Malaysia Airlines flight 370

Rogue jet not missing plane, Malaysian diplomat assures families

Frustrated relatives assured unidentified aircraft was not the missing plane

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 March, 2014, 6:57pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 10:34am

The Malaysian ambassador to China has received confirmation from the Malaysian military that it detected a rogue jet just an hour after flight MH370 vanished - but denied rumours it was shot down.

Iskandar Sarudin, confronted by the frustrated families of Chinese passengers, called up a military source to dispel rumours on social media that the aircraft was shot down - and that it could have been the Beijing-bound flight.

Sarudin was bombarded by questions from concerned relatives at a Malaysia Airlines briefing at Beijing's Lido Hotel.

Watch: Malaysia says hunt for jet not in disarray

The military confirmed spotting the unidentified aircraft on its radar about an hour and 20 minutes after MH370's signal went cold on Saturday, the ambassador said.

A Malaysia Airlines representative at the same briefing said the military had not determined if it was the missing plane.

The ambassador was quoted as saying the military official had said the rogue aircraft was not deemed a threat, otherwise it would have notified its response teams.

The press was barred from the briefing, but some Chinese correspondents managed to get accounts and pictures from the event. They posted these on their newspapers' microblogs.

The families also asked about the mental health of the pilots, Captain Zaharie Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid. Shah had more than 18,300 hours of flight experience, while Hamid had 2,800 hours.

Malaysia Airlines said its investigation of the crew had not brought up anything unusual.

The airline representative also shed some light on the mystery of the continuing connection to some MH370 passengers' mobile phones. He said that at least two numbers could be reached and that the ringtones could be heard when dialled, but no one picked up.

But Malaysia Airlines said they had yet to confirm if the calls were actually connecting to the phones or if they were being redirected to telecom providers' servers.

Asked if the military radar had not been fully activated, the airline representative said the military could not track flight MH370's signal after it vanished from civil aviation radar.

Accounts described the meeting as tense. The aggrieved relatives stopped the officials proceeding to a media briefing until their questions were answered.