Report: Malaysia Airlines Co-Pilot Made “Desperate Call” Before Plane Went Missing

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 12 2014 3:06 PM

Report: Malaysia Airlines Co-Pilot Made “Desperate Call” Before Plane Went Missing

484199793-trent-wyatt-a-crew-member-of-a-royal-new-zealand-air
Trent Wyatt, a crew member of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion, on lookout during the search to locate missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at sea over the Indian Ocean

Photo by Richard Wainwright - Pool/Getty Images

Investigators who are looking into the disappearance of Flight MH370 believe co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid made a “desperate call from his mobile phone as the plane was flying low near Penang,” reports Malaysia’s New Straits Times. The newspaper cites anonymous sources who claim the attempted phone call was picked up by a cellphone tower but ended abruptly. "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," according to a source cited by the newspaper. Another source, however, says that the signal linked to the cellphone could have been the result of the co-pilot switching on his phone rather than making a call.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned that the signals thought to be from the plane's black boxes are “rapidly fading” and finding the plane will involve a “massive, massive task.” Batteries in the black boxes are already past their normal 30-day lifespan, points out Reuters. The goal of investigators is to try to narrow down the search area as much as possible. At the very least, there is optimism that the signals detected in recent days do belong to at least one of the two black boxes from the missing plane, reports CNN.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.