The Wall Street Journal said that U.S. aviation investigators and
national security officials believed the Boeing 777 flew for a total
of five hours, based on data automatically downloaded and sent to
the ground from its Rolls-Royce Trent engines as part of a standard
monitoring program. (http://r.reuters.com/ruw57v)
"Those reports are inaccurate," Malaysian Transport Minister
Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference. "As far as both
Rolls-Royce and Boeing are concerned, those reports are inaccurate.
The last (data) transmission from the aircraft was at 01:07
a.m. (local time) which indicated that everything was normal."
Reuters has previously reported that the plane's transmission of the
so-called ACARS technical data ceased after it lost contact with air
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, with 239 people on board, dropped
off air traffic control screens at about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, less
than an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. There were
no reports of bad weather or mechanical problems.
It is one of the most baffling mysteries in the history of modern
aviation — there has been no trace of the plane since nor any sign
of wreckage despite a search by the navies and military aircraft of
over a dozen countries across Southeast Asia.
The last definitive sighting on civilian radar screens came as the
plane flew northeast across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand.
On Wednesday, Malaysia's air force chief said military radar had
traced what could have been the jetliner to an area south of the
Thai holiday island of Phuket in the Malacca Strait, hundreds of
miles to the west of its last known position. However, he stressed
the plotting had not been corroborated.
The multi-national search team is combing both bodies of water,
which total 27,000 square nautical miles (93,000 square km), an area
the size of Hungary.
Hishammuddin however said the focus was on the Gulf of Thailand and
the nearby South China Sea, where the plane lost contact. The United
States will send the world's most advanced maritime surveillance
aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, to join the search later this week.
On the sixth day of the search, planes scanned an area of sea where
Chinese satellite images had shown what could be debris, but found
no sign of the airliner. Hishammuddin said the images were provided
"The Chinese government neither authorized nor endorsed (putting it
on a website)," he said. "The image is not confirmed to be connected
to the plane."
It was the latest in a series of false signals for the Boeing
777-200ER, adding to the confusion and agony of the relatives of the
As frustration mounted over the failure to find any trace of the
plane, China heaped pressure on Malaysia to improve coordination in
the search. Around two-thirds of the people aboard the lost plane
Premier Li Keqiang, speaking at a news conference in Beijing,
demanded that the "relevant party" step up coordination while
China's civil aviation chief said he wanted a "smoother" flow of
information from Malaysia, which has come under heavy criticism for
its handling of the disaster.
[to top of second column]
If the military radar signal cited by air force chief Rodzali Daud
was the missing plane, the aircraft would have flown for 45 minutes
and dropped only about 5,000 feet in altitude since its sighting on
civilian radar in the Gulf of Thailand.
That would mean the plane had turned sharply west from its original
course, traveling hundreds of miles over the Malay Peninsula from
the Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea to a point roughly south of
Phuket and east of the tip of Indonesia's Aceh province and India's
Nicobar island chain.
Indonesia and Thailand have said their militaries detected no sign
of any unusual aircraft in their airspace. Malaysia has asked India
for help in tracing the aircraft and New Delhi's coastguard planes
have joined the search.
U.S. EXPERTS ASSISTING
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement
that its experts in air traffic control and radar who traveled to
Kuala Lumpur over the weekend were giving the Malaysians technical
A U.S. official in Washington said the experts were shown two sets
of radar records, military and civilian, and they both appeared to
show the plane turning to the west across the Malay peninsula.
But the official stressed the records were raw data returns that
were not definitive.
Authorities have not ruled out any cause for the disappearance.
Malaysian police have said they were investigating whether any
passengers or crew on the plane had personal or psychological
problems that might shed light on the mystery, along with the
possibility of a hijacking, sabotage or mechanical failure.
Hishammuddin however said media reports that police had searched the
homes of the missing aircraft's crew were false.
Two of the passengers on board were discovered by investigators to
have false passports, but they were apparently seeking to emigrate
illegally to the West.
The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records of any commercial
aircraft in service. Its only previous fatal crash came on July 6
last year when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 struck a seawall with its
undercarriage on landing in San Francisco, killing three people.
Boeing has declined to comment beyond a brief statement saying it
was monitoring the situation.
(Additional reporting by Niluksi Koswanage, Siva Govindasamy,
Yantoultra Ngui and Al Zaquan Amer Hamzah in Kuala Lumpur, Ben
Blanchard in Beijing, Mai Nguyen, Ho Binh Minh and Martin Petty in
Hanoi, Tim Hepher in Paris. Mark Hosenball in Washington; writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan;
editing by Nick Macfie)
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