Malaysia has released a detailed transcript of the exchanges that took place between the cockpit crew of missing Flight 370 and air traffic controllers. The document reveals a more mundane final sign-off from the jet than authorities had described.
According to the transcript, the final words from the airliner to air traffic controllers were: "Good night, Malaysian three seven zero." Earlier, Malaysian authorities had said the critical last communication was a more informal and uncharacteristic, "All right, good night."
Malaysian officials say they are now uncertain whether the final phrase was uttered by the pilot or co-pilot after previously saying the co-pilot likely made the final transmission. They say the transcript was "initially held as part of the police investigation," but are giving no other reason for the delay in releasing it.
The communications from the plane's cockpit to ground controllers have been under scrutiny for clues related to the plane's disappearance. So far, investigators searching the crews' backgrounds have found nothing to explain the plane’s long, silent flight to a remote part of the Indian Ocean.
The Malaysia Airlines flight went missing on March 8 with 239 people onboard. The director general of Malaysia's Civil Aviation Department on Tuesday spoke at the annual conference of the trade association for the world's airlines, the International Air Transport Association.
During his speech in Kuala Lumpur, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman gave details related to the ongoing search operations, but halted his remarks when he heard cameras clicking in the audience.
"The last download of the ACARS was at 1:07 in the morning as it passed through the peninsula of Malaysia. The next download was supposed to be at 1:37, half an hour later. I'm sorry, is there any media here? I don't know there's media here, I'm sorry. Can I ask the media to stay out please," explained Rahman.
Tony Tyler, the director general of the IATA, told delegates he understands global puzzlement about how the airliner could have vanished without finding any physical evidence after more than three weeks of searching.
"In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief that an aircraft could simply disappear and that the black box is so difficult to recover. An Air France 447 brought similar issues to light a few years ago, and some progress was made, but that must now be accelerated. We cannot let another aircraft simply disappear," Tyler stated.
But time is running out. Authorities say the batteries in the black box will lose power about 30 days after the crash.
Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, says even if the black box is not found before it stops transmitting, the search will likely continue. "I think there will be every effort made to carry on, conduct the search and continue those efforts. The technologies may change but you'll still feel a commitment to trying to find the wreckage. Not least, of course, we owe it to the families, but it's wanting to know," said Herdman.
Family members of the flight's Chinese passengers have directed their anger at Malaysia government officials. China's government and media have also criticized the handling of the crisis in Kuala Lumpur as clumsy. The Malaysia authorities say they are doing their best to solve the mystery.
A multi-national search currently includes at least ten planes and nine ships in the southern Indian Ocean, about 1,800 kilometers off Australia's west coast. An Australian military vessel, carrying an underwater drone and a sophisticated American device that can listen for signals from the airplane's black is now poised to join the search.