Flight MH370 includes 12 Malaysian Freescale staff, and KL-based IBM executive

AvantiKumar | March 10, 2014
(UPDATED: 27 May 2014) DCA and Inmarsat release 'raw data' public; relatives of passengers list questions.

MAS Boeing 777-200 (filepic) modified 

Photo - (filepic) A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200

 

[Updated: 27 May 2014. Please scroll to the end of this article for the latest update.]

 

Texas-based semiconductor firm Freescale Semiconductor has confirmed that 20 employees, 12 of them Malaysian nationals, are among the 239 passengers and crew on the vanished Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which was reported to have lost contact with Subang Air Traffic Control at 2.40am local time (8 March 2014).

The Boeing 777-200ER aircraft left Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) en route to Beijing at 12.41 am on Saturday, 8 March 2014 and was expected to land at 6.30 am local time on the same day.

Communication with the flight was suddenly lost about 250 kilometres off a tiny Vietnamese island with no distress signals, according Malaysia Airlines' chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya during his first statement to media at 7.24 am on the same day.  "We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370, which departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am earlier this morning bound for Beijing."

Freescale Semiconductor's Malaysian branch is not able to reveal details of their staff members on board MH370, according to local news reports. However, Freescale's president and chief executive officer Gregg Lowe, in a statement, confirmed that "Twelve are from Malaysia and eight are from China."

"At present, we are solely focused on our employees and their families," said Lowe. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this tragic event."

Freescale Semiconductor's vice president, global communications and investor relations, Mitch Haws told media that: "The 20 employees were people with a lot of experience and technical background. It's definitely a loss for the company."

The sole adult American, Philip Wood, 51, is an IBM technical storage executive who started working in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, just three months ago, according to his LinkedIn profile.

According to the passenger manifest released earlier by Malaysia Airlines, the flight was carrying a total number of 239 passengers and crew - comprising 227 passengers (including 2 infants), and 12 crew members. The passengers were of 14 different nationalities including 153 Chinese nationals, 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians,  five Indians, four French nationals,  three Americans (including two toddlers), and three French nationals.

At the time of writing, no signs of the aircraft have been found though Malaysia's Defence and acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein  said in a morning media conference at KLIA on 9 March 2014 that international search and rescue units are investigating two oil slicks - one about 9 miles long, and the other about 6 miles long,

 Passport theft

According to the New York Times, "the names of two passengers listed on the flight's manifest, passengers 63 and 101, match the names of two passports that were stolen in Asia a few years ago. The passports belonged to two men - one Austrian and one Italian - who authorities have confirmed were not on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and are in fact alive."

In a later media conference from KLIA (at 11am local time MYT,  Sunday 9 March 2014), Malaysia's Hishamuddin said Malaysian authorities have contacted counterterrorism organisations including the FBI about passport issues.

Hishamuddin added that no other signs have been spotted and that they are looking at all the possibilities. He did not confirm the number of passports under suspicion. "The whole manifest is being investigated. The main concern for the families is for us to first find the aircraft."

Malaysia Airlines's chief executive Jauhari earlier said that the airline is doing its utmost to provide support to the affected family members, this includes immediate financial aid. The airline has deployed a team of 94 caregivers consisting of well-trained staff and also Tzu Chi Foundation members to provide emotional support to the families. The airline also be deployed a senior management team to support family members of passengers in Beijing.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines will set up a command centre - response control centre [RCC] - at Kota Bharu, Malaysia or Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam as soon as the location of the aircraft is established and the airline will make the necessary arrangements to support the needs of the families of passengers and crew of the flight.

 Updates: search and rescue

[07.00pm local time MYT, Sunday 9 March 2014]  Minister Hishamuddin said that according to a military radar, there may have been a possibility that the missing flight MH370 made an "air turn back."

They are looking into all possible reasons for this around turn including the possibility of terrorism, he said. "Malaysia is working with foreign intelligence agencies including the FBI and counter-terrorism units on this."

At least two passengers - one Italian, the other Austrian had boarded the flight with stolen passports, Hishamuddin confirmed.  The flight tickets for these two passengers were reportedly purchased consecutively using Thai currency. He also said that so far two other names in the manifest of flight MH370 are also under investigation.

