KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The final words from the missing Malaysian jetliner's cockpit gave no indication anything was wrong even though one of the plane's communications systems had already been disabled, officials said Sunday, adding to suspicions that one or both of the pilots were involved in the disappearance.
As authorities examined a flight simulator that was confiscated from the home of one of the pilots and dug through the background of all 239 people on board and the ground crew that serviced the plane, they also were grappling with the size of the search ahead of them, warning they needed more data to narrow down the hunt for the aircraft.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 took off from Kuala Lumpur about 12:40 a.m. March 8, headed to Beijing. On Saturday, Malaysia's government confirmed that the plane was deliberately diverted and may have flown as far north as Central Asia, or south into the vast reaches of the Indian Ocean.
Authorities have said someone on board the plane first disabled one of its communications systems — the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS — at 1:07 a.m. About 14 minutes later, the transponder, which identifies the plane to commercial radar systems, was also shut down. The fact that they went dark separately is strong evidence that the plane's disappearance was deliberate.
On Sunday, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference that that the final, reassuring words from the cockpit — "All right, good night" — were spoken to air traffic controllers after the ACARS system was shut down. Whoever spoke did not mention any trouble on board, seemingly misleading ground control.