Flight data shows gov't jet traipsing around Europe
3:44PM Aug 15, 2014
By Koh Jun Lin
Publicly available flight information appears to back website Asia Sentinel’s claims that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak went on a European holiday, after a working visit to Netherlands to deal with the Flight MH17 issue a fortnight ago.
Information from the popular flight tracking website FlightRadar24 shows that the Royal Malaysian Air Force VIP transport plane 9M-NAA had been seen at several European airports, including at some of the locations named in the report.
However, there is no public data on who was on board the aircraft.
Additionally, there appears to be gaps in the data, making it unclear if either Najib or the aircraft had been in Cannes, France, as claimed.
The aircraft can be also used by the Agong and other heads of state, ministers, deputy ministers, foreign dignitaries and senior civil servants.
On Wednesday, Asia Sentinel reported that “the prime minister and (his wife) Rosmah (Mansor) flew to Paris”.
“They were reportedly joined by Chinese playboy Taek Jho Low and the former prime minister of Qatar, then are believed to have gone on to Sardinia in Italy, to Cannes on the French Cote d’Azur, then back to Sardinia with what was described as a large entourage of Chinese Malaysian tycoons.
"From Sardinia, the group flew to Rome before returning to London,” Asia Sentinel added.
This journey supposedly took place from Aug 1, after Najib held ameeting and joint press conference on the MH17 crisis with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at The Hague on July 31.
The report quoted anonymous sources and claims that the prime minister’s press secretary Azlin Alias did not respond to inquiries on the supposed trip.
“It was a holiday planned some time ago, well before the tragedies (of MH370 and MH17). Yet, it would have been prudent to postpone it, given all the things the country is going through,” one source reportedly said.
Malaysiakini had contacted Najib’s press secretary Tengku Sarifuddin Tengku Ahmad today for verification of Asia Sentinel's report.
He said, “PM is on leave,” and hung up when asked to elaborate, while attempts to contact Low have been unsuccessful thus far.
According to earlier news reports, Najib was supposed to travel to the Netherlands on July 30, arriving on July 31 for a two-day working visit to The Hague and Hilversum there.
However, according to flight information from FlightRadar24, the aircraft 9M-NAA had actually departed from Subang Airport on July 28 at 6.40pm, to Bangkok.
It remained in Bangkok for about two days before flying to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, with a stop of around two hours in Dubai. It reached Amsterdam onJuly 31 at 8.03am local time (2.03pm Malaysian time).
It then departed for Amsterdam the next day (Aug 1) at 10.08am local time (4.08pm Malaysian time), but the destination is not recorded.
Two days later. on Aug 3, the aircraft was seen leaving the Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport at 2.39pm local time (10.39pm Malaysian time).
Again, the destination for this flight was not recorded, but it was recorded as landing in Basel, Switzerland, about four hours later. An average flight from Paris to Basel takes an hour and 23 minutes.
From Basel, there is no further record of the aircraft’s movement for six days, until it departed Basel on Aug 9 at 9.24am local time (3.24pm Malaysian time) for Sardinia.
About seven hours after the flight to Sardinia, the aircraft appeared in Rome and was on the flight to London.
It takes about 75 minutes to fly directly from Sardinia to Rome.
While there is no indication of a Sardinia-Cannes-Sardinia trip based on FlightRadar24’s information, it is possible that the entourage had used other means of transport for the trip, or that 9M-NAA's trip on that leg was somehow omitted from the records.
Tracker can be turned off
FlightRadar24 uses each aircraft’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) system to track its flight.
However, the system can be disabled to make an aircraft untraceable to the online service, without affecting other air traffic controllers, who may track the aircraft via radar or through manual reports via radio.
9M-NAA’s presence at these European airports is yet unexplained, but it still does not necessarily mean that Najib, Rosmah or any of those mentioned in the report were in those cities.
If Najib had been indeed been on holiday there, as Asia Sentinelreported, it would seem that he was working during his break.
On Aug 8, the prime minister issued a press statement commenting on Malaysia Airline’s delisting from the stock market.