Searchers Report Spotting Plane DebrisPosted: March 9, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia— A search-and-rescue plane spotted suspected fragments of a missing Malaysian airliner in the first potential breakthrough in the investigation of what happened to the flight after it disappeared early Saturday morning.
The fragments were believed to be a composite inner door and a piece of the plane’s tail, Vietnam’s ministry of information and communication said on its website. The objects were located about 50 miles south-southwest of Tho Chu island.
“Never have I seen an aircraft losing control and losing all communication.”
— Mark Martin of aviation consultancy Martin Consulting
Officials released a photograph of one fragment floating in the water. Malaysia Airlines said it had received no confirmation regarding the suspected debris.
The mystery over what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, baffled investigators and airline officials for much of the weekend.
The flight vanished early Saturday in its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The disappearance triggered a search-and-rescue operation across portions of the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea, involving the armed forces of several nations, including the U.S., Malaysia, Vietnam and China.
Vietnam’s air search was set to resume Monday. The Vietnamese government said it couldn’t land a seaplane near the objects to investigate them further because it was getting too dark.
Investigators and aviation experts were struggling to develop theories about what happened to flight MH370. Boeing 777s, including the one that disappeared, are equipped with transponders that broadcast details of the plane’s altitude, direction and speed. But the transponder on the Malaysian plane apparently didn’t report anything amiss.
Airliners such as the Malaysian jet also carry emergency beacons to transmit the aircraft’s location in the event of a mishap so that rescue teams can reach the site. These beacons, called emergency locator devices, are activated by impact on land or water, along with other emergency communications equipment.
Malaysia’s aviation regulator said no signals were received from flight MH370’s beacon.
Two experts said that if the aircraft suffered damage at a high altitude, it may have disintegrated, and small parts of the plane could have been dispersed over a large area.
“If it was a catastrophic event at cruise altitude, the debris field would be hard to detect. In theory, there would be no large sections of the airplane left intact,” said Jonathan Galaviz, a partner with Global Market Advisors, an aviation and leisure consulting firm.
“Never have I seen an aircraft losing control and losing all communication,” said Mark Martin of aviation consultancy Martin Consulting. Even in the crash of an Air France flight in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, the emergency beacon directed rescuers to the site of impact, though strong currents dispersed the debris across a wide area.
The investigation into the Malaysian flight was also complicated by revelations that two passengers appeared to have boarded the plane with stolen passports, prompting airline executives and aviation officials to say that foul play can’t be ruled out.
Malaysia’s police chief, Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar, told reporters in Terengganu on the country’s South China Sea coast that while investigators “don’t dismiss the possibility” of terrorism, they weren’t considering it the most likely cause for the disappearance of flight MH370.
Rescuers are looking at the possibility that the plane could have attempted to turn back to Kuala Lumpur. Military radar readings indicate the plane may have reversed course, the country’s air force chief said. Gen. Rodzali Duad said the military is still studying the radar data, and added that it is corroborated by some civilian radar data.
The flight included passengers from more than a dozen nationalities, with just over half of them Chinese.
A Malaysian aviation official said at the briefing that the aviation regulator is investigating video recordings of two passengers carrying stolen passports, from check-in to departure. Two people—an Austrian and an Italian—listed as being on the missing jet weren’t on the flight. Their passports had been stolen in Thailand.
A 30-year-old Austrian, Christian Kozel, whose name was on the passenger list for the flight wasn’t on board. His passport was stolen in Thailand in 2012, an Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said…Read the rest >>>
—Jake Maxwell Watts, Chuin-Wei Yap, Laurie Burkitt and Celine Fernandez contributed to this article.
Write to Jason Ng at firstname.lastname@example.org
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