The co-pilot of missing flight MH370 made a call from his mobile phone while the aircraft flew low over the west coast of Malaysia, it was revealed today as the U.S. denied reports the plane landed at a military base on the remote island of Diego Garcia.
Investigators have learned that the call was made from Fariq Abdul Hamid’s mobile phone as the Boeing 777 flew low near the island of Penang, on the north of Malaysia’s west coast.
The New Straits Times reported the aircraft, with 239 people on board, was flying low enough for the nearest telecommunications tower to pick up Fariq’s signal.
The call ended abrupty, however it has been learned that contact was definitely established with a telecommunications sub-station in Penang state.
The paper said it had been unable to ascertain who Fariq was trying to call ‘as sources chose not to divulge details of the investigation.’
It added: ‘The telco’s (telecommunications company’s) tower established the call that he was trying to make.
‘On why the call was cut off, it was likely because the aircraft was fast moving away from the tower and had not come under the coverage of the next one,’ the paper said, quoting ‘sources’.
The paper added that it had also been established that Fariq’s last communication was through the WhatsApp Messenger app and that it had been made at about 11.30pm on March 7, shortly before he boarded the aircraft for the six-hour flight to Beijing.
The New Straits Times said it had been told checks on Fariq’s phone history showed that the last person he spoke to was ‘one of his regular contacts – ‘a number that frequently appears on his outgoing phone logs’.
That last call, said the paper, was made no more than two hours before the flight took off 12.41am on March 8 from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
raphic showing Malaysia Airlines’ route as it took off and its final contact with air traffic control. It is believed a call was made from Fariq’s phone near the island of Penang. Today the U.S also denied reports the plane landed in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
HMS Echo, which has arrived in the area of the southern Indian Ocean where ‘pings’ thought to be from the black box of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been detected.
HMAS Toowoomba searching for debris of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at sea in the Indian Ocean.
Separate sources told the paper that checks on Fariq’s phone showed that connection to the phone when he made that last call before he boarded the plane had been ‘detached’.
‘This is usually the result of the phone being switched off.
‘At one point, however, when the airplane was airborne, between waypoint Igari and the spot near Penang (just before the aircraft went missing from radar), the line was “reattached”.’
Image released by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority shows the current planned search area along the old ones in the Indian Ocean, West of Australia, for the wreckage of flight MH370.
The paper said that a reattachment does not necessarily meant that a call was made. It could also be the result of the phone being switched on again.
The revelation came as the U.S. denied claims the missing flight had landed at its military base on the remote island of Diego Garcia.
There had been rumours that the jetliner could have headed for the small coral atoll in the Indian Ocean after it veered off course while travelling between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Beijing, China on March 8.
However, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in the Malaysian capital denied the allegation.
According to Malaysia’s Star newspaper, the spokesman said: ‘There was no indication that MH370 flew anywhere near the Maldives or Diego Garcia.
‘MH370 did not land in Diego Garcia.’
Diego Garcia is about 3,500km from Malaysia.
Meanwhile experts said today that it was possible for a mobile phone to be connected to a telecommunications tower at an altitude of 7,000 feet – which is low for a large jet like the Boeing 777 unless it was flying at high speed to maintain height.
The New Straits Times said that Fariq’s cousin, Nursyafiqah Kamarudin, 18, had said recently that the 28-year-old co-pilot was very close to his mother.