NYT: Malaysian govt had military radar data from Day 1, intentionally searched wrong area

A devastating story in the NYT about missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.  It seems Malaysian military radar picked up the now-transponderless plane doing a very wide u-turn over the Gulf of Thailand, heading back over some of Malaysia’s biggest cities, and heading into the Strait of Malaca (between Malaysia and Indonesia), and no one noticed.

Oh but it gets better.  Within a few hours of the plane being reported missing, Malaysian officials realized their error, realized the plane had turned around, that it had already left the Gulf of Thailand, but they let the world begin a massive search in – where? – the Gulf of Thailand.

Only one week later did Malaysia call of the search in the Gulf.

What’s more, the NYT reports that aviation experts say the pilot would be the obvious starting point for an investigation, but the Malaysian authorities didn’t search the pilots’ homes until one week after the plane disappeared.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 14, 2014: two kids signing a billboard for the safe return of Malaysia Airlines MH370 which went missing on March 8 2014. MH370 remains missing to date. cjmac / Shutterstock.com

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – MARCH 14, 2014: two kids signing a billboard for the safe return of Malaysia Airlines MH370 which went missing on March 8 2014. MH370 remains missing to date. cjmac / Shutterstock.com

There are a few possibilities as to why the Malaysians let the world spend a lot of money, and wasted time, searching in an area that they knew was the wrong place – and potentially putting the lives of the passengers at risk, had the plane crashed and any were still alive.

1. No one told the senior brass that they had the data. It seems a bit odd that within hours of finding out the plane is missing you’d find the radar data on the plane, but you wouldn’t tell your boss.  Then again, if you’d been asleep at the switch, and didn’t see the plane fly over one of your country’s largest cities, you might not want to tell your boss that you messed up.

2. Same goes for the senior military brass.  Perhaps they were informed, but feared telling the Prime Minister how monumentally they botched this.

In fact, the NYT says the commander of Malaysia’s Air Force found out about the radar data the same day – that first day. More on that below.

3. And the same goes for the Prime Minister. No matter when he found out, he might have felt it was in Malaysian’s national interest not to admit how completely unprepared it is for unidentified aircraft violating its airspace.

4. Though a longshot, what if Malaysian military radar operators did see the jet live, did report it, and after trying to contact it, the government ordered it shot down?  That too would be a reason they might want to hide it after the fact.  Though I’m not sure you can hide a jet that you just blew up – there’d be witnesses on the ground and/or wreckage and/or possible satellite detection of the explosion.  Also, the first three reasons are simpler and thus more likely.

The NYT article concludes:

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 14, 2014: two kids signing a billboard for the safe return of Malaysia Airlines MH370 which went missing on March 8 2014. MH370 remains missing to date. cjmac / Shutterstock.com

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – MARCH 14, 2014: two kids signing a billboard for the safe return of Malaysia Airlines MH370 which went missing on March 8 2014. MH370 remains missing to date. cjmac / Shutterstock.com

The failure to identify Flight 370’s errant course meant that a chance to send military aircraft to identify and redirect the jet, a Boeing 777, was lost. And for five days the crews on an armada of search vessels, including two American warships, focused the bulk of their attention in the waters off Malaysia’s east coast, far from the plane’s actual path.

General Rodzali [commander of Malaysia’s Air Force] went to the Butterworth air force base the day that the plane disappeared and was told of the radar blips, the person familiar with the investigation said. The Malaysian government nonetheless assigned most of its search and rescue resources, as well as ships and aircraft offered by other nations, to a search of the Gulf of Thailand where the aircraft’s satellite transponder was turned off, while allocating minimal attention to the Strait of Malacca on the other, western side of Peninsular Malaysia.


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • HelenRainier

    I don’t know how you keep all of this straight, Ninong. Thanks for indulging me and my questions — I appreciate it.

  • Ninong

    That’s the mystery. No one has come up with a motive yet. On the other hand, that’s the only logical explanation. Allegedly the transponder was turned off within a couple of minutes AFTER the co-pilot said, “alright, good-night.” Of course that’s not what they said previously. They originally said the transponder was turned off BEFORE the pilot said good-night. Now, all of a sudden, it was a couple of minutes AFTER and they’re sure it was the co-pilot and not the pilot.

    Allegedly the plane banked at 20 degrees and did almost a complete u-turn. Allegedly it crossed over Malaysia headed for the Andaman Islands. Apparently they knew this within 24-48 hours after it happened but they continued to ask everyone to search for the downed plane in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s hard to trust any information coming out of the Malaysian government or the Malaysian military. Someone said the plane was flying low, approximately 5,000 feet, to evade radar. That was until a few airline pilots pointed out that the plane couldn’t have continued flying for 7-1/2 hours unless they were at their normal cruising altitude. They didn’t carry enought fuel to stay up that long if they were flying low.

