Plane search ex­pands to In­dian Ocean

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By PENG YIN­ING in Kuala Lumpur, HE NA in Bei­jing and CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton

As mys­tery sur­round­ing the miss­ing Malaysia Air­lines Flight 370 continues to haunt people around the world, the search for the Boe­ing 777-200 with 239 people on board has also been ex­panded from the Pa­cific to the In­dian Ocean.

On Thurs­day, White House Press Sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney said some searchers were be­ing shifted hun­dreds of miles west of Malaysia, far off course from the in­tended flight path of the jet.

“It is my un­der­stand­ing the one pos­si­ble piece of in­for­ma­tion, or pieces of in­for­ma­tion, has led to the pos­si­bil­ity that a new search area may be opened up over the In­dian Ocean,” Car­ney said. “We are con­sult­ing with in­ter­na­tional part­ners about the ap­pro­pri­ate as­sets to de­ploy.”

As part of the new search ef­fort, the USS Kidd is mov­ing to the Straits of Malacca and will ar­rive in the In­dian Ocean search area in a day or two.

The ex­panded search came af­ter US avi­a­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tors and na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials said early Thurs­day that the plane re­mained in the air for hours af­ter it lost con­tact with air traf­fic con­trollers and dis­ap­peared from radar screens last Sun­day Bei­jing Time on its route from Kuala Lumpur to Bei­jing, ac­cord­ing to Fox News.

Mean­while, ABC News quoted two un­named US of­fi­cials as say­ing that the US be­lieves the shut­down of two com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems hap­pened separately on Flight 370.

The data reporting sys­tem was be­lieved to be shut down at 1:07 am. The transpon­der, which trans­mits lo­ca­tion and al­ti­tude, shut down at 1:21 am. ABC News’s avi­a­tion con­sul­tant said this in­di­cates it may well have been a de­lib­er­ate act.

Se­nior US ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials told ABC News that the plane con­tin­ued to “ping” a satel­lite on an hourly ba­sis af­ter it lost con­tact with radar. Boe­ing 777 jet­lin­ers are equipped with Air­plane Health Man­age­ment sys­tem in which they ping a satel­lite ev­ery hour.

“We have an in­di­ca­tion the plane went down in the In­dian Ocean,” a se­nior Pen­tagon of­fi­cial said.

The widened US search oper­a­tion also came hours af­ter Malaysian of­fi­cials said they had ex­tended their search into the An­daman Sea and had re­quested help from In­dia in the search for the miss­ing plane and its 239 pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing 154 Chi­nese na­tion­als.

How­ever, Malaysian De­fense Min­is­ter Hisham­mud­din Hus­sein in­di­cated that the search’s “main fo­cus has al­ways been in the South China Sea,” which is east of Malaysia and along the plane’s sched­uled route from Kuala Lumpur to Bei­jing.

While the search en­tered its sixth day on Thurs­day, var­i­ous the­o­ries about the pos­si­ble causes have gone ram­pant due to a lack of con­crete in­for­ma­tion, from me­chan­i­cal fail­ure, pi­lot sab­o­tage, pi­lot er­ror to ter­ror­ism, cat­a­strophic breakup and oth­ers.

More than a dozen coun­tries and re­gions, in­clud­ing China, Malaysia, Viet­nam and the US, have de­ployed nearly 40 air­craft and more than 40 ships in sus­pected crash ar­eas in the South China Sea and Malacca Straits.

Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang vowed on Thurs­day that China will not give up its search for the jet­liner and its pas­sen­gers.

“The fam­i­lies are very anx­ious. We are also anx­iously wait­ing for in­for­ma­tion. People’s lives are in­volved, and it is a top pri­or­ity,” Li said when an­swer­ing the first ques­tion at his NPC news con­fer­ence.

China has sent eight ships and five air­craft to the search mis­sion and one more ship is on its way. It has also mo­bi­lized 10 satel­lites, and they have lo­cated three float­ing ob­jects.

Yan Dong­mei, an of­fi­cial at the In­sti­tute of Re­mote Sens­ing and Dig­i­tal Earth un­der the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences, said, “In pre­vi­ous ef­forts, the search area grad­u­ally nar­rowed as more in­for­ma­tion came in. But this time, the search zone keeps ex­pand­ing.”

The in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to find the plane has been ham­pered by con­tra­dic­tory in­for­ma­tion, and no sub­stan­tive clues have been found.

The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported on Thurs­day that the jet­liner might have con­tin­ued fly­ing for four hours af­ter its last con­tact with ground con­trol, cit­ing data from the plane’s en­gines that are au­to­mat­i­cally trans­mit­ted to the ground as part of a rou­tine main­te­nance pro­gram. Malaysian au­thor­i­ties de­nied the re­port, say­ing it was in­ac­cu­rate.

Hus­sein said the Malaysian govern­ment had con­tacted Boe­ing and Rolls-Royce, the en­gine man­u­fac­turer, and both said the last en­gine data was re­ceived at 1:07 am, sev­eral min­utes be­fore the plane lost con­tact over the South China Sea.

Richard Wray, di­rec­tor of ex­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Rolls-Royce, said: “We are cur­rently not in a po­si­tion to con­firm or deny the re­port be­cause flight data is sup­posed to be con­fi­den­tial un­til such time as the air ac­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor says other­wise. We are con­tin­u­ing to sup­port Malaysia Air­lines in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” Con­tact the writ­ers at pengyin­ing@chi­, hena@chi­ and chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa. com.

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