Last words from missing plane were routine

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Indonesian Air Force officers examine a map of the Malacca Strait during a briefing following a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Malaysia asked India to join the expanding search for the missing jetliner near the Andaman Sea, far to the northwest of its last reported position and a further sign Wednesday that authorities have no idea where the plane might be more than four days after it vanished. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Indonesian Air Force officers examine a map of the Malacca Strait during a briefing following a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Malaysia asked India to join the expanding search for the missing jetliner near the Andaman Sea, far to the northwest of its last reported position and a further sign Wednesday that authorities have no idea where the plane might be more than four days after it vanished. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

A woman stands in front of a placard featuring messages for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. More than four days after the Malaysian jetliner went missing en route to Beijing, authorities acknowledged Wednesday they didn’t know which direction the plane carrying 239 passengers was heading when it disappeared, vastly complicating efforts to find it. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

Ground staff work on a Malaysia Airlines plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

A ground staff member walks under a Malaysia Airlines plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

A member of Indonesian National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) uses a binocular to scan the horizon during a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 conducted on the waters of the Strait of Malacca off Sumatra island, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Malaysia asked India to join the expanding search for the missing Boeing 777 near the Andaman Sea, far to the northwest of its last reported position and a further sign Wednesday that authorities have no idea where the plane might be more than four days after it vanished. (AP Photo/Heri Juanda)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — “All right, good night” were the final words heard by air traffic controllers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight before it vanished over the South China Sea five days ago, relatives of the passengers were told Wednesday.

News of the last communication came as Malaysia defended its handling of the hunt for the missing Boeing 777 but acknowledged it is still unsure which direction the plane was headed when it disappeared, highlighting the massive task facing the international search.

Government officials said they asked India to join in the search near the Andaman Sea, suggesting they think the jetliner and the 239 people on board might have reached those waters after crossing into the Strait of Malacca, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the flight’s last known coordinates.

The mystery over the plane’s whereabouts has been confounded by confusing and occasionally conflicting statements by Malaysian officials, which have led to allegations of incompetence or even cover-up, adding to the anguish of relatives of those on board the flight, two thirds of them Chinese.

“There’s too much information and confusion right now. It is very hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing. “We will not give it up as long as there’s still a shred of hope.”

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein described the multinational search as unprecedented. Some 43 ships and 39 aircraft from at least eight nations were scouring an area of 92,600 square kilometers (35,800 square miles) to the east and west of Peninsular Malaysia.

“It’s not something that is easy. We are looking at so many vessels and aircraft, so many countries to coordinate, and a vast area for us to search,” he told a news conference. “But we will never give up. This we owe to the families of those on board.”

Malaysian officials met in Beijing on Wednesday with several hundred Chinese relatives of passengers to explain the search and investigation. They said the last words from the cockpit to Malaysian air traffic controllers before the plane entered Vietnamese airspace were, “All right, good night,” according to a participant in the meeting. Vietnamese officials said they never heard from the plane.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday and fell off civilian radar screens at 1:30 a.m. about 35,000 feet above the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and southern Vietnam. It sent no distress signals or any indication it was experiencing any problems.

Malaysian authorities said Wednesday that a review of military radar records showed plots of what might have been the plane turning back,

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