New uncertainty about missing Malaysian plane

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Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein shows maps of southern corridor and northern corridor of the search and rescue operation during a press conference at a hotel near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in Sepang, Malaysia, Monday, March 17, 2014. Twenty-six countries are involved in the massive international search for the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that disappeared on March 8 with 239 people aboard. They include not just military assets on land, at sea and in the air, but also investigators and the specific support and assistance requested by Malaysia, such as radar and satellite information. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein shows maps of southern corridor and northern corridor of the search and rescue operation during a press conference at a hotel near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in Sepang, Malaysia, Monday, March 17, 2014. Twenty-six countries are involved in the massive international search for the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that disappeared on March 8 with 239 people aboard. They include not just military assets on land, at sea and in the air, but also investigators and the specific support and assistance requested by Malaysia, such as radar and satellite information. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, center, shows maps of South Corridor and North Corridor of the search and rescue as director general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, right, and Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainudin during a press conference at a hotel next to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in Sepang, Malaysia, Monday, March 17, 2014. The search for the missing Malaysian jet pushed deep into the northern and southern hemispheres Monday as Australia took the lead in scouring the seas of the southern Indian Ocean and Kazakhstan – about 10,000 miles to the northwest – answered Malaysia’s call for help in the unprecedented hunt. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

A relative of Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 uses her samarphone to watch a news conference held by the airlines’ officials at a hotel ballroom in Beijing Monday, March 17, 2014. The search for the missing Malaysian jet pushed deep into the northern and southern hemispheres Monday as Australia took the lead in scouring the seas of the southern Indian Ocean and Kazakhstan – about 10,000 miles to the northwest – answered Malaysia’s call for help in the unprecedented hunt. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 wait for the news briefing held by the airlines’ officials at a hotel ballroom in Beijing Monday, March 17, 2014. The search for the missing Malaysian jet pushed deep into the northern and southern hemispheres Monday as Australia took the lead in scouring the seas of the southern Indian Ocean and Kazakhstan – about 10,000 miles to the northwest – answered Malaysia’s call for help in the unprecedented hunt. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein shows the map of northern search corridor during a press conference at a hotel next to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in Sepang, Malaysia, Monday, March 17, 2014. Twenty-six countries are involved in the massive international search for the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that disappeared on March 8 with 239 people aboard. They include not just military assets on land, at sea and in the air, but also investigators and the specific support and assistance requested by Malaysia, such as radar and satellite information. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Officials revealed a new timeline Monday suggesting the final voice transmission from the cockpit of the missing Malaysian plane may have occurred before any of its communications systems were disabled, adding more uncertainty about who aboard might have been to blame.

The search for Flight 370, which vanished early March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, has now been expanded deep into the northern and southern hemispheres. Australian vessels scoured the southern Indian Ocean and China offered 21 of its satellites to help Malaysia in the unprecedented hunt.

With no wreckage found in one of the most puzzling aviation mysteries of all time, relatives of those on the Boeing 777 have been left in an agonizing limbo.

Investigators say the plane was deliberately diverted during its overnight flight and flew off-course for hours. They haven’t ruled out hijacking, sabotage, or pilot suicide, and they are checking the backgrounds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members, as well as the ground crew, to see if links to terrorists, personal problems or psychological issues could be factors.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said finding the plane was still the main focus, and he did not rule out that it might be discovered intact.

“The fact that there was no distress signal, no ransom notes, no parties claiming responsibility, there is always hope,” Hishammuddin said at a news conference.

Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said an initial investigation indicated that the last words heard from the plane by ground controllers — “All right, good night” — were spoken by the co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid. Had it been a voice other than that of Fariq or the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, it would have clearest indication yet of something amiss in the cockpit before the flight went off-course.

Malaysian officials said earlier that those words came after one of the jetliner’s data communications systems — the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System — had been switched off, suggesting the voice from the cockpit may have been trying to deceive ground controllers.

However, Amhad said that while the last data transmission from ACARS — which gives plane performance and maintenance information — came before that, it was still unclear at what point the system was switched off, making any implications of the timing murkier.

The new information opened the possibility that both ACARS and the plane’s transponders, which make the plane visible

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