Investigator: Missing plane flew over Malaysia

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In this Thursday March 13, 2014 photo, university students hold a candlelight vigil for passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Yangzhou, in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. China on Friday urged Malaysia’s government to release any information it has regarding the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner to help narrow the search area. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

In this Thursday March 13, 2014 photo, university students hold a candlelight vigil for passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Yangzhou, in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. China on Friday urged Malaysia’s government to release any information it has regarding the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner to help narrow the search area. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

Officer Lang Van Ngan of the Vietnam Air Force looks out the window onboard a flying AN-26 Soviet made aircraft during a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 plane over the southern sea between Vietnam and Malaysia Friday, March 14, 2014. Vietnam says it has downgraded but not stopped its search for the missing jetliner in the South China Sea and has been asked by Malaysian authorities to consider sending planes and ships to the Strait of Malacca. (AP Photo/Na Son Nguyen)

Lt. Col Bambang Sudewo, commander of the 5th Air Squadron “Black Mermaids” examines a map following a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that was conducted over the Strait of Malacca, at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Friday, March 14, 2014. The jetliner vanished nearly a week ago with 239 people aboard. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

A crying woman, one of the relatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, is assisted by volunteers as she leaves a hotel ballroom where families were briefed on rescue and searching efforts in Beijing, China, Friday, March 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

A message card reading “MH370 comes back safely” is tied up for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, outside a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, March 14, 2014. A U.S. official said that the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 pinged a satellite for four hours after it went missing, indicating that it may have stayed in the air long after its last contact with the ground. Malaysian authorities are widening their search westward, toward India, as a result. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Investigators are increasingly certain the missing Malaysian Airlines jet turned back across the country after its last radio contact with air traffic controllers, and that someone with aviation skills was responsible for the change in course, a Malaysian government official said Friday.

A U.S. official said in Washington that investigators are examining the possibility of “human intervention” in the plane’s disappearance, adding it may have been “an act of piracy.” The official, who wasn’t authorized to talk to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity, said it also was possible the plane may have landed somewhere.

While other theories are still being examined, the official said key evidence for the human intervention is that contact with the Boeing 777′s transponder stopped about a dozen minutes before a messaging system on the jet quit.

The Malaysian official, who also declined to be identified because he is not authorized to brief the media, said only a skilled person could navigate the plane the way it was flown after its last confirmed location over the South China Sea.

Earlier Friday, acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the country had yet to determine what happened to the plane after it dropped off civilian radar and ceased communicating with the ground around 40 minutes into the flight to Beijing on March 8.

He said investigators were still trying to establish with certainty that military radar records of a blip moving west across the Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca showed Flight MH370.

“I will be the most happiest person if we can actually confirm that it is the MH370, then we can move all (search) assets from the South China Sea to the Strait of Malacca,” he told reporters. Until then, he said, the international search effort would continue expanding east and west from the plane’s last confirmed location.

The Malaysian official said it had now been established with a “more than 50 percent” degree of certainty that military radar had picked up the missing plane.

On Thursday, a U.S. official said the plane remained airborne after losing contact with air traffic control, sending a signal to establish contact with a satellite. The Malaysian official confirmed this, referring to the process by its technical term of a “handshake.”

Boeing offers a satellite service that can receive a stream of data on how an aircraft is functioning in flight and relay the information to the plane’s home base. Malaysia Airlines didn’t subscribe to that service, but the plane still had the capability to connect with the satellite and was automatically sending signals, or pings, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the situation by name.

Hishammuddin said the government would only release information about the signals when they were verified.

“I hope within a couple of days to have something conclusive,” he told a news conference.

Malaysia has faced accusations it isn’t sharing all its information or suspicions about the plane’s final movements. It insists it is being open, and says it would be irresponsible to narrow the focus of the search until there is undeniable evidence of the plane’s flight path.

No theory has been ruled out in one of modern aviation’s most puzzling mysteries.

But it now appears increasingly certain the plane didn’t experience a catastrophic incident over the South China Sea as was initially seen as the most likely scenario. Some experts believe it is possible that one of the pilots, or someone with flying experience, hijacked the plane for some later purpose or

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