The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) base in Butterworth received a signal that the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 turned back in South China Sea airspace on Saturday.
Malay-language daily Berita Harian reported that RMAF chief General Tan Sri Rodzali Daud as confirming that the Butterworth base had received the plane's signal.
It quoted Rodzali as saying that the signal received indicated that the plane followed its original route before it entered the airspace above the northern east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
"The last time the plane could be traced by an air control tower was near Pulau Perak, which is on the Straits of Malacca at 2.40am.
"After that, the signal from the plane was lost," he said.
It was also reported that a Singaporean air traffic surveillance and control unit also picked up the signal that MH370 "made a turn back before it was reported to have climbed 1,000 metres from its original altitude at 10,000 metres”.
The plane, which was carrying 239 passengers of 14 nationalities and an all-Malaysian cabin crew, left the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing at 12.40am on Saturday.
It was widely reported that the plane, a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, went missing at around 1.30am while flying above the South China Sea between the Malaysian east coast and the southern coast of Vietnam.
The plane reported went off radar and its last known location was 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude).
This is also supported with police reports made by some east coast residents, who claimed that they have seen huge lights and a plane flying at some 1000 metres above sea level off Kota Baru, Kelantan.
However, search and rescue (SAR) authorities have failed to find any sign of the plane in the waters of the South China Sea.
Indications that MH370 might have turned back have since led the SAR operations to be expanded to the Straits of Malacca and the Andaman Sea.
The operations to find the missing plane involve armed forces and authorities from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States, apart from Malaysia.
The SAR operations are in its fourth day.
MAS has ruled out technical issues as the cause of MH370's mysterious disappearance. The 11-year-old plane was last serviced 10 days before the incident on Saturday.
MAS group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya reportedly said that the plane was in good condition and like other MAS aircrafts, was equipped with the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, which sends out data automatically.
However, the plane did not send out any distress signals before it went off radar, he said. – March 11, 2014.