Search planes have found no sign of missing Flight MH370 in an area where Chinese satellites had shown debris. Meanwhile, a US newspaper report has said the plane may have stayed in the air for a total of five hours.
Officials found no signs of plane wreckage Thursday in an area where Chinese satellite images, taken on March 9, showed “three suspected floating objects” of varying sizes.
Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s chief of the Department of Civil Aviation, said search and rescue aircraft and ships did not find anything in the area that could be from the missing plane. Vietnam, which had dispatched two of its planes to the area, also said they found no trace of the airliner.
China reported the objects late Wednesday and said they were at a suspected crash site near the airplane’s last confirmed location. The last contact was made halfway between Malaysia and Vietnam at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, less than an hour after the Malaysia Airlines plane took off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Around two thirds of the flight’s passengers were Chinese, and China has been pressuring the Malaysian government to get to the bottom of the plane’s disappearance. Premier Li Keqiang, speaking at a news conference in Beijing, demanded that the “relevant party” step up coordination.
On Wednesday, Malaysian authorities said they tracked what could have been the plane changing course and heading west but they remain uncertain about which ocean to search for the plane.
MH370 ‘flew for hours’
US investigators suspect that the missing passenger jet stayed in the air for about four hours past the time it lost contact with air traffic controllers, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The report said aviation investigators and national security officials had come to this conclusion based on “data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground” from the engines of the Boeing plane, which is part of routine maintenance programs.
The report raises the possibility that the missing Boeing 777 could have flown on for hundreds of additional miles. It also questions whether anyone was in control during that time and under what conditions.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines said Thursday it would retire the flight codes MH370 and MH371 “as a mark of respect” to the people on board its missing passenger jet.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of our colleagues and passengers of MH370,” the national carrier said in a statement.
hc/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)