— Malaysian officials denied reports that a missing passenger jet continued flying for hours after its last known contact, and say Chinese satellite images do not depict any debris from the aircraft.
Transportation Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said Thursday that Malaysian Airlines (MAS) asked plane maker Boeing and engine manufacturer Rolls Royce about purported data showing the plane could have flown an extra 4,000 kilometers over four hours.
“Since today’s media report, MAS has asked Rolls Royce and Boeing specifically about the data. As far Rolls Royce and Boeing are concerned, those reports are inaccurate,” he announced.
The Wall Street Journal
reported Thursday that U.S. investigators suspect the plane remained in the air for four hours after passing its last known location over the Gulf of Thailand. The report said the belief is based on data that is automatically sent by the plane's engines to the ground, and suggests the aircraft could have flown for an additional 4,000 kilometers.
The Chinese satellite images emerged Wednesday, with state media saying they showed three fairly large objects near the plane's original flight path toward Beijing.
Confusion, frustration grows
As the search for a missing Malaysian Airlines flight pushes into its sixth day, confusion and frustration is growing. With few leads for what happened to the jet and its 239 passengers and crew, authorities in Beijing pressed Thursday for the international effort to boost coordination.
The majority of passengers on board the flight were Chinese and in China many are following every new development both online and through media reports.
At a news conference following a major political meeting in Beijing, the first question Li Keqiang, China's State Council premier was asked was not about the economy or reforms, but the hunt for flight MH370.
Li responded that the Chinese government has asked relevant parties to enhance their coordination, investigate the cause, locate the missing plane as quickly as possible. He added that as long as there is glimmer of hope, "we will not stop searching for the plane."
Family members press for clarity
The loved ones of those on board pressed officials for answers and clarity in cities across the region, from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur and in India. The Malaysian government has come under increasing pressure and criticism over its handling of the search for the missing plane.
Many grew increasingly frustrated and skeptical after authorities in Kuala Lumpur released conflicting information about where they suspected the plane was headed when it disappeared.
Transportation Minister Hishammuddin tried to deflect that criticism at Thursday's news briefing and assured the families of those aboard that Malaysia and the massive international search effort was doing everything they possible could to find the missing jet.
"This situation is unprecedented," he noted. "MH370 went completely silent whilst over the open ocean."
He added that Malaysia is in the middle of a multinational search that involves many countries, more than 80 ships and aircraft.
"This is a crisis situation. It is a very complex operation and it has not always been easy," the transport minister said.
The search area for the vanished passenger jet has expanded to more than 93,000 square kilometers, as far east as the South China Sea and to India's territorial waters.
Malaysia's military said Wednesday its radar had picked up signs of what could have been a jet flying to the west of the country over the Malacca Strait about an hour after the last contact with Flight 370. If the radar data is from the Malaysian Air flight, the plane would have taken a sharp westward turn to reach that area.
Malaysia has shared the raw radar data with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.
A Malaysian police official displays a photograph of 19-year-old Iranian Pouri Nourmohammadi, one of the two men who boarded missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight using stolen European passports.
A Malaysian police woman holds up a picture of Pouri Nourmohammadi, 19, an Iranian who boarded the now missing Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 with a stolen passport.
This combination of images released by Interpol and displayed by Malaysian police in Sepang, Malaysia, on March 11, 2014, shows Pouri Nourmohammadi, 19, (left) and Delavar Seyedmohammaderza, 29, who allegedly boarded the now-missing Malaysia Airlines jet
Military officer Duong Van Lanh works onboard a Vietnamese airforce AN-26 during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 off Tho Chu islands March 11, 2014.
A Chinese relative of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane looks out as she waiting for the latest news inside a hotel room for relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing airplane in Beijing, China, March 11, 2014.
Family members comfort Chrisman Siregar, left, and his wife Herlina Panjaitan, the parents of Firman Siregar, one of the Indonesian citizens registered on the manifest of the Malaysia Airlines jetliner flight MH370 that went missing, Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, March 9, 2014.
Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation's Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman briefs reporters at a press conference on search and recovery efforts within existing and new areas for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane,Sepang, Malaysia, March 10, 2014.
A family member of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wipes her tears at a hotel in Putrajaya, Malaysia, March 10, 2014.
Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news inside a hotel room, Beijing, China, March 10, 2014.
CEO of Malaysia Airlines Ignatius Ong, center, gestures as he prepares to speak to the media near a hotel room for relatives or friends of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines airplane, Beijing, China, March 10, 2014.
People hold a banner and candles during a candlelight vigil for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 10, 2014.
Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation director general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, second from left, speaks during a press conference at a hotel in Sepang, Malaysia, March 10, 2014.
Italian Luigi Maraldi, left, whose stolen passport was used by a passenger boarding a missing Malaysian airliner, shows his passport as he reports himself to Thai police Lt. Gen. Panya Mamen, right, at Phuket police station in Phuket province, southern Thailand, March 9, 2014.
A U.S. Navy helicopter lands aboard Destroyer USS Pinckney during a crew swap before returning to a search and rescue mission for the missing Malaysian airlines flight MH370 in the Gulf of Thailand, March 9, 2014.