Debris from what could be Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
is seen in this satellite image from China's State
Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for
Search planes have found no sign of a missing Malaysia
Airlines aircraft in an area where satellite images had shown
debris, taking the as-yet fruitless hunt into the sixth day.
Adding to the deepening mystery surrounding the fate of the
plane and 239 people on board, the Wall Street Journal
reported that U.S. investigators suspect the aircraft flew
for about four hours after reaching its last confirmed
location under conditions that remain murky.
At the same time, China heaped pressure on Malaysia to
improve its coordination over the search for the Boeing 777,
which disappeared early on Saturday on a flight from Kuala
Lumpur to Beijing. Of the 239 people on board, up to 154 were
Premier Li Keqiang, speaking at a news conference in Beijing,
demanded that the "relevant party" step up co-ordination
while China's civil aviation chief said he wanted a
"smoother" flow of information from Malaysia, which has come
under heavy criticism for its handling of the disaster.
Vietnamese and Malaysian planes scanned waters where a
Chinese government agency website said a satellite had
photographed three "suspicious floating objects" on Sunday
(local time). The location was close to where the plane,
Flight MH370, lost contact with air traffic control.
Aircraft repeatedly circled the area over the South China Sea
but were unable to detect any objects, said a Reuters
journalist, who was aboard one of the planes.
One U.S. official close to the plane investigation said the
Chinese satellite report was a "red herring".
It was the latest in a series of false signals given to the
multi-national search team that has been combing 93,000
square kilometres, an area the size of Hungary, for the
On Wednesday, Malaysia's air force chief said military radar
had traced what could have been the jetliner to an area south
of the Thai holiday island of Phuket, hundreds of miles to
the west of its last known position.
His statement followed a series of conflicting accounts of
the flight path of the plane, which left authorities
uncertain even which sea to search in for Flight MH370.
The last definitive sighting on civilian radar screens came
shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, less than an hour after
the plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, as it flew northeast
across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand.
What happened next remains one of the most baffling puzzles
in modern aviation history and the differing accounts put out
by various Malaysian officials have drawn criticism of their
handling of the crisis.
"The Malaysians deserve to be criticized - their handling of
this has been atrocious," said Ernest Bower, a Southeast Asia
specialist at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies in Washington.
Rodzali Daud, the Malaysian air force chief, told a news
conference on Wednesday that an aircraft was plotted on
military radar at 2.15am, 320km northwest of Penang Island
off Malaysia's west coast at the northern tip of the Strait
But there has been no confirmation that the unidentified
plane was Flight MH370, Rodzali said, and Malaysia was
sharing the data with international civilian and military
authorities, including those from the United States.
"We are corroborating this," he added. "We are still working
with the experts."
According to the data cited by Rodzali, if the radar had
spotted the missing plane, the aircraft would have flown for
45 minutes and dropped only about 1500m in altitude
since its sighting on civilian radar in the Gulf of Thailand.
There was no word on which direction it was then headed, but
if this sighting was correct, the plane would have turned
sharply west from its original course, travelling hundreds of
miles over the Malay Peninsula from the Gulf of Thailand to
the Andaman Sea.
This would put it about 200 miles northwest of Penang, in the
northern part of the Strait of Malacca, roughly south of
Phuket and east of the tip of Indonesia's Aceh province and
India's Nicobar island chain.
Indonesia and Thailand have said their militaries detected no
sign of any unusual aircraft in their airspace. Malaysia has
asked India for help in tracing the aircraft and New Delhi's
coastguard planes have joined the search.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said in a
statement that its experts in air traffic control and radar
who travelled to Kuala Lumpur over the weekend were giving
the Malaysians technical help in the search.
A U.S. official in Washington said the experts were shown two
sets of radar records, military and civilian, and they both
appeared to show the plane turning to the west and across the
But the official stressed the records were raw data returns
that were not definitive.
A dozen countries are taking part in the search, with 42
ships and 39 aircraft involved.
Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause for the
plane's disappearance. Malaysian police have said they were
investigating whether any passengers or crew on the plane had
personal or psychological problems that might shed light on
the mystery, along with the possibility of a hijacking,
sabotage or mechanical failure.
Two men on board were discovered by investigators to have
false passports, but they were apparently seeking to emigrate
illegally to the West.
The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records of any
commercial aircraft in service. Its only previous fatal crash
came on July 6 last year when Asiana Airlines Flight 214
struck a seawall with its undercarriage on landing in San
Francisco, killing three people.
Boeing Co, the U.S. aircraft company that makes the 777, has
declined to comment beyond a brief statement saying it was
monitoring the situation.