Malaysia Airlines' Update: Search Expands Westward, First Officer Claim Investigated

malaysia airlinesMalaysia Airlines issued another statement about the disappearance of MH Flight 370 in southeast Asia on the morning of March 11, explaining that "as we enter into day four, the aircraft is yet to be found."

Search Area Is Expanded

The airline reported that search-and-rescue teams (SAR) have expanded the scope beyond the flight path to the West Peninsular of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca. It said authorities are looking at a possibility of an attempt made by MH370 to turn back to Subang.

"All angles are being looked at," the statement said. "We are not ruling out any possibilities."

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Malaysia Airlines also acknowledged help received in the search-and-rescue mission by Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines and the United States of America.

For example, the U.S. Navy has sent two ships, including at least one equipped with helicopters and a Navy P-3C Orion which has sensors that can detect small debris in the water. Naval officials said in a statement that the Malaysian government had done a "tremendous job" organizing the land-and-sea search.

"The assets deployed [by all nations] to cover the search and rescue is extensive," Malaysia Airlines said, noting there are nine aircraft and 24 vessels deployed on this mission. Apart from the search in the sea, first to the east and now to the west, search efforts are also being undertaken on land "in between these areas."

Malaysia was quite clear that further professional analysis has shown that debris and two oil slicks found atop waters off the Vietnamese coast do not belong to its missing B777-200 jet.

Maintenance Information Released

Maintenance information on the "lost" airplane was also released by the airline. It was delivered to Malaysia Airlines in 2002 and last underwent a scheduled maintenance check on Feb. 23 of this year. "The maintenance was conducted at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport hangar and there were no issues on the health of the aircraft," the airline said.

The next maintenance check was scheduled for June 19, 2014. The aircraft has 53,465.21 hours of flying time with a total of 7525 cycles (or cabin pressurizations).

All Malaysia Airlines aircraft are equipped with continuous data monitoring system called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) which transmits data automatically. "Nevertheless, there were no distress calls and no information was relayed," the airline said.

Malaysia Airlines has a special task force to take care of families. Mercy Malaysia and Tzu Chi and others are also helping Malaysia Airlines by providing special psychological counseling to families and also the MH crew.

Chinese government officials in Malaysia are also working closely with Malaysia Airlines. A representative from the embassy is stationed at the emergency operations center to assist with the emergency management and matters related to families in Kuala Lumpur.

In Beijing, the Malaysian prime minister's special envoy to China, Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, is there to assist and coordinate all operational matters with Malaysia Airlines. "We regret and empathise with the families and we will do whatever we can to ensure that all basic needs, comfort, psychological support are delivered," said Malaysian Airlines.

"We are as anxious as the families to know the status of their loved ones." The airline also expressed empathy with families of the crew members, saying "we share your pain and anxiety. They are of the MAS family and we are deeply affected by this unfortunate incident."

Allegation About First Officer

In a disturbing development, Australian television was reporting that Jonti Roos, who flew as a passenger on the airline on a 2011 flight from Phuket, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, now says the same first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid (and another pilot who was not on MH370), allowed her and a second woman to remain in the cockpit, pose for photos and observe during the entire flight in 2011.

If the allegation is confirmed, it's likely a violation of airline policy and government safety regulations. Agents can read the story about this potential issue here: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/malaysia-airlines-probing-report-2-women-visited-pilot-in-cockpit-in-2011.

Malaysia Airlines said it's aware of the allegations made against the first officer, "which we take very seriously. We are shocked by these allegations."

That said, the airline said it hadn't been able to confirm the validity of the pictures and videos of the alleged incident. "As you are aware, we are in the midst of a crisis, and we do not want our attention to be diverted," the airline said.

Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for further updates on the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.