US officials believe that two communications systems aboard Malaysian Airlines flight 370 were shut down separately, 14 minutes apart - which indicates the plane did not come down because of a sudden catastrophic failure.
The data reporting system was shut down at 1.07 am and the transponder was turned off at 1.21 am just after the the pilot signed off to Malaysian air traffic controllers with 'All right, good night,' and before the Boeing 777 apparently changed course and turned west.
According to investigators this indicated that the switch-off could have been a deliberate act and officials told ABC News that the two communications devices were 'systematically shut down'.That has led the US investigating team to become 'convinced there was manual intervention' which in turn means it was not an accident or massive malfunction that caused the plane to cease to be airborne.
Despite these two crucial tracking devices being inoperative, the plane still sent signals to a satellite after the aircraft went missing in the form of 'pings' - rather like a cellphone does, even if it is not switched on.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the 'pings' sent from missing flight 370 provided the plane's location, speed and altitude for at least five hours after it vanished from radar.
The final message was sent to satellites - operated by British telecommunications company Immarsat - over water at what officials say was a normal cruising altitude, believed to be 35,000.
US officials declined to reveal the location of the last ever transmission sent by flight 370 and admitted they do not know why they stopped.
However, the U.S. is currently moving surveillance planes to an area of the Indian Ocean 1,000 miles or more west of Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.One possibility discussed by investigators is that the 'pings' to the satellite were intentionally disabled by somebody on board the aircraft.
What the continuing pings do reveal is that the aircraft was at least 2,200 nautical miles from its last known position and still flying - potentially widening the search parameters for the craft.
It also indicates that the Boeing 777 carrying 239 passengers remained intact throughout these hours and was not destroyed nor had suffered a sudden catastrophic event.
And on Thursday evening amidst the wild speculation and mystery CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr said that a senior US official believes flight 370 crashed into the sea.
'There is a strong likelihood that the flight is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.'
The new claims have turned attention back on to the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27.
Added to concerns about Fariq was the revelation this week that in 2011, while on another flight with a different officer, he had invited two young South African women into the cockpit during a flight from Thailand to Malaysia against all rules.
Friends of the two men have told the Mail this week that it was inconceivable that either would have done anything to break the flying rules and put the aircraft and its passengers in danger.
The Imam of a mosque that Fariq attended, Ahmad Sharafi Ali Asrah would not hear of suggestions that the co-pilot had done anything wrong.
Like his family, the imam described Fariq as a 'good boy' who was devoted to his job as a pilot.
And Captain Zaharie was said to be so keen to maintain his high professionalism that he had even set up a flight simulator in his own home.
The vanished MH370 service from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, which was carrying 239 people, went missing on Saturday. Now officials from Malaysia, the U.S., India and other countries have begun a massive search to track down the plane.
Though it was originally assumed the plane would have come down over the South China Sea, where its flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing would have taken it, revelations regarding the satellite pings have seen search efforts switch to the Indian Ocean.What we know: A timeline and map reveals the extent of what is known so far about the movements of Malaysian Airlines flight 370
U.S destroyer USS Kidd is now reportedly being moved to the Indian Ocean in order to search the area (file picture)
An Indonesian Air Force officer draws a flight pattern flown earlier in a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, during a post-mission briefing at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia
U.S. sources have revealed that the plane, which lost contact with ground control at 1.07am on March 8, was in fact still in contact with satellites operated by Immarsat.
The airline manufacturer offers a service that can receive a stream of data during flight on how the aircraft is functioning.
Malaysia Airlines didn't subscribe to that service, but the plane still had the capability of connecting with the satellite and was automatically sending 'pings'.
One source explained: 'It's like when your cellphone is off but it still sends out a little "I'm here" message to the cellphone network.'
'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.'
The continuing pings led searchers to believe the plane could have flown more than 2,500 miles beyond its last confirmed sighting on radar, the official said. The plane had enough fuel to fly about four more hours, he said.
