US Says Missing Jet Sent 'Pings' After Losing Contact

Hunt expected to expand into Indian Ocean
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2014 6:36 PM CDT
An Indonesian Air Force officer draws a flight pattern flown earlier in a search operation.   (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

(Newser) – Day 6 has yielded no sign of the missing Malaysian jet, only a growing belief that it continued to fly for at least four hours after its last contact with flight controllers. But even if so, authorities can't say in which direction it flew or whether, as the Washington Post points out, it "simply circled." Still, most signs seems to be pointing west. As White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “It’s my understanding that based on some new information that’s not necessarily conclusive—but new information—an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean.” The new information turns out to be faint pings, or electronic pulses, emitted by the plane and picked up by satellites, reports Reuters.

Earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that monitoring systems embedded in the plane's engines continued to emit data for four hours after the plane's last contact, but that turns out to be off slightly. The "pings" being sent out by the plane were instead part of an automated system trying to link up to satellites, reports AP. It offers a quote from a US official to explain: "It's like when your cellphone is off but it still sends out a little 'I'm here' message to the cellphone network," he says. "That's how sometimes they can triangulate your position even though you're not calling because the phone every so often sends out a little bleep. That's sort of what this thing was doing." Either way, the pings suggest that the plane was indeed still flying for four to six hours after last contact, which could put it well out over the Indian Ocean.

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