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Malaysia's civil aviation authority to probe erratic flight incident

KUALA LUMPUR - The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) will probe the flight data of a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight involving a Boeing 737-800 plane after it allegedly dove suddenly and flew erratically before turning back on Sunday (April 3).

CAAM chief executive Chester Voo Chee Soon said the authority would be reviewing the internal flight data monitoring system of Flight MH2664 to get to the bottom of the issue.

"Preliminary data has shown correct responses by the operating crew following the issue onboard," Captain Voo said in a statement on Tuesday.

"CAAM will continue to monitor the situation and will not compromise on any issues that might jeopardise the safety and security of airline operations and the public," he added.

The Straits Times has confirmed from an official source that the plane involved in Sunday's alleged incident was a Boeing 737-800, the same model as the one involved in the China Eastern Flight MU5735 crash reported on March 21.

The Chinese passenger plane was carrying 132 passengers and crew, and was en route from the city of Kunming towards Guangzhou when it suddenly went into a steep dive and slammed into a heavily wooded mountainous area.

There were no survivors.

On Tuesday, an MH2664 flight passenger claimed that the plane flying from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau town in Sabah dove suddenly before making a turn and heading back.

Passenger Halimah Nasoha wrote on Facebook about her experience on the 2.30pm flight, saying many passengers panicked, screamed and cried as the aircraft lost altitude sharply about 30 minutes after take-off.

She claimed that a flight radar tracker displayed in the cabin showed that the flight had dropped from 25,000 feet to 23,000 feet (7,620m to 7,010m) - a drop of 610m.

"It was very frightening for many of us. I really felt like I was going to die," she wrote on Facebook.

"I was upset because I wasn't wearing a seatbelt at that time," she said, adding that she "floated" off her seat due to this.

"The flight was unstable. It went up and then went down. But the first time it went downwards was the worst," she added.

In a statement on Wednesday, MAS said that Flight MH2664 from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) turned back due to "technical issues" with the aircraft and that the technical problems "were compounded by bad weather en route".

It added that the pilot turned back to KLIA as a precautionary measure in the interest of passenger safety, but did not offer more details.

The aircraft landed safely in Kuala Lumpur at 5.03pm.

In her post, Ms Halimah also praised the pilots' efficient handling of the emergency situation.

When contacted and asked about the plane's model number, MAS said it was not adding to its statement on the incident.

Meanwhile, CAAM has not responded to queries regarding the plane model and whether the plane involved in the Sunday incident has been grounded.

It is not known how many 737-800 planes the airline has in its fleet.

On Sunday, after the Malaysia Airlines plane landed, all crew and passengers boarded another plane to go to Tawau as planned. The plane involved in the incident has been grounded pending investigations, an official told The Straits Times.

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