Did the missing Malaysian plane land?

By: Matt McGovern Email
By: Matt McGovern Email
The hunt spreads deeper into the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.

Reuters suggests the plane wasn't blindly flying northwest from Malaysia.

(CNN) - Yet another theory is taking shape about what might have happened to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Maybe it landed in a remote Indian Ocean island chain.

The suggestion, and it's only that at this point, is based on analysis of radar data revealed Friday by Reuters suggesting that the plane wasn't just blindly flying northwest from Malaysia.

Reuters, citing unidentified sources familiar with the investigation, reported that whoever was piloting the vanished jet was following navigational waypoints that would have taken the plane over the Andaman Islands.

The radar data doesn't show the plane over the Andaman Islands, but only on a known route that would take it there, Reuters cited its sources as saying.

The theory builds on earlier revelations by U.S. officials that an automated reporting system on the airliner was pinging satellites for hours after its last reported contact with air traffic controllers. That makes some investigators think the plane flew on for hours before truly disappearing.

Aviation experts say it's possible, if highly unlikely, that someone could have hijacked and landed the giant Boeing 777 undetected.

Dennis Giles, editor of the Andaman Chronicle newspaper, says there's just nowhere to land such a big plane in his archipelago without attracting notice. Indian authorities own the only four airstrips in the region, he said.

The Malaysian government said Friday it can't confirm the report.

And a senior U.S. official on Thursday offered a conflicting account, telling CNN that "there is probably a significant likelihood" the plane is on the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

Regardless, Indian search teams are combing large areas of the archipelago. Two aircraft are searching land and coastal areas of the island chain from north to south, an Indian military spokesman said Friday, and two coast guard ships have been diverted to search along the islands' east coast.

The jetliner, with 239 people on board, disappeared nearly a week ago as it flew between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Beijing. The flight has turned into one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history, befuddling industry experts and government officials. Authorities still don't know where the plane is or what caused it to vanish.

Suggestions of what happened have ranged from a catastrophic explosion to hijacking to pilot suicide.

Malaysian officials, who are coordinating the search, said Friday that the hunt for the plane was spreading deeper into both the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

On Friday, the United States sent the destroyer USS Kidd to scout the Indian Ocean as the search expands into that body of water.


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