathomed mystery."
Australia already has had two AP-3C Orion aircraft involved in the search, one of them looking north and west of the remote Cocos Islands. The southern Indian Ocean is the world's third-deepest and one of the most remote stretches of water in the world, with little radar coverage.
The northern search corridor crosses through countries including China, India and Pakistan — all of which have indicated they have seen no sign of the plane so far.
An official with the Chinese civil aviation authority said the missing plane did not enter Chinese airspace, but the Chinese Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry didn't immediately respond to questions on radar information.
Indonesian officials have said the plane did not cross their territory, based on radar data. Air force spokesman Rear Mar. Hadi Tjahjanto said Monday his country's search efforts were focusing on waters west of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean.
Friday, 14 March 2014 04:31
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The international search for the missing Malaysian jetliner expanded westward Friday toward the Indian Ocean amid signs the aircraft may have flown on for hours after its last contact with air-traffic control nearly a week ago.
A U.S. official told The Associated Press that the Malaysia Airlines plane sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing early last Saturday, raising the possibility the jet carrying 239 people could have flown far from the current search areas. It also increased speculation that whatever happened to the plane was a deliberate act.
If the plane had disintegrated during flight or had suffered some other catastrophic failure, all signals — the pings to the satellite, the data messages and the transponder — would be expected to stop at the same time. Experts say a pilot or passengers with technical expertise may have switched off the transponder in the hope of flying undetected.
No theory, however, has been ruled out in one of aviation history's most puzzling mysteries.
The Beijing-bound aircraft last communicated with air traffic base stations east of Malaysia in the South China Sea, which for several days has the main focus of the search. Planes and ships also have been searching the Strait of Malacca west of Malaysia because of a blip on military radar suggested the plane might have turned in that direction after the last confirmed contact.
If the plane flew another four hours, it could be much farther away.
Indian ships and planes have been searching northwest of Malaysia in the eastern Andaman Sea, and on Friday expanded their search to areas west of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain Friday, said V.S.R. Murty, an Indian Coast Guard inspector-general.
The White House said the U.S. may be drawn into a new phase of the search in the vast Indian Ocean but did not offer details. The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet said it was moving one of its ships, the USS Kidd, into the Strait of Malacca.
Vietnam, which has been heavily involved in the search from the start, downgraded its hunt in the South China Sea to regular from emergency by reducing the frequency of aircraft flights and cruises by ships involved, said Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnamese People's Army.
"We are prepared for the case that the search mission will last long and we have to maintain our forces that way," he said.
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the situation by name, said the Boeing 777-200 wasn't transmitting data to the satellite but was sending a signal to establish contact.
Boeing offers a satellite service that can receive a stream of data during flight on how the aircraft is functioning and relay the information to the plane's home base. The idea is to provide information before the plane lands on whether maintenance work or repairs are needed.
Malaysia Airlines didn't subscribe to that service, but the plane still had the capability to connect with the satellite and was automatically sending pings, the official said.
"It's like when your cellphone is off but it still sends out a little 'I'm here' message to the cellphone network," the official said. "That's how sometimes they can triangulate your position even though you're not calling because the phone every so often sends out a little bleep. That's sort of what this thing was doing."
Malaysia's Transport Ministry said Friday it could not various verify reports quoting U.S. officials, but said Malaysian investigators were working closely with a U.S. team that has been in Kuala Lumpur since Sunday. Boeing did not comment.
Messages involving a different, more rudimentary data service also were received from the airliner for a short time after the plane's transponder — a device used to identify the plane to radar — went silent, the U.S. official said.
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. investigators as saying they suspected the plane stayed in the air for about four hours after its last confirmed contact, citing engine data automatically transmitted to the ground as part of a routine maintenance program. The newspaper later corrected the account to say the information came from the plane's satellite communication link, not the engines.
Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein dismissed the initial report. He said Boeing and Rolls-Royce, the engine manufacturer, both said the last engine data was received at 1:07 a.m., 23 minutes before the plane's transponders, which identify it to commercial radar and nearby aircraft, stopped working.
