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Broader search is on for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

March 13, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Malaysian authorities expanded their search for the missing jetliner into the Andaman Sea and beyond on Thursday after saying it could have flown for several hours after its last contact with the ground.


March 13, 2014
By The Associated Press

That scenario would make finding the jetliner a vastly more difficult
task, and raises the possibility that searchers are currently looking
in the wrong place for the Boeing 777 and its 229 passengers and crew.

 

In the latest in a series of false leads, planes were sent Thursday
to search an area where Chinese satellite images published on a Chinese
government website reportedly showed three suspected floating objects
off the southern tip of Vietnam.

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They saw only ocean.


"There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing," said acting Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.


Compounding the frustration, he later said the Chinese Embassy
had notified the government that the images were released by mistake and
did not show any debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

 

 

The plane was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing early
Saturday when it lost contact with ground controllers and civilian
radar.


An international search effort is sweeping the South China Sea
and also the Strait of Malacca because of unconfirmed military radar
sightings that might indicate the plane changed course and headed west
after its last contact.


The Wall Street Journal newspaper quoted U.S. investigators on
Thursday as saying they suspected the plane remained in the air for
about four hours after its last confirmed contact, citing data from the
plane's engines that are automatically transmitted to the ground as part
of a routine maintenance program.


Hishammuddin said the government had contacted Boeing and Rolls
Royce, the engine manufacturer, and both said the last engine data was
received at 1:07 a.m. local time, around 23 minutes before the plane
lost contact.


But asked if it were possible that the plane kept flying for
several hours, Hishammuddin said: "Of course, we can't rule anything
out. This is why we have extended the search."

He said the search had been widened into the Andaman Sea and Malaysia was asking for radar data from neighbouring
countries. India plans to deploy air and sea assets in the southern
section of the sea, a senior official said on condition of anonymity
because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

 

Investigators have not ruled out any possible cause for the disappearance of the plane.

 

Experts say a massive failure knocking out its electrical systems,
while unlikely, could explain why its transponders, which identify it to
civilian radar systems and other planes nearby, were not working.
Another possibility is that the pilot, or a passenger, likely one with
some technical knowledge, switched off the transponders in the hope of
flying undetected.

 

The jet had enough fuel to reach far into the Indian Ocean.

 

Dozens of ships and aircraft from 12 nations have been searching the
Gulf of Thailand and the strait, but no confirmed trace has been found.
The search area has grown to 92,600 square kilometres, or about the size
of Portugal.

 

Experts say that if the plane crashed into the ocean then some debris
should be floating on the surface even if most of the jet is submerged.
Past experience shows that finding the wreckage can take weeks or even
longer, especially if the location of the plane is in doubt.

 

Malaysia's air force chief said Wednesday that an unidentified object
appeared on military radar records about 320 kilometres northwest of
Penang, Malaysia, and experts are analyzing the data in an attempt to
determine whether the blip is the missing plane.