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Thai radar adds possible clue to trace jet's route

China Malaysia Plane
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - New radar data from Thailand gave Malaysian investigators more potential clues Wednesday for how to retrace the course of the missing Malaysian airliner, while a massive multinational search unfolded in an area the size of Australia.

Search crews from 26 countries including Thailand are looking for the plane that vanished early March 8 with 239 people aboard en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Frustration is growing among relatives of those on the plane at the lack of progress in the search.

Investigators have identified two giant arcs of territory spanning the possible positions of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 about 7½ hours after take-off, based on its last faint signal to a satellite. Cmdr. William Marks, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, said finding the plane was like trying to locate a few people somewhere between New York and California.

Aircraft from Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand on Wednesday scoured a search area stretching across 305,000 square kilometers (117,000 square miles) of the Indian Ocean, about 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) southwest of Perth, on Australia's west coast.

Merchant ships were also asked to look for any trace of the plane. Nothing has been found, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

Early in the search, Malaysian officials said they suspected the plane backtracked toward the Strait of Malacca, off western Malaysia. But it took a week for them to confirm Malaysian military radar data suggesting that route.

Thai military officials said Tuesday their own radar showed an unidentified plane, possibly Flight 370, flying toward the strait minutes after the Malaysian jet's transponder signal was lost. Air force spokesman Air Vice Marshal Montol Suchookorn said the Thai military doesn't know whether the plane it detected was Flight 370.

Thailand's failure to quickly share that information may not substantially change what Malaysian officials now know, but it raises questions about the degree to which some countries are sharing their defense data.

The jet took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:40 a.m. March 8 and its transponder, which allows air traffic controllers to identify and track it, ceased communicating at 1:20 a.m.

Montol said that at 1:28 a.m., Thai military radar "was able to detect a signal, which was not a normal signal, of a plane flying in the direction opposite from the MH370 plane," back toward Kuala Lumpur. The plane later turned right, toward Butterworth, a Malaysian city along the Strait of Malacca. The radar signal was infrequent and did not include data such as the flight number.

When asked why it took so long to release the information, Montol said it didn't raise any alarms at the time because the signal was not of something heading toward Thailand. He said the plane never entered Thai airspace.

Later, when Malaysia requested data, Thai authorities had experts take a new look at the data and then forward the details, Montol said.

Investigators now will be checking previous Malaysian military radar data against the Thai data to see if they can confirm locations for the plane and possibly a direction it was heading in order to narrow the search area, aviation safety experts said.

The two sets of data have to be "overlayed" to confirm that the hits, or targets, are recording the same plane or that it is indeed a plane and not a flock of birds or even a rainstorm. To do that, investigators need to determine that both radars were looking at the same place in the sky at exactly the same time down to the second.

Because the plane's transponder had been turned off the hits don't contain identification, location or altitude. Both radars were recording what's known as a primary return - essentially a radar signal bouncing of an object in the sky and returning.

"All you see is a little dot moving across the screen," said Rory Kay, a U.S. airline training captain and former Air Line Pilots Association safety committee chairman.

Malaysia has said the loss of communications and change in the aircraft's course are consistent with a deliberate diversion of the plane, whether it was the pilots or others aboard who were responsible. Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board, but have yet to say what they have uncovered.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said some sort of problem aboard the plane was not out of the question, although he noted the plane was intact enough to send a signal to a satellite for several hours. Observers have noted that some sort of distress signal would have been likely in the event of a cockpit fire.

As further confirmation that someone was guiding the plane after it disappeared from civilian radar, airline pilots and aviation safety experts said an onboard computer called the flight management system would have to be deliberately programmed in order to follow the route taken by the plane as described by Malaysian authorities.

"If you are going to fly the airplane to a waypoint that is not a straight ... route to Beijing, and you were going to command the flight management computer and the autopilot system, you really have to know how to fly the airplane," said John Gadzinski, a U.S. Boeing 737 captain.

Investigators have asked security agencies in countries with passengers on board to check their backgrounds, but no suspicious findings have been announced.

China said it found no links to terrorism among the 154 Chinese citizens on board, apparently ruling out possible involvement of Uighur Muslim militants who have been blamed for terror attacks within China.

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mjlgalway March 19 2014 at 9:54 AM

Malaysian Air took so long to announce the plane missing ,then gave mis-information.Plane can be anywhere!The only way no passenger was using a phone or lap-top is if they were taken while boarding.While this was happening Russia took Crimean airport.Co-incidence?We are being led on a wild goose chase by countries that take our foriegn aid tax dollars,then betray us.

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dbranc March 19 2014 at 8:50 AM

