Australia takes up southern search for plane

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An unidentified woman with her face painted, depicting the flight of the missing Malaysia Airline, MH370, poses in front of the “wall of hope” at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Monday, March 17, 2014. Authorities now believe someone on board the Boeing 777 shut down part of the aircraft’s messaging system about the same time the plane with 239 people on board disappeared from civilian radar. But an Inmarsat satellite was able to automatically connect with a portion of the messaging system that remained in operation, similar to a phone call that just rings because no one is on the other end to pick it up and provide information. No location information was exchanged, but the satellite continued to identify the plane once an hour for four to five hours after it disappeared from radar screens. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

An unidentified woman with her face painted, depicting the flight of the missing Malaysia Airline, MH370, poses in front of the “wall of hope” at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Monday, March 17, 2014. Authorities now believe someone on board the Boeing 777 shut down part of the aircraft’s messaging system about the same time the plane with 239 people on board disappeared from civilian radar. But an Inmarsat satellite was able to automatically connect with a portion of the messaging system that remained in operation, similar to a phone call that just rings because no one is on the other end to pick it up and provide information. No location information was exchanged, but the satellite continued to identify the plane once an hour for four to five hours after it disappeared from radar screens. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 watch a TV news program about the missing plane as they wait for more official information at a hotel ballroom in Beijing, China, Monday, March 17, 2014. Attention focused Sunday on the pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight after the country’s leader announced findings so far that suggest someone with intimate knowledge of the Boeing 777’s cockpit seized control of the plane and sent it off-course. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Australia took the lead Monday in searching for the missing Boeing 777 over the southern Indian Ocean as Malaysia appealed for radar data and search planes to help in the unprecedented hunt through a vast swath of Asia stretching northwest into Kazakhstan.

Investigators say Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was deliberately diverted and its communications equipment switched off shortly after takeoff during an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8. Suspicion has fallen on anyone aboard the plane with aviation experience, in particular the pilot and co-pilot.

Malaysian police confiscated a flight simulator from the home of the pilot Saturday and also visited the home of the co-pilot, in what Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said Sunday was the first visit to their homes. The government issued a statement Monday contradicting that account by saying that police first visited the pilots’ home on March 9, the day after the flight.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament that he agreed to take the lead scouring the southern Indian Ocean for the “ill-fated aircraft” during a conversation Monday with Malaysia’s leader Najib Razak. Australia already has had two AP-3C Orion aircraft involved in the search, one of them looking north and west of the remote Cocos Islands.

Malaysian authorities have said that satellite signal or “ping” received from the jet carrying 239 people more than seven hours after it took off shows that it also may have entered a northern corridor stretching over land from Southeast Asia northwest into Central Asia.

Twenty-six countries are involved in the search, the government said in a statement Monday.

Associated Press

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