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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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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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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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Darling March 19 2014 at 7:10 AM

Specuation, guesses, assumptions, false hopes...when the aircraft is found and status is confirmed then would be a better time to let the public know what happened,

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amecincco March 19 2014 at 7:51 AM

Ah at least some of you have an educated perspective of the situation unlike most of the other comments here from these couch potatoes. The same peeps who could never figure out how to use a VCR or DVD yet can speculate where the plane went. We call them trollers. The so-called pro's can't even figure out what happened, but the couch potatoes can. Good Grief Charlie Brown!

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deejunebug amecincco March 19 2014 at 10:04 AM

I'll admit I'm probably one of those couch potatoes since my kids have always said I was technically challenged...but...from what I've read, if it wasn't a horrific plane malfunction, I doubt the masterminds who were behind it knew that their flight had been tracked for over 7 hours along an arc path. If they weren't experts like the pilot, they probably assumed they had switched off all tractable equipment. IF it was a planned sabotage/terrorist act by a specific group/country...lots of confusion needs to be added to throw everyone investigating off track. PS...everyone on this site is free to express their own opinons without your approval first. Who is "WE" btw?

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WOODY YOU DOG!!! March 19 2014 at 7:30 AM

With my prarers to the crew & passengers.....This investigation is becoming obsurd.....With todays technologies & brain power, one would only think, this plane could be located.......And with the understanding that maybe...just maybe, it has become one of those things that slipped by without notice, every day there is a new theory is to what happened... just to be debunked the next day......This is a real head scratcher

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jessie March 19 2014 at 7:41 AM

Here we go again.....this is case of 239 human beings not been accounted for.......Are the governments in question a bunch of "incaputs"? Everyday that passes the chances of finding the people alive are diminishing. Lets work together ..

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dal March 19 2014 at 7:45 AM

With no valid claims of responcability I am thinking this may not had been an orginized terrorist hijacking but a failed attempt to hijack a plane into another country, but I still think they need to redouble their search efforts over land, had this plane hit a mountain side which could have triggered an anvalance buring the wreckage. like everything else here purely spectulation.

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frank.foreman dal March 19 2014 at 8:33 AM

Pretty much , I am using the 2 column method to estimate what has happened to this plane and it's passengers. But you have to know something about computers to reach the conclusion I am making without saying. On a piece of paper , if you make 2 columns on the page , and you write down "who" on the left , and "what" on the right , you're ready. The left column will be the companies / agencies and effected corporations. The right column will be the list of things that include everything important or valuable in terms of , where , when , how and what happened that we know according to the news reports. When you make the left side list of "who" list all of the effected parties (other than passengers) in chronological order with regards to things like : Malaysia , or important people.

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frank.foreman frank.foreman March 19 2014 at 8:39 AM

When you make your list , if you list major world events with regards to aircrafts , and you also consider the most major news stories reported recently , it's not exactly that difficult to figure out why this may have happened. Remember that the newsgroups are hungry for money and political power in their reports , or else your estimation is doomed. I can hardly wait for this mystery aircraft to be found , justifying my own suspicions and theory.

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chattysparrow March 19 2014 at 6:44 AM

They keep repeating that whoever took the plane had to really know how to fly this plane..well there were two pilots aboard that really knew how to fly the plane and whether they did it on their own or someone was holding a gun to their head making them turn off the equipment and fly out of the scheduled route they managed to take the plane..so let's stop hearing this over and over...move on to find out the route and where the plane is..at this point if it was the pilots it's not the important issue here...where the people are and if they are safe is the issue..next finding the plane is the issue...does someone have to take these people by the hand and lead them to get the important facts..who cares even if it was the pilots..where's the people and the plane..

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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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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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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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paramale March 19 2014 at 6:13 AM

I think it is most likely that the plane flew to an unidentified runway in one of the former Eastern part of the USSR, where it is being retrofitted to look like the plane is part of the fleet of an established international airline. To me, the most likely intention of whoever diverted the plane is to later use it as a repeat of 9/11 in a country that has less defense capability than the United States. I have no guess of which country is intended to be attacked. All of this, of course, is purely conjecture. I feel so sorry for the families of the passengers, and likely those members of the flight crew who are innocent of any wrong doing, and would not have posted this comment if I thought the families would view it.

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