Asked if it were possible that the plane kept flying for several hours, Hishammuddin said: "Of course. We can't rule anything out. This is why we have extended the search. We are expanding our search into the Andaman Sea." The sea is northwest of the Malay Peninsula.
Hishammuddin said Malaysia was asking for radar data from India and other neighboring countries to see if they can trace it flying northwest. There was no word Friday that any other country had such details on the plane, and they may not exist.
In Thailand, secondary surveillance radar, which requires a signal from aircraft, runs 24 hours a day, but primary surveillance radar, which requires no signal at all, ordinarily shuts down at night, said a Royal Thai Air Force officer who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to talk to the media on the issue.
Air Marshal Vinod Patni, a retired Indian air force officer and a defense expert, said radar facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands area don't work around the clock, either. "These are generally switched on and off as and when required. A radar may be kept on for 24 hours on certain days. I won't say that the Indian radars are highly sophisticated in the region," he said."
Patni also said there are gaps in the coverage areas, including within the area being searched for the missing plane. He couldn't give an exact location for specific gaps, but said pilots are well aware of them.
The possibility that the plane flew long after its last confirmed contact opens the possibility that one of the pilots, or someone with flying experience, wanted to hijack the plane for some later purpose, kidnap the passengers or commit suicide by plunging the aircraft into the sea.
Mike Glynn, a committee member of the Australian and International Pilots Association, said he considers pilot suicide to be the most likely explanation for the disappearance, as was suspected in a SilkAir crash during a flight from Singapore to Jakarta in 1997 and an EgyptAir flight from Los Angeles to Cairo in 1999.
"A pilot rather than a hijacker is more likely to be able to switch off the communications equipment," Glynn said. "The last thing that I, as a pilot, want is suspicion to fall on the crew, but it's happened twice before."
Glynn said a pilot may have sought to fly the plane into the Indian Ocean to reduce the chances of recovering data recorders, and to conceal the cause of the disaster.
Experts said that if the plane crashed into the ocean, some debris should be floating even if most of the jet is submerged. Past experience shows that finding the wreckage can take weeks or even longer, especially if the location of the plane is in doubt.
Thursday, 13 March 2014 01:38
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The Wall Street Journal is reporting that U.S. investigators suspect a missing Malaysian jetliner flew on for four hours once it lost contact with air traffic controllers.
The suspicion is based on data from the plane's engines that are automatically downloaded and transmitted to the ground as part of routine maintenance programs.
The report raises questions as to why the Boeing 777 was flying like that, and if anyone was in control during that time.
The plane's last known confirmed position was roughly halfway between Malaysia and Vietnam.
Malaysian authorities have since said they tracked what could have been the plane changing course and heading west.
Investigators have not ruled out any possible cause to explain the disappearance of the plane and the 239 people on board.
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 01:17
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — More than four days after a Malaysian jetliner went missing en route to Beijing, authorities acknowledged Wednesday they didn't know which direction the plane carrying 239 passengers was heading when it disappeared, vastly complicating efforts to find it.
Amid intensifying confusion and occasionally contradictory statements, the country's civil aviation authorities and the military said the plane may have turned back from its last known position between Malaysian and Vietnam, possibly as far as the Strait of Malacca, a busy shipping lane on the western side of Malaysia.
How it might have done this without being clearly detected remains a mystery, raising questions over whether its electrical systems, including transponders allowing it to be spotted by radar, were either knocked out or turned off. If it did manage to fly on, it would challenge earlier theories that the plane may have suffered a catastrophic incident, initially thought reasonable because it didn't send out any distress signals.
Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage or terrorism. Both the Boeing 777 and Malaysia Airlines have excellent safety records. Until wreckage or debris is found and examined, it will be very hard to say with any level of certainty what happened.
