Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
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)
Missing plane sent signals to satellite for hours
First Published Mar 13 2014 07:25 am • Last Updated Mar 13 2014 06:12 pm

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia • A Malaysia Airlines plane sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing, an indication that it was still flying for hundreds of miles or more, a U.S. official briefed on the search said Thursday.

Six days after the plane with 239 people aboard disappeared, Malaysian authorities expanded their search westward toward India, saying the aircraft may have flown for several hours after its last contact with the ground shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

A string of previous clues about Flight MH370 have led nowhere.

"MH370 went completely silent over the open ocean," said Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. "This is a crisis situation. It is a very complex operation, and it is not obviously easy. We are devoting all our energies to the task at hand."

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 a signal to establish contact.

Boeing offers a satellite service that can receive a stream of data during flight on how the aircraft is functioning and relay the information to the plane’s home base. The idea is to provide information before the plane lands on whether maintenance work or repairs are needed.

Malaysia Airlines didn’t subscribe to that service, but the plane still had the capability to connect with the satellite and was automatically sending pings, the official said.

"It’s like when your cellphone is off but it still sends out a little ‘I’m here’ message to the cellphone network," the official said. "That’s how sometimes they can triangulate your position even though you’re not calling because the phone every so often sends out a little bleep. That’s sort of what this thing was doing."

The plane had enough fuel to fly about four more hours, the U.S. official said.

Boeing did not comment.


story continues below
story continues below

Messages involving a different, more rudimentary data service also were received from the airliner for a short time after the plane’s transponder — a device used to identify the plane to radar — went silent, the official said.

If the plane had disintegrated during flight or had suffered some other catastrophic failure, all signals — the pings to the satellite, the data messages and the transponder — would be expected to stop at the same time.

One part of the hunt is in the South China Sea, where the aircraft was seen on civilian radar flying northeast before vanishing without any indication of technical problems. A similar-sized search is also being conducted in the Strait of Malacca because of military radar sightings that might indicate the plane turned in that direction after its last contact, passing over the Malay Peninsula.

The total search area being covered is about 35,800 square miles (92,600 square kilometers) — about the size of Portugal.

Asked if it were possible that the plane kept flying for several hours, Hishammuddin said: "Of course. We can’t rule anything out. This is why we have extended the search. We are expanding our search into the Andaman Sea." The sea is northwest of the Malay Peninsula.

He said Malaysia was asking for radar data from India and other neighboring countries to see if they can trace it flying northwest. India says its navy, air force and coast guard will search for the plane in the south Andaman Sea.

"Because of new information, we may be part of an effort to open a new search area in the Indian Ocean," White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier Thursday, declining to offer additional details about that information or the new area.

The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet said it is moving one of its ships, the USS Kidd, into the Strait of Malacca, west of Malaysia.

In the latest disappointment, search planes failed to find any debris from the plane after they were sent Thursday to an area of the South China Sea off the southern tip of Vietnam, where satellite images published on a Chinese government website reportedly showed three suspected floating objects.

"There is nothing. We went there. There is nothing," Hishammuddin said.

More than two-thirds of those on Flight MH370 were from China, which has shown impatience with the absence of any results. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Thursday in Beijing he would like to see better coordination among countries in the search.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.