    The Malaysian authorities say whatever they want to say because that’s they way they have always operated. They refused to allow Interpol and the FBI to assist them in their investigation. There are a lot of countries helping with the physical search for the plane but they don’t want anyone else getting involved in the investigation of how something like this could have happened. After all, trade in stolen passports is big business in Malaysia and Thailand and they don’t want outside law enforcement getting involved. It’s bad enough they had to admit that they don’t bother to check passports against Interpol’s computer. If they had, they would have picked up immediately that those two stolen passports were not legitimate.

    Someone piloted the plane along regular flight paths. It’s possible that it continued flying until it ran out of fuel. We may never know why.

  • HelenRainier

    What would have been the reason though? What was the motive? If it was for money, there have been no demands. What specific things are making you think it’s deliberate? I’ve thought about this and I can’t come up with any motive or rationale for a highjacking. This is confusing.

  • Ninong

    I think it was deliberate.

  • HelenRainier

    Well, in the wake of something tragic like this there’s always misleading reports. It does take time to sort it all out and find out what’s valid and what isn’t. Of course, if there is something nefarious going on, it also allows time for a good “cover story” to be concocted. Do you think this was something innocent that happened and caused the place to crash or do you think there is something else going on?

  • Ninong

    If it crashed in the ocean there should be something floating around on the surface. It may be hard to find it over the vast expanse of ocean but they should eventually find it if they keep searching.

    The mystery right now is why the transponder was turned off prior to the co-pilot saying good-night.

  • HelenRainier

    That makes a lot of sense. I wonder if it’s possible that one of the pilots could have murdered the other one — perhaps the younger one taking out the older one. But then, the question becomes: to what end? If it crashed in the ocean, realistically how long might it be before stuff starts showing up on the surface, or would it?

  • Ninong

    My best guess is that it’s at the bottom of the Indian Ocean but that’s just a guess. The investigation was centered on the pilot as the culprit but now the Malaysian government announced the it was the 27-yr-old co-pilot who said, “good night,” after the plane’s transponder had already been turned off.

    It’s highly unlikely that the pilot and co-pilot were both involved in this because the pilot didn’t even know who the co-pilot would be until just before the flight. Voice analysis pointed to the co-pilot as the one who issued the last voice communication from the plane and his voice was perfectly calm and not distressed. So that really throws a curve into the investigation that was centered on the pilot.

    My guess is that it was either the pilot or the co-pilot and they acted after the other one left the cockpit for a bathroom break. Did the co-pilot lock the pilot out of the cockpit? Was it the other way around? If it was one of them, then why?

  • HelenRainier

    You’re quite knowledgeable about all of this. What is your best guess as to what in the world happened to this plane?

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I don’t think the article suggests anywhere that Malaysia “intentionally searched the wrong area”. That’s a pretty strong statement.

  • Bose

    Link below about a 2012 stowaway on a flight from China to San Francisco — who hid in the lower-level electronics bay just behind the cockpit.

  • Bose

    And here’s an article confirming the possibility:
    http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/22018090/stowaway-terrorists-latest-theory/

    [In a 2012 China Airlines flight to San Francisco, …] a passenger had flown from Shanghai to Taipei and on to the US where he claimed asylum.

    The passenger wore a cleaner’s uniform to board the plane and avoided detection […] by hiding in an electrical compartment.

    And the lede for the piece:

    Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 may have been hijacked by terrorists who stowed away in its underfloor electronics bay located just behind the cockpit.

  • Paul Barwick

    See, I told you they were going to blame it on the gays… bit.ly/1g1iNoP

  • 2karmanot

    The mild mannered sister-in law, who embezzled the funds and forced the pilot to make a deal with terrorists, until Hercule put a stop to it—-somewhere………..

  • Ninong

    One reason it’s confusing is that the Malaysian government and the Malaysian military have made conflicting public statements within minutes of each other.

    It seems clear that they were both trying to hide the truth and only came clean after other sources reported that they were searching in the wrong area. That’s when they finally admitted that their military radar had detected the unidentified aircraft flying over their territory and they didn’t respond in any way. Also, we learned that Malaysian Airlines doesn’t bother to check Interpol’s computers to see if passengers are flying with stolen passports. Had they checked, they would have discovered immediately that two of the passengers on the jet were Iranians flying on an Austrian and a French passport that had both been stolen in Thailand.