The search for the missing aircraft was begun from the spot it was last reported to be over the ocean between Malaysia and Vietnam. But Malaysian authorities have also said search operations were ongoing in the Strait of Malacca. Scores of planes and aircraft have been scouring waters in both locations.
The country's air force chief, Gen. Rodzali Daud, released a statement denying remarks attributed to him in a local media report saying that military radar had managed to track the aircraft turning back from its original course, crossing the country and making it to the Malacca strait. The Associated Press contacted a high-level military official, who confirmed the remarks.
Rodzali referred to a statement he said he made March 9 in which he said the air force has "not ruled out the possibility of an air turn back" and said search and rescue efforts had been expanded to the waters around Penang Island, in the northern section of the strait.
"There is a possibility of an air turn back. We are still investigating and looking at the radar readings," the country's civilian aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said Wednesday.
It is possible that the radar readings are not definitive or subject to interpretation, especially if a plane is malfunctioning.
The confusion has prompted speculation that different arms of the government have different opinions over where the plane is most likely to be, or even that authorities are holding back information. The crisis may have led to internal mix-ups and miscommunication.
The Strait of Malacca that separates Malaysia from Indonesia's Sumatra Island is some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from where the plane was last known to have made contact with ground control officials over the Gulf of Thailand at a height of 35,000 feet (almost 11,000 meters) early Saturday
Indonesia air force Col. Umar Fathur said the country had received official information from Malaysian authorities that the plane was above the South China Sea, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Kota Bharu, Malaysia, when it turned back toward the strait and then disappeared. That would place its last confirmed position closer to Malaysia than has previously been publicly disclosed.
Fathur said Malaysian authorities have determined four blocks to be searched in the strait, which Indonesia was assisting in.
Vietnam continued to search for the plane on land and sea. In its area of responsibility, some 22 aircraft and 31 ships from several countries were involved, according to Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnamese People's Army.
Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar, who has been ordered to look at possible criminal aspects in the disappearance of the plane, said Tuesday that hijacking, sabotage and issues related to the pilots' psychological health were being considered.
An Australian TV station reported that the first officer on the missing plane, Fariq Abdul Hamid, had invited two women into the cockpit during a flight two years ago. One of the women, Jonti Roos, described the encounter on Australia's "A Current Affair."
Roos said she and a friend were allowed to stay in the cockpit during the entire one-hour flight on Dec. 14, 2011, from Phuket, Thailand, to Kuala Lumpur. She said the arrangement did not seem unusual to the plane's crew.
"Throughout the entire flight, they were talking to us and they were actually smoking throughout the flight," said Roos, who didn't immediately reply to a message sent to her via Facebook. The second pilot on the 2011 flight was not identified
Malaysia Airlines said they took the allegations seriously.
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 13:43
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - The Malaysian military says it has radar evidence showing the missing Boeing 777 jetliner changed course and made it to the Malacca Strait, hundreds of kilometers (miles) away from the last location reported by civilian authorities.
The development injects new mystery into the investigation of the flight's disappearance.
Local newspaper Berita Harian quoted Malaysian air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud as saying radar at a military base had detected the airliner near Pulau Perak, at the northern approach to the strait.
A high-ranking military official involved in the investigation confirmed the report on Tuesday and also said the aircraft was believed to be flying low.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
Monday, 10 March 2014 16:07
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Aviation experts say the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared over the weekend will be found -- eventually.
It took two years to find the main wreckage of an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. And in 2007, closer to the area where the Malaysian jet disappeared, it took a week for wreckage from an Indonesian jet to be spotted.
Making this search harder is the possibility that the Malaysian jet made a U-turn before it disappeared. Officials involved in the search say the plane could be hundreds of miles from where it was last detected.
One expert says the plane must have been intact for some time after disappearing from radar. John Cox, a former US Airways pilot who heads Safety Operating Systems, says if it had exploded along its flight path, the debris would have been found by now.
Malaysian officials say more than 1,000 people, with at least 34 planes and 40 ships, are searching a radius of 100 nautical miles around the plane's last known location.