A pilot of the missing Malaysian airliner made a call on his mobile telephone after it had turned back from its scheduled flight path and was flying low near the island of Penang, according to a Malaysian government controlled newspaper.
The call on the telephone of first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid ended abruptly after contact was established with a communications tower, the New Straits Times reported Saturday.
The newspaper quoted sources as saying the telecommunications tower “established: the call 27 year-old Mr Fariq was trying to make."
But the report said the sources declined to reveal who he was trying to call.
According to the sources, the call was likely to have been cut off because the aircraft was moving fast away from the tower and had not come under coverage of the next one.
The report cited other sources close to the investigation into the plane’s disappearance as saying that checks on Mr Fariq’s phone had shown it had been “detached” before the plane with 239 people on board left Kuala Lumpur airport at 12.41am on March 8.
He had sent a WhatsApp message application at 11.30pm to a regular number..
These sources were quoted as saying the phone was “reattached” near Penang before the plane disappeared from a military radar 320 kilometres north-west of Penang.
The newspaper described the discovery of the call as a breakthrough into the criminal investigation into the plane’s disappearance with 239 people on board.
Police have said the plane’s crew members are among the main “subjects of the investigation” but have refused to make public any details.
SEARCH AREA NARROWED
The search zone for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has narrowed to an area about 50 kilometres by 40 kilometres, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.
"Based on what we're picking up in the surface search area, we are narrowing down the over-sea area where we believe with a high level of confidence the black box recorder from MH370 is located," Mr Abbott told Chinese media in Beijing on Saturday.
"The surface search area is still about 50 kilometres by 40 kilometres, where we're looking for possible debris.
"The object of all this is to get as much transmission as we can from the fast-fading black box recorder.
"When we think we've got everything we can through this means, we will deploy a submersible. By that stage we hope we will have narrowed the search area on the sea bed to as little perhaps as a square kilometre.
"But there's still a lot more work to be done and I don't want anyone to think that we are certain of success, or that success, should it come, is going to happen in the next week or even month.
"There's a lot of difficulty and a lot of uncertainty left in this.
"It is the most difficult search in human history and no one should underestimate the challenges involved in finding wreckage four and a half kilometres below the surface of the ocean."