The last recorded words spoken by the pilot of the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 gave no hint that anything was wrong with the jetliner that disappeared from radar just a short time later.
An air traffic controller told the pilot, “We have to hand you over to Ho Chi Minh City," a Malaysian civil air department representative said today referring to air traffic control in Vietnam. The pilot responded, “All right, good night.”
The Malaysian authorities revealed that exchange in a briefing for Chinese media, and the Chinese press relayed that information to ABC News.
Flight MH370 never made contact with air traffic control in Ho Chi Minh City and what happened to the plane and its 239 passengers has baffled searchers.
The conversation details emerged as officials announced they’re expanding the search to cover 27,000 nautical miles over two separate areas, 14,440 square nautical miles in the South China Sea along the plane's designated route as well as 12,425 square nautical miles in the Strait of Malacca, which is hundreds of miles to the west of the plane's flight path.
Authorities ran down another lead this week, but came up empty. A New Zealand man working on an oil rig emailed authorities after he said he spotted a burning object in the water east of Vietnam on Saturday morning, the day the plane disappeared. Vietnamese officials sent a plane to the area to investigate the man’s claims, but the search was fruitless, naval officer Le Minh Thanh told ABC News.
Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a press conference today that the search now includes 42 ships and 39 aircraft.
"We will never give up hope," he said.
Malaysia is seeking to bring in more experts – officials from the plane's manufacturer Boeing, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and Rolls Royce, which built the plane's engines – to analyze civil and military data. The search now includes 12 countries, including India, Japan and Brunei
Hussein defended the rescue efforts against rising complaints of confusion, calling the search strategy "very consistent.”
“It’s only confusion if you want it to be seen as confusion,” he said.
Five days into the search, authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage or terrorism. Until wreckage or debris is found and examined, it will be very hard to say what happened.
Vietnam scaled down its search to a “less intensive” format, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ABC News.