The case of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet gets even more confounding as the Wall Street Journal reported that the engine of the Boeing 777 transmitted data back to its manufacturer for hours after the plane’s transponder was turned off.
U.S. investigators suspect that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 stayed in the air for about four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, according to two people familiar with the details, raising the possibility that the plane could have flown on for hundreds of additional miles under conditions that remain murky.
Aviation investigators and national security officials believe the plane flew for a total of five hours, based on data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Boeing Co. 777’s engines as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring program.
…The huge uncertainty about where the plane was headed, and why it apparently continued flying so long without working transponders, has raised theories among investigators that the aircraft may have been commandeered for a reason that appears unclear to U.S. authorities. Some of those theories have been laid out to national security officials and senior personnel from various U.S. agencies, according to one person familiar with the matter.
At one briefing, according to this person, officials were told investigators are actively pursuing the notion that the plane was diverted “with the intention of using it later for another purpose.”
…The engines’ onboard monitoring system is provided by their manufacturer, Rolls-Royce PLC, and it periodically sends bursts of data about engine health, operations and aircraft movements to facilities on the ground.
“We continue to monitor the situation and to offer Malaysia Airlines our support,” a Rolls-Royce representative said Wednesday, declining further comment.
The Malaysian government, which is being accused of bungling the search and giving mixed messages including a report that the plane was spotted on military radar doubling back over the Malaysian peninsula, rejected the WSJ report, according to CNN.
China yesterday released a trio of satellite images taken March 9 that appeared to show debris in the water in the South China Sea. Vietnamese military did a flyover of the coordinates at first light and reported finding no debris. Authorities then said the images were mistakenly released.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said this morning the U.S. is “doing everything we’re asked to do” to assist in the search.
“I know the NTSB is involved. The FAA is involved. Our intelligence agencies are certainly working around the clock on this trying to find any type of terror connection or terror nexus that can be found,” he told CNN. “And basically we are willing to do whatever we’re asked to do. And because there’s American citizens involved, we do have a responsibility here.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said at yesterday’s briefing that “the Malaysian government, of course, has the lead in this investigation.”
“The Malaysian government is investigating a number of possible scenarios for what happened to the flight. Conclusions cannot be drawn at this time, in our view. And we continue to participate actively in the search as well as assist the Malaysian government in the investigation,” Carney said.
“I can remind you, if you need to know, of the assets that we’ve sent to the region, including aircraft and helicopters and two destroyers that are part of the effort, the search under way. But when it comes to conclusions from that investigation, it’s too early to draw any, in our view.”