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SE Asia
 

Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: Last seen at Strait of Malacca, says military source

Published on Mar 11, 2014 8:28 PM
 
A crew member on board a Vietnamese Air Force MI-171 helicopter checking a map during a search flight over  southern Vietnamese waters off Vietnam's Phu Quoc island on March 11, 2014, as part of continued efforts aimed at finding traces of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370. The Malaysian military believes the plane, missing for almost four days with 239 people on board, flew for more than an hour after vanishing from air traffic control screens, changing course and travelling west over the Strait of Malacca, a senior military source said. -- PHOTO: AFP 

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - The Malaysian military believes an airliner missing for almost four days with 239 people on board flew for more than an hour after vanishing from air traffic control screens, changing course and travelling west over the Strait of Malacca, a senior military source said, as a massive search operation widened to a 100 nautical mile radius. 

Malaysian authorities have previously said flight MH370 disappeared about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for the Chinese capital Beijing. At the time, it was roughly midway between Malaysia's east coast town of Kota Bharu and the southern tip of Vietnam, flying at 35,000ft.

"It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait," the military official, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.

The Strait of Malacca, one of the world's busiest shipping channels, runs along Malaysia's west coast.

Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhary Yahya said earlier that the search operations have now expanded beyond the flight path to the west of Peninsular Malaysia at the Strait of Malacca.

"The authorities are looking at a possibility of an attempt made by MH370 to turn back to Subang," he said, referring to Subang airport.

The authorities had earlier revealed that a review of Malaysia's military radar records showed that the plane may have tried to turn around just before it lost contact at 1.30 am on  Saturday.

Malaysia's Berita Harian newspaper on Tuesday quoted air force chief Rodzali Daud as saying the Malaysia Airlines plane was last detected by military radar at 2.40 am on Saturday near the island of Pulau Perak at the northern end of the Strait of Malacca. It was flying at a height of about 29,500ft, he was quoted as saying.

"The last time the flight was detected close to Pulau Perak, in the Melaka Straits, at 2.40am by the control tower before the signal was lost," the paper quoted him as saying.

A non-military source familiar with the investigations said the report was being checked.

"This report is being investigated by the DCA (Department of Civil Aviation) and the search and rescue team," the source said. "There are a lot of such reports."

The time given by the air force chief was an hour and 10 minutes after the plane vanished from air traffic control screens over Igari waypoint, midway between Malaysia and Vietnam.

There was no word on what happened to the plane thereafter.

If the reports from the military are verified, it would mean the plane was able to maintain a cruising altitude and flew for about 500 km with its transponder and other tracking systems apparently switched off.

Malaysia has extended the massive search operation for the plane to the Malacca Strait after initially focusing on the South China Sea.

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