Did Malaysian jet MH370 ping a satellite, or has it crashed in sea?

Jet was flying strange path, difficult to write off human intervention theory: U.S.

Kuala Lumpur, London: A British satellite communications company today said it had recorded electronic ping signals from the missing Malaysian aircraft which could be analysed to help estimate its location.

As the hunt for Flight MH370 remained inconclusive, the information from Inmarsat could prove to be a valuable break in the frustrating search for the plane with 239 people aboard that mysteriously vanished from radar screens last week. Inmarsat described the communication signals from the plane as "routine" and "automated", without disclosing any details regarding the timing of the signals in relation to the aircraft's disappearance on March 8.

Inmarsat said in a statement that it handed the information to communications specialist SITA which, it adds, has shared the data with the airline. It has not stated which satellites were involved. Inmarsat operates about 10 geostationary satellites through which it handles satcom datalink transmissions including those from the aeronautical sector. Until now, that search has turned up false leads: oil slicks, chunks of foam, life vests and other debris unconnected to the vanished plane.

But a series of electronic pings sent by the aircraft could help the search, which is shifting focus from the confines of the Gulf of Thailand and nearby waters to include the Indian Ocean on the western side of Malaysia.

The Malaysia Airlines plane, missing for a week now, may have crashed either in the Bay of Bengal or in the Indian Ocean, CNN reported today, hours after Malaysian Prime Minister confirmed that flight data showed the jet deviated due to "deliberate action".

"CNN has learned that a classified analysis of electronic and satellite data suggests the flight likely crashed either in the Bay of Bengal or elsewhere in the Indian Ocean," the leading American channel reported while noting that the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said some of those areas have been searched.
Ahead of Najib's announcement, US officials told the channel that flight MH370 made drastic changes in altitude and direction after disappearing from civilian radar.

The changes raised questions on who was at the controls of the Boeing 777-200 ER jetliner when it vanished along with 239 people, including five Indians, who were flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8. The more the United States learns about the flight's pattern, "the more difficult to write off" the idea that some type of human intervention was involved, an official familiar with the investigation was quoted as saying by CNN.

"Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation on crew and passengers aboard," Najib told reporters today, a week after the plane vanished mysteriously from radar screens "Evidence is consistent with someone acting deliberately from inside the plane," Najib said, stopping short of calling it a hijacking, saying investigators have not made a final determination.

Taken together, the data point toward speculation of a dark scenario in which someone took control of the plane for some unknown purpose, perhaps terrorism, CNN quoted American investigators as saying.
The jetliner was flying "a strange path," a US official said on condition of anonymity. Malaysian military radar showed the plane climbing to 45,000 feet soon after disappearing from civilian radar screens and then dropping to 23,000 feet before climbing again, the official said.

Meanwhile, police began searching the home of a pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight on Saturday, after the country's prime minister confirmed the plane was suspected to have been deliberately diverted, a senior police official told Reuters.

Police officers arrived at the home of the captain, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, on Saturday afternoon, shortly after Prime Minister Najib Razak ended his news conference.

Investigators had confirmed that an aircraft tracked by military radar was the lost Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, after its communications were likely switched off before it reached the east coast of Malaysia a week ago, Najib said.

( Source : pti/agencies )
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