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US investigators suspect missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 flew for hours: WSJ

Published on Mar 13, 2014 1:51 PM
 
Vietnam's Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff Senior Colonel Do Duc Minh points to the map of a search area to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, during a news briefing at a military airport in Ho Chi Minh city, on March 13, 2014. US investigators suspect that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 stayed in the air for about four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing two people familiar with the details. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US investigators suspect the missing Malaysia Airlines plane was in the air for four hours after its last confirmed contact, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Thursday, deepening the mystery surrounding the disappearance.

During these four hours, The Guardian said, flight MH370 could have flown to Broome in Western Australia or anywhere in most of India, China or any number of other countries. 

According to the WSJ, US aviation investigators and national security officials are basing their theory on data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Rolls Royce engines, which suggested the Boeing 777 flew for a total of five hours. The newspaper attributed the information to two unidentified sources “familiar with the details”.

It could mean that flight MH370, which had 239 people on board, travelled for hundreds of miles after its last contact with air traffic control at around 1.30am on Saturday, about an hour after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.

The Guardian reported that four hours is a long time for a Boeing 777-200 which has a cruise speed of 897km/h. This gives it a hypothetical travel distance of 3,588km in those four hours.

Search teams are already covering a huge area comprising 27,000 nautical miles (more than 90,000 square kilometres), from the South China Sea to the waters west of Malaysia.

Investigators have made clear that they are still considering hijacking as one of their lines of inquiry and the Central Intelligence Agency has said that a terror link has not been ruled out.

“US counterterrorism officials are pursuing the possibility that a pilot or someone else on board the plane may have diverted it towards an undisclosed location after intentionally turning off the jetliner’s transponders to avoid radar detection,” the WSJ reported, citing “one person tracking the probe”.

It went on to say that the uncertainty over the plane’s course and why its transponders were not working “has raised theories among investigators that the aircraft may have been commandeered for a reason that appears unclear to US authorities”.

Officials had been told that investigators were pursuing the theory that the plane was diverted “with the intention of using it later for another purpose", the WSJ quoted one source as saying.

Frustration over the shifting focus of the search and apparent lack of concrete information on the flight path of the plane has led to accusations of a chaotic and confused response by the Malaysian authorities and the airline.

 

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