All appeared to be going well for MH370 shortly after it took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) about 12.40am on Saturday.
Its pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, told the Subang Airport ground control "Okay, roger. Good day" when he acknowledged receipt of the communication code for the plane's tracking, before the flight came under Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control.
Zaharie's short response was the last words heard from him before the aircraft disappeared from the radar.
According to a report in Malay daily Sinar Harian, National Air Traffic Control Centre (NATCC) assistant director Siti Sarah Lebai Abu was the last person in the country to communicate with Zaharie.
She said she never thought anything was amiss and everything went smoothly for flight MH370 for the first 40 minutes it was in the air.
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"However, we failed to detect any radar signal from the plane after handing over to Ho Chi Minh City a few minutes later," she said.
Sinar Harian also quoted her as saying that never before in her 18-year career as an air traffic controller had she encountered a "total communication breakdown" with an aircraft.
Siti Sarah said all contact with the plane was lost after it entered the Igari island zone located between the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and the southwestern coast of Vietnam.
She also said Malaysian air traffic controllers were not at fault in this incident.
"This is not a situation for us to fool around with. We are responsible for the lives of up to 800 people at any one time. We never slack off at work,” she added.
Zaharie, who joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981, has more than 18,300 flying hours, while his first officer Faroq Abdul Hamid, 27, has recorded a total flying time of about 2,800 hours since joining the airline seven years ago. Both have been described as experienced pilots.
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Yesterday, Sinar Harian also reported that Civil Aviation Department (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman had said that there was a new signal, but the information on it could not be shared yet.
He also said search and rescue (SAR) operations are still focused on the areas around Igari, although it had been expanded to 100 nautical miles around that location.
SAR operations are also ongoing in the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea.
Yesterday, another Malay daily, Berita Harian, quoted military sources saying that MH370 was detected by airforce radar in Butterworth, flying north of the peninsula and heading towards the Sumatran waters at 2.40am on Saturday.
However, Royal Malaysian Air Force chief Rodzali Daud later denied that the air force had made such a statement.
MH370 flew from KLIA with 227 passengers and an all-Malaysian crew of 12 onboard. – March 12, 2014.