According to CNN, Italy and Austria have said that none of their citizens were on board the plane. And officials say the Italian and Austrian, whose names were on the passenger manifest, both had their passports stolen in Thailand in recent years.


[08.46 am MYT, Monday 10 March 2014]  The international search and rescue fleet of 40 ships and 34 aircraft from eight countries  - including the US, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Australia -  is widening its search zone to include the Straits of Malacca. At the time of writing, there has been no official confirmations of any signs of the missing flight MH370.

[11.49 am MYT, 10 March 2014] Local media reports that the Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has called for an internal proble on KLIA immigration officers to uncover why the Italian and Austrian passengers with stolen passports were able to board flight MH370.

Earlier, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency [MMEA] has sent samples of the oil slick in the South China sea (about 100 nautical miles from the Tok Bali Beach, Kelantan) to be analysed by the Chemistry Department in Petaling Jaya. The results are expected Monday afternoon.

In addition, Malaysia Airlines is offering "financial assistance over and above their basic needs" to all families of passengers on the flight.

Civil Aviation Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman modified

Photo (filepic) - Civil Aviation Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman

[12.00 pm MYT, Monday, 10 March 2014]  During the official media conference, Civil Aviation Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (pic), who is heading the search and rescue [SAR] operations, confirmed that the international search and rescue team has widened its search to the Strait of Malacca.

"The air search is being conducted from 7am to 7pm while the ships continue around the clock," Azharuddin said. "So far, there has been no sign of anything that can be connected to the missing aircraft, he said. There have been various reports in media - citing Vietnamese authorites: such as the inner part of the door of the aircraft. But that report is not verified officially by the Vietnamese authorities as of last night."

"The MMEA has sent samples of the oil slick to the labs," he said. "We will reveal the report when received. No reported signs so far are not verified. There are many theories in the media including expert opinions from around the world about what may have happened. We are equally puzzled. Our prime minister used the word 'perplexing.'"

"We need hard evidence, we need parts of the aircraft to determine what has happened," he added. "We have not secured any part of the aircraft to date. We are intensifying our search to include the possibility of an 'air turn back.' We are not discounting any possibilities. There is a lot of work that has to be done in this unprecedented mystery. Malaysia Airlines and experts around the world are helping us."

The priority is to find the aircraft," said Azharuddin. "The incident of the two passengers flying with stolen passports is being investigated including all footage. There is talk of a possible highjacking. This is not discounted. We are looking at every possibility and at all angles," he said. "We have to get concrete evidence, we have to find the aircraft."

[04.00 pm MYT, Monday 10 March 2014]  Malaysia's Defence and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein confirmed no trace of trace of the aircraft has yet been found. He said the Chinese delegation has arrived and have made positive comments about the conduct of the search and rescue operation so far.

The most recent reports of a sighting of yellow object in the waters by Vietnamese forces has not been confirmed. The stolen passports are under investigation with various agencies.

In response to a question from the media, Hussein dismissed an open letter from a group, calling itself the ‘China Martyr Brigade’, that claimed responsibility. “I have seen the open letter. I don’t think there is any sound ground that it is true."

He said we are investigating all allegations but the focus remains on locating the aircraft and that no possibilities are being ruled out.

[08.00pm local MYT, Monday, 10 March 2014]  The official media conference included the following points by Civil Aviation Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman who said:

- Oil slick sample: Azharuddin has confirmed that oil sample from the oil slicks, which was tested by MMEA's Petaling Jaya laboratory this afternoon, is not from an aircraft and is not linked to the missing flight MH370.

- Debris: Spotted by Vietnamese search and rescue is being checked.

- Stolen passports: One of the two passengers who had boarded the missing MH370 aircraft using stolen passports have been identified, according to Malaysia's Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, speaking at Kajang police headquarters earlier to media. “We cannot link the missing aircraft with terrorism activities yet but let us investigate all possibilities.”

Commenting on this, Azharuddin said all security protocols had been followed. The two passengers with stolen passports are "not Asian looking men."