I retired as an airline pilot 3 years ago.
Although no one knows the real facts, everyone has an opinion, including me.
Just an opinion.
I suspect that it may have been what is known as an "explosive decompression". A huge pressure difference exists between the outside and inside of the aircraft which results in about 10 lbs/sq in.. It would be like a tire exploding if it happened. It would be catastrophic, especially if the breach were in the cockpit.
I suspect that prior to the event the crew was setting up for cruise flight, the relaxing part of the flight. The climb-out workload was over and they were settling in for the evening meal. Both pilots might have been eating together or maybe not. That means a food tray on their laps or close by.
If there was an explosive decompression, all the debris in the cockpit, including whatever may have been on the floor, the food trays, loose items, etc., would have acted like shrapnel, hitting the crew in the face. The crew would have had about 20-30 seconds at most to react by getting their oxygen masks on otherwise they pass out. I can just visualize the confusion in the cockpit if this did happen. Shock, followed by an attempt to revert to training for recovery, reaching for the oxygen mask in the dark, arms flailing trying to "do something". I assume that they may have made attempts to try and turn the airplane around, which may explain the heading change. They may have turned the transponder off accidently thinking it was a radio transfer switch to the oxygen masks. Remember they may have been partially blinded and in the dark and possibly exposed to the outside atmosphere which is horrendous at that altitude.
This has happened before at a lower altitude when a cockpit window blew out and the pilot was actually sucked out the window. Fortunately there was a male flight attendant in the cockpit who grabbed the pilots feet before he was fully sucked out and he held the pilot from
the time the incident happened until it landed. The aircraft was in good condition except it was missing a window.
If the oxygen masks were not on correctly, or there was a problem with the oxygen system itself, they would have passed out while attempting to recover. A change in the FMS may have been attempted but not completed.
All opinions are presentable until the facts come out but that may never happen.

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RockNHula March 19 2014 at 11:09 AM

The next time we spend a hundred million dollars for an airplane it is going to have a GD full time GPS that transmits it's location, and it won't have an off switch.

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2 replies
cinewand RockNHula March 19 2014 at 11:20 AM

BS - The plane is equipped with transmitting beacons that are designed to float on impact into water. They turn on with impact to anything and locate the plane's impact point (at the least).

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1 reply
erinc27 cinewand March 19 2014 at 11:33 AM

What are you rambling on about? Please check your facts. That is simply not true. Some planes come equipped with transmitting beacons. Airlines have to pay a lot of money for that feature and not all 777s in the air have it....in fact only a small percentage do. Do you have some special access to information that other people in the airline industry do not?

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cinewand RockNHula March 19 2014 at 11:48 AM

MORON - THE PLANE DISAPPEARED, THAT'S MORE PLAUSIBLE, RIGHT????
CHECK YOUR FACTS - THE PLANE AND THAT PARTICULAR ONE WAS EQUIPPED

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1 reply
erinc27 cinewand March 19 2014 at 11:57 AM

Cinewand - I refrain from referring to you in a manner that is probably appropriate, but entirely beneath me. I'm going to stick to facts here. I realize that you are unfamiliar with that notion so please try to follow along. Where are you getting your information? You are basing this on your own opinions and piecing together information that simply does not apply here. NO ONE HAS MADE A SINGLE STATEMENT FROM MALAYSIAN AIRLINES THAT THIS SPECIFIC PLANE HAD TRANSMITTING BEACONS. NO ONE. Over the next few weeks as the facts (remember those?) unfold, we will have more information - until then, baseless comments for the sake of sounding interesting is not helpful.

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xpoisoned March 19 2014 at 11:22 AM

Look in Puntland

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cntgentlm March 19 2014 at 8:39 AM

What bothers me is that they have camera's in the sky that can take pictures of the dimples on a golf ball, and they can't find this huge plane? just don't make sense

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yiddlefeet22 March 19 2014 at 8:38 AM

My only wish is for the passengers to come home safe and sound without any mystery surrounding them. May G-d bless them all.

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1 reply
Wendy yiddlefeet22 March 19 2014 at 10:06 AM

It's okay, you CAN say God in this forum even if others don't appreciate it.

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djvhalos March 19 2014 at 8:26 AM

something sudden happened , or someone would have reached for their phone. I believe it had to do with Oxygen . which would also mean no one on board would have know what was happening.

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1 reply
becky.leach djvhalos March 19 2014 at 8:46 AM

cell phones do NOT work in these high altitudes.. what is with everyone and talking about cell phones? the only reason people used them in the moments before the 9-11 disaster was because they were flying at low altitudes descending upon a city where there were many cell phone towers. If you take your cell phone to the moon will it work??? c'mon people.. sheesh.

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lngfoto March 19 2014 at 11:50 AM

I guess the plane's transponder is so important that anyone that know how, could turn it off. Make it that it cannot be turn off, you won't have this kind of problems. Be smart

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2 replies
karen and pitts lngfoto March 19 2014 at 12:29 PM

i've said that exact thing about a dozen times, i think the families have a legitimate cause to sue boing for making a transponder that can be turned off. they did the same for 9-11 planes.

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1 reply
mjlgalway karen and pitts March 19 2014 at 12:51 PM

It is the responsibility of the air lines.Trucking companies install gps transponders all the time.They can tell where a truck is and its speed.

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llhuberarchitect lngfoto March 19 2014 at 12:34 PM

Study being a pilot. There is a reason for turning off transponders and also changing frequencies in the course of flying a plane.

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Viola March 19 2014 at 12:04 PM

I am guessing that the palne will be found. Maybe years from now. Sorry for the lost people on the plane and their famlies at home. God Bless them RIP.

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tricia March 19 2014 at 8:07 AM

It is very sad for the relatives of the passengers on this flight that they have disappeared with absolutely no trace as to where they are. I personally think that someone hyjacked the plane and was flying it but since they really didnt know the plane they made some kind of horrible mistake and the plane went down into one of the massive oceans in the area where it went missing. Maybe they will soon find some of the wreckage and maybe not. Its all very strange but hopefully they will find the answer to what happened.

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1 reply
becky.leach tricia March 19 2014 at 8:49 AM

They'll find it............ but I sure have my doubts about when. We could all be gone by the time they figure this out. Very sad.

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