Whoever was at the controls of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 when it disappeared a year ago wanted to evade detection.
The interim report into the loss of the Boeing 777 and its 239 occupants shows the culprit was inadvertently helped by mistakes in the airline’s duty office.
The Malaysian transport ministry released the report on the anniversary of the disappearance of the scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Gatherings to mark the anniversary were held in both cities yesterday, with the families of relatives lost in the plane’s disappearance wearing symbolic T-shirts and releasing white balloons into the air.
A damning transcript of conversations in the hours after the plane vanished now shows that, long after contact was lost, Malaysia Airlines insisted the aircraft was flying over Cambodia – a story that was later changed to suggest it was east of Vietnam’s coast.
The transcript of air-traffic controllers’ conversations is an appendix to the interim report into the loss of MH370 with its 227 passengers and 12 crew.
One of the few concrete details in the document was that the battery for the locator beacon on one of the aircraft’s black boxes had expired 15 months before MH370 disappeared.
The transcript reveals how events unfolded through the early hours of 8 March last year, after the captain signed off to Malaysian air-traffic controllers at 1.19am local time.
MH370 was expected to continue north at 35,000ft and make contact with controllers at Ho Chi Minh City. But its transponder was turned off by someone on the flight deck, rendering the plane invisible to civilian radar.
While suspicion has fallen on Captain Zaharie Shah, the report says CCTV footage of him immediately before the flight shows his “gait, posture and facial expressions were his normal characteristics”.