Reports Put Jet Hundreds of Miles Off Course
Malaysian airline may have been turned west, not northeast
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2014 1:50 PM CDT
Women are silhouetted as they watch a Malaysia Airlines jet taxi on the tarmac at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

(Newser) – This would at least explain why the search for the missing Malaysian jet has expanded to the west of late: An anonymous air force official from that nation says the plane may have ended up hundreds of miles from its expected flight path, reports CNN. Specifically, the report puts the jet's last known location in the Straits of Malacca above a small island called Pulau Perak. If true, it suggests the plane turned west about an hour after takeoff instead of heading northeast toward Vietnam. (Earlier reports speculated that the plane might have tried to turn back.) The AP has a similar account, adding that another air force official thinks the plane was flying low over Pulau Perak.

But there "were conflicting accounts of the course change and what may have happened afterward, adding to the air of confusion and disarray surrounding the investigation and search operation," observes the New York Times. If the plane did indeed fly over the Straits of Malacca, its transponder likely had been damaged or deliberately shut off by that point, because no signal was detected. Reuters quotes a non-military official as saying the new report is just one of several theories being investigated. Click to read about others.

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Showing 3 of 40 comments
Mar 12, 2014 10:00 AM CDT
I have read all the articles and now speculate the Malaysian flight suffered some kind of catastrophe knocking out their entire electrical system. The pilot took control of the plane manually without the help of any electrical guidance. I am surprised a back-up, battery operated transponder not connected to the main electrical circuit wouldn't automatically kick in and begin transmitting under these conditions. Another concern is why the "black box" doesn't produce a stronger signal allowing detection from 1,000's of miles away. I think Airline transponder policies will be re-written when all the facts are known. My hope was that this plane was hijacked and the passengers were being held for ransom somewhere. We would have heard from the hijackers by now. Any other possibility does not have a happy ending.
Mar 12, 2014 6:04 AM CDT
Enough, already. Malaysia should hand over all its radar data -- primary, secondary, transponder, military -- to the nearest technical experts, in this case the Australian Air Force, for complete analysis. Sending the air and sea assets of a dozen nations on a wild goose chase is counterproductive.
Mar 11, 2014 5:33 PM CDT
In today's technology, a critical item like a transponder on a commercial plane should not have an on/off switch.