Search for missing jet expands toward Indian Ocean

Comment: Off

Muslim men arrive at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Mosque for afternoon prayers where a special prayer session will be offered for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Friday, March 14, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. 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. The statement Friday is a sign that the focus of the search effort is switching to the west of Malaysia, to the strait and further west into the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Muslim men arrive at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Mosque for afternoon prayers where a special prayer session will be offered for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Friday, March 14, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. 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. The statement Friday is a sign that the focus of the search effort is switching to the west of Malaysia, to the strait and further west into the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, arrives at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Mosque for Friday prayers where a special prayer was offered for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Friday, March 14, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. 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. The statement Friday is a sign that the focus of the search effort is switching to the west of Malaysia, to the strait and further west into the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

An Indonesian Air Force officer draws a flight pattern flown earlier in a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, during a post-mission briefing at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Thursday, March 13, 2014. The hunt for the missing jetliner has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Children read messages and well wishes displayed for all involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370 on the walls of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Thursday, March 13, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. Planes sent Thursday to check the spot where Chinese satellite images showed possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner found nothing, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief said, deflating the latest lead in the six-day hunt. The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Vietnamese Air Force Col. Pham Minh Tuan uses binoculars on board a flying aircraft during a mission to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Gulf of Thailand, Thursday, March 13, 2014. With no distress call, no sign of wreckage and very few answers, the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane is turning into one of the biggest aviation mysteries since Amelia Earhart vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. (AP Photo)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — India said Friday it was expanding its search for the missing Malaysian jetliner to seas west of the Andaman Islands as the international hunt shifted toward the Indian Ocean amid signs that the jet may have flown on for hours after last contact.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press that the Malaysia Airlines plane sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing early last Saturday, raising the possibility the jet carrying 239 people could have flown far from the current search areas.

Potentially, this vastly expands the area the lost jet might be. It also complicates an international search effort that has turned up no trace of the plane nearly a week after it vanished above the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam in one of aviation history’s most puzzling mysteries.

Much of the early search has focused east of Malaysia in the South China Sea, where the aircraft last communicated with air traffic base stations about an hour after departing on a flight to Beijing.

A similar-sized search is also being conducted in the Strait of Malacca, west of Malaysia, because of military radar sightings that might indicate the plane turned in that direction after its last contact, passing back over the Malay Peninsula and heading westward.

The White House said the U.S. may be drawn into a new phase of the search in the vast Indian Ocean. The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet said it is moving one of its ships, the USS Kidd, into the Strait of Malacca.

Six Indian navy and coast guard ships plus reconnaissance planes have searched eastern parts of Andaman seas over the past three days, and were expanding their search to areas west of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain Friday, said V.S.R. Murty, an Indian Coast Guard inspector.

Vietnam, which has been heavily involved in the search from the start, downgraded its hunt in the South China Sea to regular from emergency by reducing the frequency of aircraft flights and cruises by ships involved, said Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnamese People’s Army.

“We are prepared for the case that the search mission will last long and we have to maintain our forces that way,” he said.

The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the situation by name, said the Boeing 777-200 wasn’t transmitting data to the satellite, but was instead sending out

Comments

comments

About the Author