US Investigators Think Missing Plane Might Have Been Stolen To Use Later For Another Purpose
Two U.S. officials believe the shutdown of two separate communications systems from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 happened at different times, indicating the disappearance was less likely the result of a catastrophic failure and more the result of a "deliberate act," according to a new report from ABC News.
Sources speaking with ABC believe the data reporting system was shut down at 1:07 a.m., while the transponder — sending out location and altitude data — was shut down at 1:21 a.m.
Further, investigators suspect the missing flight stayed in the air for about four hours after it reached its last confirmed location, according to Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal originally reported that they obtained data from the aircraft's engines, but then issued a correction saying that U.S. investigators based their position on "an analysis of signals sent through the plane’s satellite-communication link designed to automatically transmit the status of some onboard systems."
Satellites picked up 'electronic pings' from the flight after it lost contact, Reuters reports.
Malaysian authorities immediately rebutted the initial report, but have not provided any new information about the fate of the flight. Today, the country's minister of defense and acting minister of transport said the plane simply "vanished."
CNN Chief International correspondent Jim Sciutto reports that the "pings" of engine data, radar data, and fuel range have led the U.S. to alter their search to the Indian Ocean.
The primary scenarios of what happened remain a possible hijacking, action by rogue crew, or some sort of catastrophic mechanical failure.
One person tracking the probe told The Journal that U.S. counterterrorism officials are actively pursuing the notion that the plane was diverted "with the intention of using it later for another purpose."
"That's been a possibility right from the start," Patrick Smith, an airline pilot and author, told Business Insider. "It's very unlikely, but I suppose it's conceivable."
The Journal notes that the plane could have flown, in almost any direction, for 2,530 miles in four hours. That makes the search area a whole lot bigger. The plane could have reached India or Pakistan, for example, as well as much of Russia and China.
At 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, the flight carrying 239 people dropped off air traffic control screens, less than an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. No one knows where it went after that.
Five days later, the search for clues about the plane's path have become one of the most baffling mysteries in the history of modern aviation. There has been no trace of the plane and no confirmed signs of wreckage.
Malaysia's credibility is already being challenged after days of confusing statements, misinformation, and delays.
Earlier this week Malaysia's military said that it believed the the passenger plane turned and flew 350 miles to the west after it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country's east coast. It then backed away from the report.
"The Malaysians deserve to be criticized — their handling of this has been atrocious," Ernest Bower, a Southeast Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Reuters.
On the other hand, the incident is profoundly bizarre: