Missing jet: Weather improves but still no trace





Indo-Canadians Muktesh Mukherjee and his wife Xiaomao Bai.


Perth / Kuala Lumpur / Beijing (IANS): There was no trace of the Malaysian airliner even two weeks after it went missing but searchers said Friday weather conditions have improved in the search area in the southern Indian Ocean which is making human sighting possible now.
Landing at Pearce Airbase, 50 km south of Perth, RAAF Flt. Lt. Russell Adams stepped off the AP-3C Orion search and rescue aircraft at 7.30 p.m. and told the gathering of journalists that despite improved conditions, his squadron had made no progress in the search for signs of the Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished without a trace two weeks ago.
Adams, the captain of the crew of the 310 squadron on-station for the search mission, expressed the hope that the search would be quickly resolved, Xinhua reported.
Adams said after zero visibility in the wild southern ocean earlier in the week his team now had a good opportunity “to see anything” visual.
“We got on station today, actually, had really good weather compared to yesterday – 10 km visibility, no rain,” he said.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur March 8.
The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea.
The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.
Among the passengers are two Indo-Canadians: Muktesh Mukherjee, 47, and his wife Xiaomao Bai, 37.  Mukherjee is vice-president of operations in China for the Pennsylvania-based XCoal Energy and Resources. He is the grandson of the late Indian minister Mohan Kumaramangalam.

Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.

“Unfortunately conditions back here (some 2500 km north-east of the search area) precluded us staying on the station as long as we liked,” Adams added Friday, referring to unexpected gale wind conditions off Perth.
Gathering assets now involved in the southern ocean search include the 310 squadron from Pearce airbase made up of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P3 Orions, the US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft and another Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion.
Three Chinese navy vessels tasked near Sumatra have also volunteered to join the search off Western Australia.
There are now rotating RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft assigned to the search, being coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
Earlier Friday, AMSA said the search for objects possibly related to the missing Malaysian airliner Friday changed from radar detection to visual sightings.
“Noting that we’ve got no radar detections yesterday (Thursday), we have re-planned the search to be visual … so aircraft flying relatively low with very highly skilled and trained observers looking out of the aircraft windows and looking to see objects,” John Young, general manager of AMSA’s Emergency Response Division, said in a pre-recorded video Friday.
According to a report from Beijing, a Malaysian military official said that the missing airliner is unlikely to have been shot down.
Lt. Gen. Ackbal bin Haji Abdul Samad, air operations commander of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, made the remarks at a briefing in Beijing for relatives of Chinese passengers on board the missing flight.
Asked if it was possible that the plane has been shot down by air forces, Samad said it was “highly not possible” , adding that while military radar had captured signs of the jet they did not take any steps as they believed the aircraft to be a “friendly”.
A Malaysian team arrived in Beijing late Thursday to deal with issues related to the missing plane and met relatives Friday.
In a related development, the flight simulator found at the residence of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who commanded the missing jet, has been sent to international investigators for further verification, Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Friday.
“As far as the simulator is concerned, we have forwarded the information to international parties to verify, and very shortly I believe the inspector-general of police will be able to give information of the current situation,” he told a daily press briefing Friday.
All the game logs in the personal flight simulator of Captain Shah were deleted Feb 3, a senior police official said Wednesday.
The Malaysian police have replicated the flight simulator found in Zaharie’s residence hoping to find clues if the pilot had practised landing on his home flight simulator at airports located in areas where the search is being conducted.
The simulator can re-create almost 20,000 airports worldwide and all routes flown can be saved on a hard disk. Many of the controls are simplified but the simulator provides basic features that recreate some of what an actual pilot experiences.