After a week of searching and confusion, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Saturday that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was “deliberately” taken off its planned route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. He also confirmed that someone onboard disabled the aircraft’s two communications systems within an hour after takeoff, as well as yesterday’s report that military radar data shows that the Boeing 777 abruptly ascended, changed course, descended, and then turned again after it disappeared from civilian radar. A satellite last picked up a signal from the plane seven hours and 31 minutes after it left Kuala Lumpur.
According to Najib, officials believe that Flight 370 ended up traveling “corridors”: a route stretching from Northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and another stretching from Indonesia to the middle of the Indian Ocean. The former route seems less likely, as the plane would have airspace monitored by India, Pakistan, and other neighboring countries without being detected. A map released by the Malaysian government (above) shows just how vast the area where the plane could have disappeared is.
“Clearly, the search for MH370 has entered a new phase,” said Najib. He added that the Malaysian authorities have now “refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board” in an effort to figure out who might have wanted to sabotage the flight. Aviation experts told the New York Times that the way the plane’s communications were shut down “pointed to the involvement of someone with considerable aviation expertise and knowledge of the air route, possibly a crew member, willing or unwilling.” Minutes after Najib finished his press conference, police officers arrived at the home of Flight 370’s 53-year-old captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, to conduct a search.