    Their national airline lets anybody board with a stolen passport and their military radar operators allow unidentified aircraft to fly over their country without alerting anybody at the time. Is that why they didn’t admit until days later that they knew all along that the plane had turned around and headed in a different direction and that it had flown for a total of 7-1/2 hours? We now know for a fact that they had 25 different countries and who knows how many ships and aircraft searching the Gulf of Thailand when they knew the plane couldn’t possibly be there.

  • HelenRainier

    Ninong, thanks for the clarification. I hadn’t read the information you just shared so you’ve added to my understanding of the situation. This is certainly a very puzzling situation.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I blame Toonces: The Cat Who Could Fly a 777.

    (“See, I told you he could fly. Just not very well. Toonces, look out!”)

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    Socks?
    Macavity!

  • 2karmanot

    Sarah Palin saw the whole thing from her house and it was because, Russia.

  • Ninong

    The 53-yr-old pilot, not the 27-yr-old co-pilot. The older pilot had a flight simulator that he built himself in his home because he’s obsessed with flying and is a qualified flight instructor. In fact, he was training the 27-yr-old co-pilot, who is transitioning to the Boeing 777. The older pilot has been with the airline since 1981 and he has more than 18,000 hours flying time.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    In collaboration with George Soros and the New Black Panther Party.

  • Badgerite

    I feel sorry for the families of the hijacked. No one is even taking responsibility or asking for ransom. That we know of.

  • Bose

    I just added my thoughts about the near-absence of questions or reporting on the possibility of stowaways. Particularly vexing in the context of reporting that the ACAR circuit breakers are located in a lower level of the 777, and the possibility that the ACAR system was shut down by one hijacker simultaneously with a second emerging and taking control of the cockpit.

  • Bose

    NBC is reporting that the ACAR system was disabled first, but the series of circuit breakers necessary to do so are on a lower level of the plane, not in the cockpit:

    “The ACARS is located on a lower-level of the plane, while the transponder is housed in the cockpit, Tom Casey, a retired pilot who used to fly the giant Boeing 777 told NBC News on Saturday. In order to disconnect the ACAR system, a person would have to pull a series of circuit breakers, but also know where to find them, Casey noted.

    So, someone had to be in that lower level not long after the plane was in the air. No one is yet talking about the possibility of a stowaway or the safeguards used by Malasia Air to prevent it. If it was at all necessary for a highly-skilled to accomplish the hijacking, and likely an employee or other airport insider, wouldn’t that person (or people) do everything in their power to prevent being shown on the manifest? Disable ACAR either simultaneously or in quick succession with rushing the cockpit as pilots are being served their coffee, keep them quiet for a couple of panicked minutes leading up to their sign-off from Malaysian ATC before demanding the U-turn?

  • Bookbinder

    Well. Maybe we need some clarification. I thought the 2 arcs were not flight paths but segments of a circle around the satellite in the position when it detected the jet’s signals. Which is to say that the plane COULD have been anywhere within the circle and would have been out of range to transmit to the satellite outside of the circle. The flight path could have been anywhere within the circle’s arcs but not outside of it. The arcs themselves are not the flight path. Is this correct ?

  • Bookbinder

    Thanks. Like the concept as it is the only other motivation offered other than an trying to take a plane to later recreate 911.

  • HelenRainier

    Are you referring to the older pilot or the younger one? I’ve heard reports that the older pilot had a flight simulator in his home. Isn’t that unusual? Wouldn’t that be expensive and what would be the reason for that?

  • HelenRainier

    Or Mr. Mustard in the kitchen.

  • HelenRainier

    Interestin coincidence — but might the plane have affected this? I’m asking certainly as I don’t understand how they could be connected.

  • grhabyt

    But what about the seismic event on the flight path (and outside any fault zones)?

    http://news.sciencemag.org/signal-noise/2014/03/seismic-event-may-be-tied-missing-airplane

  • Indigo

    That pretty well covers the options. Except for alien abduction.

  • Indigo

    I’m pretty sure it was Miss Scarlet with the candle stick in the library.

  • Ninong

    The report that I read said that two undercover agents from the Malaysian military searched the pilot’s home the day after the plane disappeared and they found that his family was not there, just the family’s maid. They removed two computers but couldn’t locate his personal laptop, which they believe he took with him on the flight.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    I blame Socks the Cat.

  • Badgerite

    Something else that was reported is that the pilot’s wife and children moved out of their family home the day before the plane was hijacked. I don’t know it that is accurate but that is what is reported in the Malaysia Sun. Odd.

