The official Malaysian account of the last contacts made to and received by Flight MH370 is unraveling. As it does, the sinister interpretations of what happened in the cockpit of the Boeing 777 become less persuasive.

We return to the all-important timeline. Originally, the Malaysians said that the last words from the cockpit—from the copilot, “All right, good night”—were spoken to air traffic controllers as the airplane left Malaysian air space at 1:30am.

This week, that timing was significantly changed to 1:19 a.m.—significantly because it meant that the airplane’s transponder, which identifies the flight and confirms its position, stopped operating at 1:22 a.m., after the voice message and not before. As long as it seemed that that calm voice contact was concealing an already-initiated plan to render the 777 invisible, the flight crew were made to look like prime suspects.

Now the chronology has become even more slippery. This time the issue is the other umbilical link between the airplane and the ground, its Aircraft Communications and Addressing Reporting System (ACARS). Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya confessed to a news conference in Kuala Lumpur late Monday that it was now unclear when the ACARS system had been disabled.

Earlier, Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had said that ACARS contact was lost at 1:07am, before the last words from the cockpit.

Amazingly, the airline chief now admits: “We don’t know when the ACARS was switched off.”  It had, he said, worked normally at 1:07 a.m. but failed to send its next scheduled signal at 1:37 a.m.

Bearing in mind the daily muddle and contradictions of these press briefings, this new picture needs carefully to be parsed.

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