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  • 2 April 2014, 4:18

Missing Plane: Pilots' Conversations Revealed

Malaysian authorities have released the transcript of conversations between the pilots of missing flight MH370 and air traffic control.

The transcript confirms Malaysian government claims that the start of the flight was entirely routine, despite differing slightly from earlier reported accounts of the pilots' parting words to staff on the ground.

According to the published transcript, the final words from the cockpit to Kuala Lumpur's air traffic control centre were: "Good night, Malaysian three seven zero" - a standard cockpit response.

However, on March 12, Iskandar Sarudin, Malaysia's Ambassador to China, addressed relatives in Beijing. He discussed the final words with them in Mandarin. He did not release an official transcript.

These words were later translated into English in media reports, apparently confirming the final words from the cockpit were "Alright, good night".

Since then, the Malaysian government has said that the words "Alright, goodnight" were not entirely accurate, but it has refused to release the accurate transcript, citing an ongoing investigation.

The release of the transcript - which follows repeated criticism of the Malaysian authorities from the relatives of Chinese passengers - shows the pilots' interactions were exactly what would be expected.

Malaysia's transport ministry said the transcript was previously held back because it was part of a police investigation.

Meanwhile, around 200 aircrew are continuing to scour the sea for the missing Boeing 777, which disappeared off the coast of Malaysia on March 8 on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The plane, which had 239 people on board, was later determined to have turned around and ended up over the southern Indian Ocean.

But the exact area where it came down is still unknown, leaving search teams with a vast area to cover.

Specialist underwater search equipment has been brought in to help find the black box, which is only due to continue emitting a locator signal until April 7 - in six days time.

Ten planes and nine ships are searching an area of nearly 65,000 square kilometres (25,000 square miles) around 1,200 miles west of Perth.

The transcript released by the Malaysians details 54 minutes of conversations between the various elements of Malaysian air traffic control and the two pilots.

The Malaysian authorities say they now do not know which of the pilots was speaking at the end, despite having previously said it was the co-pilot.

The transport ministry said forensic investigations would determine which of the pilots spoke the last words.

Earlier, the new man appointed to co-ordinate the search off the west coast of Australia, the country's Air Marshal Angus Houston, said the task ahead was "very complex".

He said it was the "most challenging" he had ever come across and that he was keen to prepare people for an operation that could take a very long time.

"It's not something that will necessarily be resolved in the next two weeks, for example," he said.

Hampering the search is bad weather that plagues the area and also the fact that everything that has been seen from the air so far has turned out to be rubbish.

With such a huge search operation ongoing, Australia has deployed a flying air traffic control plane over the Indian Ocean to prevent a mid-air collision among the many aircraft in the area.

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