Malaysia Can’t Keep Its Flight 370 Time Line Straight

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A pilot uses a map on board a Vietnamese Air Force Russian-made AN-27 aircraft during a search flight over Vietnam's southern sea aimed at finding the Malaysia Airlines' missing flight MH370 on March 14, 2014. The needle-in-a-haystack hunt for the missing Malaysian airliner spread to the vast Indian Ocean after the White House cited "new information" that it might have flown for hours after vanishing nearly seven days ago.  AFP PHOTO/HOANG DINH NAM        (Photo credit should read HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo: HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images

Over the weekend, the focus of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 mystery shifted again, this time onto the pilots, as the country’s defense minister said the communication system on the plane was “disabled” at 1:07 a.m., before someone in the cockpit signed off (“All right, good night”) to air-traffic control. But today, the tenth day of searching, the head of Malaysian Airlines says never mind, they’re actually not sure. “We don’t know when the Acars [Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System] system was switched off,” he said, according to the New York Times

At the same news conference, defense minister (and transportation minister) Hishammuddin Hussein insisted, “What I said yesterday was based on fact, corroborated and verified.” But apparently not anymore. The uncertainty means they really need to find the plane to sort it out, he added, which is only more frustrating. Here’s what they know about that crucial half-hour on March 8, as of now:

1:07 a.m.: Regularly scheduled Acars update sent normally
1:19 a.m.: Verbal sign-off by the plane’s first officer
1:21 a.m.: Transponder with ground radar, a second communication system, stops working
1:37 a.m.: Regularly scheduled Acars update fails to send

But as we’ve seen, that could all change.