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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Officials grow more suspicious of pilots

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As of March 17, 26 countries are actively involved in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared over the South China Sea in the early morning hours of March 8, complete with its 239 passengers and crew members.

Although officials still do not know why the airliner vanished, or where it is now, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak announced over the weekend that the plane’s communication system had been disabled due to "deliberate action by someone on the plane," according to First Coast News.

Making the mystery of the missing Boeing 777 even more suspicious, the CEO for Malaysia Airlines, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, announced at a press conference that the final communication from Flight 370 came after the communications on the plane were disabled - and that the last communication to be received came from one of the plane’s pilots.

… initial indications are that the co-pilot of the missing jetliner is the one who calmly said, "All right, good night." ~ USA Today

Aviation officials are now considering, more than earlier in their investigations, “that one or both of the pilots may have been involved in the plane's disappearance.”

Experts still don’t know where the plane ended up, if it crashed, or if it landed somewhere.

We do know that the plane flew for several hours after it disappeared from radar.

Based on the amount of fuel the plane had on board, officials also know how long the plane could have remained airborne after it disappeared from radar, and have determined two different directions and the ultimate endpoints the aircraft could have possibly traveled.

One is an arc north toward central Asia, the other is an arc south toward the southern Indian Ocean and Australia.

Although all passengers and crew members are under investigation, the focus for the plane’s disappearance is now being directed at the two pilots. CNN shared that police have searched both pilots’ homes and confiscated some of their belongings as evidence.

The pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, has 18,365 flying hours. He joined the airline in 1981.

Shah is married and has three children, the youngest of whom is in her 20s and lives with her parents. He and his wife have one grandchild.

First Officer Fariq Ab Hamid, 27, joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007. He has 2,763 flying hours and was transitioning from flight simulator training to the Boeing 777-200ER.

Many experts believe that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean. The Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, will be utilizing his country’s resources to search portions of the southern Indian Ocean for the "ill-fated aircraft."

"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, " Abbott told parliament.

Here’s the timeline of known milestone events regarding missing airline Flight 370, according to CNN:

  • Plane takes off at 12:41 a.m. from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing.
  • “Shortly after takeoff, one of the plane's communication systems is turned off.”
  • Transponder disabled at 1:30 a.m. Air traffic controllers lose contact with Flight 370 “over the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam.”
  • Voice check-in, "All right, good night,” as Flight 370 was apparently leaving Malaysian airspace and entering Vietnamese airspace – exact time unknown – but believed to be at approximately the same time the transponder was turned off;
  • 2:40 a.m., now hundreds of miles off course, military radar tracked Flight 370 as it passed over the island of Pulau Perak, in the Strait of Malacca - on the other side of the Malaysian Peninsula.
  • 8:11 a.m., satellite detects Flight 370, more than seven hours after takeoff, but unable to detect exact location of the aircraft.

Officials are not saying with certainty that Flight 370 was hijacked. The current location of the aircraft remains a mystery.

For more on the missing airliner, see the video accompanying this article.

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