A Malaysian government official said people with significant flying experience could have turned off the flight’s communication devices.
The representative said that hijacking theory was now ‘conclusive’, and police are now believed to be searching the home of pilot, Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah, in Kuala Lumpur.
While Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak refused to confirm that flight MH370 was taken over, he admitted ‘deliberate action’ on board the plane resulted in it changing course and losing connection with ground crews.
The plane’s communication system was switched off as it headed East over the Malaysian seaboard and its last known location was pinpointed six-and-a-half hours later than first thought.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday refused to confirm reports the plane was ‘hijacked’
It is not yet clear where the plane was taken, however Mr Razak said the most recent satellite data suggests the plane could have headed to one of two possible flight corridors.One possibility is the northern corridor, which stretches from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, while the other is the southern corridor from Indonesia to the Southern Indian Ocean.
The last radar contact was made along one of these paths, but the plane could have diverted from this point.
The aircraft’s fuel reserves mean it could have travelled as far as Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Australia in the other direction.
However, if it was diverted into the Indian Ocean, the task of the search teams becomes more difficult, as there are hundreds of uninhabited islands and the water reaches depths of around 23,000ft.
US investigators have also not ruled out the possibility that the passengers are being held at an unknown location and suggest that faint ‘pings’ were being transmitted for several hours after the flight lost contact with the ground.
Malaysian authorities and others are urgently investigating the two pilots and 10 crew members, along with the 227 passengers on board.
Police have already said they are looking into the psychological background of the pilots, Ahmad Shah, 53, and Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, their family life and connections.
Mr Razak added authorities have not ruled out any possibilities in the international search for the plane, which now involves 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft.
‘Clearly the search has entered a new phase. Over the last seven days, we have followed every lead and looked into every possibility,’ Mr Razak said. ‘For family and friends (of the passengers), we hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane.’
The Boeing 777’s communication with the ground was severed just under one hour into the flight on March 8 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
It has now been confirmed the plane turned back and crossed over the Malaysian peninsula after setting out on a northeastern path toward the Chinese capital.
Experts say signals from the plane shows it then continued flying for at least five hours in an unknown direction. The plane’s messaging system and transponder were both deliberately cut off and with them all hopes of further tracking the plane.
American officials had been briefing Friday that the investigation was looking at ‘human intervention’ – one source even said it may have been ‘an act of piracy’.
The disabling of the Boeing 777’s transponder and messaging system occurred around 12 minutes apart. Such a gap would be unlikely in the case of an in-flight catastrophe and gave authorities the clearest indication to date someone on-board was behind it.
The motive of the hijack is still not clear. No demands have been made and no groups have publicly claimed involvement in the disappearance.
Some experts have said that pilot suicide may be the most likely explanation for the disappearance, as was suspected in a SilkAir crash during a flight from Singapore to Jakarta in 1997 and an EgyptAir flight in 1999.
The already global search effort will now be expanded along the two large corridors outlined in his speech. It is unclear how resources will be allocated but the Prime Minister said all the countries within those areas had been notified of the renewed focus.
The USS Kidd arrived in the Strait of Malacca late Friday afternoon. It uses a using a ‘creeping-line’ search method of following a pattern of equally spaced parallel lines in an effort to completely cover the area.
A P-8A Poseidon, the most advanced long range anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft in the world, will arrive Saturday. It has a nine-member crew and has advanced surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, the department of defense said in a statement.