From tomorrow morning and for the following days, the search area is to be be expanded beyond 100km and will include land on the west coast of Malaysia, he said. "It is very important that we find the aircraft first."

 Day Four

[08.30 pm local time MYT, Tuesday 11 March 2014]
The international search and rescue team is continuing its efforts and widened its search zone. So far there are no verified signs of the aircraft.

- Some families of Chinese national passengers of the flight have started arriving in Malaysia. Chinese speaking counsellors are being sought to support the families. So far, there are only 11 Chinese speaking counsellors among the 47 on duty.

Day Five: contradictory reports?

[9.30am, local time MYT, Wednesday 12 March 2014]

- Traces of MH340: At the time of writing, sightings of oil slicks and possible debris are not linked to the missing flight.

- Last signal from MH340: Initially it was announced by authorities that the Subang air traffic control's last link with the craft was 2.40am Saturday 8 March 2014 has been revised to 1.30am on the same day.

- "Turn back" : According to local media, the Malaysian military said radar evidence showed the missing Boeing 777 jetliner changed  course and made it to the Malacca Strait.  Malaysian military radar (Malaysias Air Force Butterworth) detected the craft near the island of Pulau Perak off the west coast – hundreds of kilometres north-west of Kuala Lumpur – at 2.40am; the time first indicated by Malaysia Airlines.

However, according to Reuters, Malaysia’s Royal Malaysian Air Force [RMAF] chief General Tan Sri Rodzali Daud has since denied he told local media Berita Harian that the military last tracked a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner over the Strait of Malacca, far from where it last made contact with Subang air traffic control . “I wish to state that I did not make any such statements,"  Rodzali said in a written statement earlier roday.  "What I stated was that the RMAF has not ruled out the possibility of an air turn back on a reciprocal heading before the aircraft vanished from the radar and this resulted in the Search and Rescue Operations being widen to the vicinity of the waters of Pulau Pinang.Our current efforts are focused upon on finding the aircraft as soon as possible."

Stolen passports: During a media briefing in Lyon, France, Interpol secretary-general Ronald K Noble showed security stills of two Iranian men boarding a plane at the same time and said the men travelled to Malaysia on their Iranian passports, then are thought to have switched to the stolen Austrian and Italian documents.

- The international search and rescue team continues its search in a wider zone including the Andaman sea. China has deployed 10 high resolution satellites and vessels from India have been added to the air and sea fleet.

[05.35 pm local, 12 March 2014]
China's ambassador to Malaysia, Dr Huang Huikang attended the official media conference at KLIA led by Malaysia's defence and acting transport minister, Hishamuddin Hussein together with SAR [search and rescue] director Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.

Minister Hishamuddin read out a brief statement, which led with the assurance that international search and rescue efforts comprising 42 ships and 35 aircraft will be sustained across two areas across 27,000 square nautical miles in the South China Sea  (about 14,440 sq nautical miles) and the Straits of Malacca (about 12,425 sq nautical miles).

The SAR operations now involve 12 countries with recent additions of resources from India, Japan and Brunei.

He iterated that "We have been consistent in what we have said so far," and confirmed the following:

- 'Turn back': Military radar's last signal was picked up at  02.15am local, 202 miles north west of Penang, but it is confirmed whether this is MH340 as we are analysing data from both civil and military radar, said Hishamuddin.

Hussein added: "We welcome more expert assistance. We are now working with experts from Boeing, Federal Aviation Administration [FAA], and US National Transportation Board."

SAR director said the chances of survival "depends on different criteria depending on where the aircraft is."

Responding to questions from the media on speculations, Hishamuddin said the prime focus is on finding the craft and the 'black box" in order to find out what happened and "we have been very transparent with the media and everyone concerned. The primary focus is on finding the aircraft."

Hishamuddin added that he intends to attend the media briefing daily each day at the same time of day (5.30-6.00pm local time).

Day Six: Possible sighting via satellite imagery

[10.30am local, Thursday 13 March 2014]  Reports in several media this morning:

- Chinese satellite sighting:  Chinese news agency CCTV has released four-day-old sightings of 3 spots based on remote-sensing satellite images, which have been detected n the suspected crash site of MH370.

