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Last Words From Cockpit May Be Clue To Jet's Disappearance

Rahman Roslan/Getty Images
Multi-lingual cards about missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 line a wall at a mall in Kuala Lumpur.

There's still no sign of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 or the 239 people on board.

The plane went missing March 8, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on what was supposed to be about a six-hour flight to Beijing.

It's thought the jet turned west, crossing back over Malaysia, before heading either north or south for at least another 6 hours or so. The main reason authorities don't know more about where the plane went: they say its tracking gear was turned off or disabled.

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Among today's news about the jet's disappearance and the massive search that's underway:

— There's "mounting evidence the plane's disappearance was meticulously planned," Reuters reports. "Suspicions of hijacking or sabotage hardened further after it was confirmed the last radio message from the cockpit — an informal 'all right, good night' — was spoken after someone had begun disabling one of the plane's automatic tracking systems."

Airline officials said Monday that they believe those words were spoken by co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid.

That does not necessarily mean, of course, that the co-pilot disabled the tracking system. According to Reuters:

"The informal hand-off went against standard radio procedures, which would have called for the speaker to read back instructions for contacting the next control centre and include the aircraft's call sign, said Hugh Dibley, a former British Airways pilot and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.<br><br>"Investigators are likely to examine the recording for any signs of psychological stress and to determine the speaker's identity to confirm whether the flight deck had been taken over by hijackers or the pilot himself was involved, he said."
Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at the newssite
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Flight Global, tells NPR's Frank Langfitt that whoever turned off some of the tracking systems "seemed to have a very astute knowledge on how to completely shut down the entire communications system on this type of aircraft. It shows a very comprehensive knowledge of the 777, a terrifying amount of knowledge to be honest."

According to the BBC, "police have searched the homes of Captain Zaharie Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid. A flight simulator taken from the captain's home was being reassembled and examined at police headquarters, officials said."

— The search is expanding northwest into Central Asia and south across much of the Indian Ocean, NPR's Langfitt reports from Shanghai.

The Wall Street Journal writes that "Malaysia has requested radar information and search assets from the 26 countries involved" and is "coordinating with countries as diverse as Laos and the U.S. to search the northern corridor between Thailand and the border of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan."

Australia, Bloomberg News adds, has taken the lead in the search to the south.