  • MyrddinWilt

    It isn’t unusual for militaries to panic when under unexpected pressure. In fact that is the usual outcome. Militaries don’t usually think about sharing information with others either.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    We’re a powerful people.

  • eggroll_jr

    I like this crime analysis. One aspect of the discussion that does not get mentioned is that somebody might have long been in communication with the criminals, but they can’t make this information public due to a kidnapping or other hostage situation. Also, criminals may be opportunistic, but it could be that they discovered something routine about this flight, say, that some valuable cargo was being transported from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing or Shanghai on a regular basis. The Boeing 777 has been a part of the Malaysia Airlines fleet for almost nine years, however. They have 14 and its their standard long-haul plane. One of its safety features is that it can land on relatively small runways and even unimproved surfaces. Slate’s Jeff Wise, who can only identify that about 153 of the 227 passengers were Chinese, suggests that the Chinese themselves were the valuable cargo and are currently being held by Uigur separatists. Alternatively, if something else of value was on the plane such as bonds, cash or pharmaceuticals, or just one or a few of the passengers were of extremely high value, it would bode poorly for the low-value passengers.

  • dula

    The butler killed the pilot, with a fake passport, in the loo…assisted by the co-pilot.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    So we’re down to the original three possibilities, since mechanical failure appears to be on the verge of being ruled out.

    Assumption: The plane was being flown purposefully.

    Details: There are some signs of skilled pilot knowledge — turning off two sets of transponders, following standard nav paths. And some signs of erratic flying that might or might not have been deliberate, or could have been the result of a struggle for control of the aircraft. Also, the final satellite fix, those big arcs, is not consistent with the last known direction the aircraft was heading (west, out over the Indian Ocean). Therefore, there must’ve been yet another navigation change.

    Known: The plane flew for many hours after the main aircraft transponders were turned off, because the engine reporting transponders apparently could not be turned off in the cabin.

    There appear to be only tree possibilities:

    1. One (or more) of the pilots was responsible.
    2. The pilot(s) did what they did under hijacker coercion (which would require at least enough hijacker knowledge of 777 airframes to order the pilot to shut off transponders, which they would not have done unless ordered to do so).
    3. The plane was under the control of an extremely well-trained hijacker with more than just a few hours familiarity with the 777, as expert pilots have attested.

    As with any crime, the analysis goes as follows: Means, motive, and opportunity.

    Combining means and opportunity requires access to the cockpit and extensive knowledge on how to fly a 777, or the near total ability to coerce such knowledge from someone else. Unless investigators are sitting on information proving one of the passengers is a rated 777 pilot (or close enough to make no difference), option #3 is looking less and less likely all the time.

    Opportunity becomes a problem with #2, because the 777 is a very advanced, complex aircraft. Even with a gun held to one’s head, there have to be many, many ways a pilot could cause problems for a hijacker, including slowly depressurizing the cabin, leaving transponders turned on, and dumping fuel.

    Increasingly, this is looking like a flight crew issue, with #1 being the simplest explanation. And the complicating factor being “Military and Gov’t VIPs trying to save face, after multiple fuck-ups.”

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    Right this minute the passengers are being shepherded to a border crossing where they’ll be handed free phones, welfare checks, and voter registration forms already filled out for them.

  • Paul Barwick

    We multitask.

  • Ninong

    I thought 9/11 was the gays’ fault?

  • Ninong

    The NYT’s reported that the Malaysian military didn’t search the pilot’s home until a week later? Seriously? I thought that was a staged search just for show? Didn’t they do an unreported search of his home the very next day after the plane went missing? That’s when they removed two of his computers but his personal laptop was apparently not there. It may have been with him in the cockpit.

    Anyway, that’s one of the stories being reported in the Malaysian press. Some say the pilot was upset over the railroading of his idol, the leader of the opposition who was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison on a fake sodomy charge the very morning of the day the flight took off. The pilot of the plane attended the trial that morning before heading to the airport. His coworkers said he was obsessed with politics and supported the opposition leader.

    I think the bottom line is that the Malaysian government has been deliberately withholding information and possibly even giving out misleading information. The PM is expected to resign over his handling of this situation within a matter of days, according to that same report.

  • Paul Barwick

    It’s the gays’ fault, but for God’s sake, don’t ever quote me on that.

  • AnitaMann

    Bill Ayres also too.

  • cole3244

    boy the families must be apoplectic by now.

  • Max_1

    Umm…
    Bush did it first.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    ACORN made them do it.

  • pappyvet

    I believe I would search the land more heavily.

  • AnitaMann

    Well, it all started with Benghazi.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    LOL

  • Paul Barwick

    It’s Obama’s fault.

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