According to China's state science and technology administration, a Chinese satellite had seen the objects in a "suspected crash sea area" in the South China Sea on March 9, and that the images are being analysed but that there "no proof yet that the debris is linked to the missing jet."

As 01.06pm local time MYT, Vietnamese aircraft have not found any traces of the objects apparently spotted by China's satellite imagery. According to an Associated Press tweet, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said" no plane debris has been found at the spot identified in Chinese satellite images." Earlier tweets were quoting Vietnamese authorities saying they too had searched the area in the photographs without any results..

- Malaysia's military has traced what could have been the jetliner missing for almost five days to an area south of the Thai holiday island of Phuket, hundreds of miles to the west of its last known position, Malaysia's air force chief said on late Wednesday. Search for missing Malaysia Airlines moves to west of peninsula as records show it flew another 350 miles after disappearing.

Wall Street Journal reported that U.S.  investigators "suspect that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 stayed in the air for about four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, according to two people familiar with the details, raising the possibility that the plane could have flown on for hundreds of additional miles."

- According to The New Scientist, Rolls Royce's Derby global engine health monitoring centre , UK, receibed "two data reports from flight MH370. One was broadcast as MH370 took off from KLIA, the other during the 777's climb towards Beijing." Under Civil Aviation Organisation rules, reports are kept secret until air investigator require them.

- FAA Order: (Reuters, 12 March 2014) The Boeing Company said the MH370 craft was not subject to a new U.S. safety directive that ordered additional inspections for cracking and corrion on certain 777 planes. The Federal Aviation Administration told airlines to inspect U.S. registered aircraft for cracking, corossion and potential repairs in the fuselage skin underneath an adapter for the airplane's satellite communications antenna, Reuters reported.

However, an FAA spokesperson told Reuters that this directive does not apply to MH307 (Boeing 777-200ER) as that craft did not have that antenna installed and is therefore not subject to the FAA order.

Hishamuddin: ACARS data from Rolls Royce Centre

[05.30pm local MYT, 13 March 2014] Official new briefing headed by Malaysia's Defence and acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein, who first read out a statement, which included the following points:

- ACARS transmission: "The media reports of machine data being sent for four hours - after MH340 went offline - to Rolls Royce in Derby, UK, are not accurate. Rolls Royce received last transmission 01.07 am, 8 March 2014." c[ACARS refers to the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), which automatically collates and files four t3chnical reports during every flight so that engineers can spot problems.]
 
 - Four-day old China satellite imagery: Hishamuddin read out a statement by the China official that the satellite imagery :is not confirmed to be connected to MH340. The images do not show plane debris."

-  Radar raw data: Though this is not normally released by military for security reasons; this data has been shared with international partners including US and China.

- Police investigation into pilots: Despite reports to the contrary, Malaysian police have not searched the homes of the pilots.

- Malaysia's response to crisis: "This situation is unprecedented. MH370 went completely silent over the open ocean. We now have more than 80 ships and aircraft from multiple countries in a complex operation. Our focus has been only on finding the air craft. There are times when we have not been able to reveal information because such information needed to be verified by other agencies. Malaysia has nothing to hide and spared no expense or effort. From day one, we have accepted all international offers of help. We have followed all protocols for search."

Day Seven: Military radar, satellite 'blips'

[02.00pm local, Friday 14 March 2014]

Media reports (Bloomberg, WSJ) that three unnamed U.S. government officials said that a satellite transmitter on MH340 was active for about five hours, showing that the plane was operational after its transponder shut down about an hour after take off from KLIA. These satellite 'blips' have extended the search zone to include the Indian Ocean.

Sources familiar to the investivation told Reuters that MH370 was following a route between 'navigational waypoints when it was last plotted on military radar off the country's north-wesr coast. The last plot on the military radar tracking suggested the plane was flying towards the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, they said.'India's navy has sent five ships and four aircraft, according to a Bloomberg report, focusing on the Andaman Sea.

[0530pm local, 14 March 2014] At the SAR media