Defence minister denies Malaysia scrambled fighter jets after MH370 plane vanished

Hishammuddin has been the country’s official face in charge of the MH370 search. — Reuters pic
Hishammuddin has been the country’s official face in charge of the MH370 search. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — Malaysia did not deploy any military aircraft to chase down Flight MH370 after the Beijing-bound passenger plane went off civilian radars on March 8, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein posted on Twitter.

The denial was first tweeted by Hishammuddin’s communications team late last night, in response to a news report broadcast on US network CNN that cited an unnamed senior government official saying Royal Malaysian Air Force fighter (RMAF) jets were scrambled at about 8am on March 8, shortly after the Malaysia Airlines jet was reported missing.

“Latest from @CNN claiming that Msian Air Force aircraft scrambled soon after @MAS reported #MH370 missing early 8/3 is a false allegation,” Hishammuddin’s communication team posted on its official Twitter account, @H2OComms) at 10.29pm.

Hishammuddin, who is also acting defence minister and has been the country’s official face in charge of the search, later retweeted the message on his official Twitter account, @HishammuddinH2O.

In a news programme yesterday, CNN cited an unnamed senior government official involved in the search for MH370 saying RMAF had mounted a hunt even before authorities were able to corroborate the Boeing 777-200ER had made a turn back over the Malay Peninsula.

According to the source, RMAF had only informed the Department of Civil Aviation of this deployment three days later, on March 11.

CNN also reported the source relaying that the final message from MH370 to air traffic controllers, “Good night, Malaysian three-seven-zero” was uttered by pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and not co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid as previously said.

According to the source, the verification was made after police played the recording to five other Malaysia Airlines pilots who knew the pilot and co-pilot.

Flight MH370 left the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12.41am on March 8, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew on board, and was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30am the same day.

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane over the South China Sea, some 120km off the coast of Kelantan, just as it was to enter Vietnamese air space.

Malaysia Airlines sounded the alarm after the plane failed to arrive at its scheduled destination, triggering a search first in the South China Sea before investigations showed the plane had turned back west and headed out to the Indian Ocean.

Australia is now leading a multination hunt for the plane where satellite data last tracked its signal before it disappeared entirely.

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