News / Asia

Hunt for Missing Malaysian Plane Expands to Indian Ocean

Search for Plane Expandingi
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March 14, 2014 4:08 AM
The Malaysian government is still leading the search for the missing flight MH370, but the U.S. government’s role is increasing. The White House indicates the U.S. Navy might begin searching a wide area of the Indian Ocean. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains.
Related video report by Carolyn Presutti
The search for a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet, which vanished last Saturday, has expanded -- with more seemingly conflicting information emerging about its last known position.  Vessels from various coast guard agencies and navies, including the United States, are expanding the search across a vast swath of southern Asia for any trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The Boeing 777 was en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. But the search for the aircraft, which was carrying 239 people, now includes areas far off its scheduled flight path.

Flight MH370 Timeline

  • Mar. 8: Departs Kuala Lumpur at 12:41am local time for Beijing
    Air traffic controllers lose contact with the plane around 1:30am
    Vietnam launches search operation, two oil slicks are spotted but are not related to plane

  • Mar. 9: Malaysia suggests plane may have strayed off course
    Debris spotted off Vietnam, but it is not from the airplane

  • Mar. 10: Search radius expanded, as China urges Malaysia to speed up investigation
     
  • Mar. 11: Search extended to western side of Malaysian peninsula
     
  • Mar. 12: Chinese satellite images of possible debris are released and determined not to be related to the plane
     
  • Mar. 13: Malaysia rejects Wall Street Journal report that MH370 flew for four hours after its last known contact
     
  • Mar. 14: Search now includes South China Sea, Malacca Strait and Indian Ocean
    Media reports say MH370 communications system continued to ping a satellite hours after plane disappeared
     
  • Mar. 15:  Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says someone on MH370 likely turned off its communications systems
     
  • Mar. 17: 26 countries now involved in the search
     
  • Mar. 19: FBI analyzes flight simulator data from the home of the MH370 pilot
     
  • Mar. 20: Australian aircraft investigate possible debris in a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean
Malaysia's Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Friday unspecified "circumstances" forced the search, which currently involves 13 countries, to expand to the Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers from the spot where the aircraft vanished from civilian radar last week.  He said the search has also been expanded to remote parts of the South China Sea.

"Together with our international partners we are now pushing further east into the South China Sea and further into the Indian Ocean," he announced.

India's coast guard is looking along the shores of the Andaman and Nicobar islands in case any debris washed up there. Besides the Indian Ocean, its vessels and aircraft are also inspecting part of the Bay of Bengal.

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Why so far away from the large jet's last known position? There are reports the plane continued to transmit routine data about its engines and performance to satellites long after the last radar contact with air traffic controllers. That suggests the plane could have remained in the air or was on the ground somewhere.

Malaysian officials stress they cannot confirm such information and that is why it would be irresponsible to end the search in the South China Sea.

Mystery deepens

Aviation Mysteries

  • 1937: Amelia Earhart disappears during flight over Pacific, no trace of plane found
  • 1996: TWA Flight 800, en route to Paris from New York, explodes over Long Island, questions remain over cause
  • 1999: EgyptAir Flight 990 crashes into Atlantic while headed to Cairo from New York;   US questions if pilot comments indicated suicide mission
  • 2009: Air France Flight 447 goes down over Atlantic while traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, crash report indicates pilot confusion
The Reuters news agency quotes sources as saying military radar evidence suggests the plane was deliberately flown across the Malay peninsula towards the Andaman isle chain.

The mystery continues to baffle experienced airline pilots and other experts. Adding to the confusion and to the frustration of passengers' families have been conflicting statements and the delayed release of pertinent information by Malaysian authorities.

Since the jet disappeared on March 8 there have been few credible clues about what happened.

Potential eyewitness interviewed

Vietnamese authorities say they are studying information provided to them by an offshore oil rig worker, identified as Michael McKay of New Zealand.

Foreign affairs department director Nguyen Ngoc Hung, speaking to reporters in Vung Tau, says McKay's eyewitness account of seeing a burning jetliner above the South China Sea about 50 to 70 kilometers away from his position is being taken seriously.

Nguyen says he has forwarded the information to higher authorities and it will be studied and used in the search for Flight 370.

McKay declined to speak with reporters but an e-mail he sent Wednesday to his supervisors describes observing from the Songa Mercur drilling platform what he believed was the plane in the sky afire in one piece for about 10 to 15 seconds. This, he claims, was around the time the Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared.
  • A family member of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 talks to reporters in a hotel in Beijing, March 14, 2014.
  • Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak leaves after Friday prayers that included special prayers for passengers of flight MH370 at a mosque near Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 14, 2014.
  • Malaysia's Minister of Transport Hishamuddin Hussein, center, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation, left and Malaysia Airlines Group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, right, at a press conference in Sepang, March 14, 2014.
  • A Vietnamese Air Force colonel uses binoculars on board a flying aircraft during a mission to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Gulf of Thailand, March 13, 2014.
  • A Chinese relative of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane watches TV as she waits for the latest news in a hotel room in Beijing, China, March 13, 2014.
  • Students light candles to express hope and solidarity for the passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, Manila, Philippines, March 13, 2014.
  • Children read messages and well wishes for all involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370 on the walls of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 13, 2014.
  • A Vietnam Air Force aircraft AN-26 flies over Con Dao island during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, March 12, 2014.
  • Vietnamese military personnel take part in the search for a missing Malaysian airliner off Vietnam's Tho Chu island, March 10, 2014.
  • A child reacts to the camera as others light candles during a vigil for missing Malaysia Airlines passengers at the Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, March 10, 2014.
  • An officer stands guard near Vietnam aircraft before a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Phu Quoc Airport on Phu Quoc Island, March 10, 2014.

Growing frustration among passengers' families

Many of the family members of those on the plane are growing frustrated with what they feel is incomplete information from Malaysian authorities. A man who identified himself as Gao spoke with media Friday after meeting Malaysian officials in Beijing.

"Their [Malaysian] spokespeople should be responsible for what they are saying and keep their promises, instead of giving us the impression that it is a rogue state and that it just makes irresponsible remarks without thinking," he said in Mandarin.

About two-thirds of the people on board were Chinese nationals, with the remainder from other Asian countries, Europe and North America.

The plane's disappearance has become one of the most puzzling cases in modern aviation history. Authorities have ruled nothing out, including a massive technical failure, hijacking, an explosion, or the possibility that the pilot wanted to commit suicide.



Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: muffadal from: india
March 15, 2014 5:29 AM
200% I believe flight mh370 is safe at some strange place.

by: Collince from: Kenya
March 14, 2014 1:01 PM
Hard to tell what went wrong.

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