Authorities said the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is “entering a new phase” as investigators believe the jet’s communications were deliberately disabled and that the aircraft could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or the southern Indian Ocean.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Saturday that investigations indicated the jet’s communications had been purposely disabled by someone on board.
The last sign of the aircraft was registered by military radar at 8:11 a.m. on March 8 — nearly seven and a half hours after takeoff. Civilian air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at 1:20 a.m. The plane reportedly had enough fuel to fly for eight hours.
“In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board,” Razak said in a statement.
According to Razak, investigators were highly certain the Aircraft and Communications Addressing Reporting System on the plane was disabled before flight MH370 reached the east coast of Malaysia. They believe someone then switched off the jet’s transponder, which is used to communicate with air traffic controllers.
Signals picked up by Malaysian air force defense radar indicate the plan could have turned west, heading back to the Malaysian peninsula and onward to the northern part of the Strait of Malacca.
Authorities have isolated two “corridors” where they believe the plane’s last signal occurred. The first corridor ranges from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, while the second corridor reaches from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
Based on this information, authorities have ended the search for the plane in the South China Sea.
While Razak said investigations are “entering a new phase” looking into the theory of a plane takeover situation, he said they would still be looking into all possibilities for the disappearance.
With theories arising that someone with aviation skills may have taken control of the plane, police are reportedly looking into the psychological background of the pilots. There is no evidence to indicate the pilots played a role in the jet’s disappearance.