The new development comes amid a raft of new theories and developments in the mystery of the vanished airliner, including that:
- Military radar readings suggest the plane could have changed course and flown over the Indian Ocean - away from its original destination
- U.S. Navy destroyer has been dispatched to search the body of water
- Malaysian government said theory the plane stayed airborne for four hours was 'inaccurate'
- But details of the 'ping' signals from on-board computers contradict their statements
- Chinese satellite images showing 'debris' were released 'by mistake', and that there is no trace of the aircraft at the spot in the South China Sea
- Engine-makers Rolls-Royce, did not receive any extra information from the plane
- Experts suggest the way communications systems were shut down mean the plane was shut down 'deliberately' and 'systematically'
- A picture emerged from February 5 this year of the missing aircraft flying over Poland
- Worshippers in Kuala Lumpur began a mass prayer for those lost in the disaster
- At least 56 ships from 10 countries still failed to find a single trace of the missing aircraft
HOW AIRCRAFT COMMUNICATE WITH THE GROUND USING SATELLITE TRANSMISSIONS
The U.S. has said it is making moves to launch a search in the Indian Ocean in response to 'new information' about the missing plane.
A White House spokesman confirmed that authorities were considering the new avenue of exploration.
He 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.
'We are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy.'
Carney did not specify the nature of the 'new information.' He said: 'We're working with the Malaysian government to try to find the plane; find out what happened to it for the sake of the families and, obviously, for the sake of knowing what caused the plane to disappear.'
'There are a number of possible scenarios that are being investigated as to what happened to the flight. And we are not in a position at this time to make conclusions about what happened, unfortunately. But we're actively participating in the search.'
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Earlier in the day an official from the Pentagon said that the U.S. was involving itself in searching the Indian Ocean by sending one of its Navy destroyers there.
The USS Kidd, from the Navy 7th Fleet, is now moving to the Strait of Malacca, west of Malaysia.
Meanwhile Malaysia asked for radar data from India and other neighbouring countries to see if they can trace the plane flying north west.
Today the last picture of the plane also emerged, flying over Polish airspace on February 5 this year. The plane's serial number - 9M-MRO - matches that of the missing MH370 service, though it is not clear which route the plane was flying.Pilots of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft manage their plane during a search and rescue operation
A crew member of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft looks out of the window during the search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane
A crew member of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft rests after long hours working in a search and rescue operation for the missing plane
The developments come as Malaysian authorities attempted to downplay the theories springing up around the fate of the aircraft.
Boeing Co, which made the missing 777 airliner, and Rolls-Royce, which supplied its Trent engines, declined to comment.
Meanwhile Malaysian authorities expanded their search westward towards India today, and a senior Pentagon official suggested there was 'an indication' the plane came down in the Indian ocean.
India has also involved itself in the search, and plans to imminently deploy planes and ships in the southern section of the sea, a senior Indian official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein (centre) said the search had been expanded westward today, while a senior Pentagon official has been quoted as saying there was 'an indication' the plane came down in the Indian Ocean
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Six days on and a massive international air and water search involving 10 nations using 56 surface ships has failed to find a single piece of debris or sign of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft
Earlier, Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein described reports suggesting the jetliner kept flying for four hours after it vanished as 'inaccurate' and said satellite images showing suspected debris of the crash had been released by China 'by mistake'.
The plane left Kuala Lumpur and was flying northeast across the Gulf of Thailand and into the South China Sea when it dropped off civilian radar without any indication it was having any technical problems.
An international search effort has been methodically sweeping parts of the South China Sea. A roughly similar-sized hunt has also been conducted to the west in the Strait of Malacca because of military radar sightings that might indicate the plane headed that way after its last contact, passing over the Malay Peninsula.
The total area is around 35,800 square miles, or about the size of Portugal.
Back in Malaysia, hundreds gathered in Kuala Lumpur airport to offer up prayers for the people missing as a result of the disaster.
Rows and rows of worshippers could today be seen bowing in unison in the ceremony, offering their thoughts to the passengers who are missing as a result of the flight's disappearance, and their worry-stricken relatives.Scale: Hundreds of Muslim men bow down to offer prayers for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Respectful: Muslim joined the men and shared in their grief at the 239 missing people
Boys join in prayers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370
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Prayers for passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane are carried out at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Hishammuddin said the government had contacted Boeing and Rolls Royce, the engine manufacturer, and both said the last engine data was received at 1:07 a.m., around 23 minutes before the plane's transponders, which identify it to commercial radar and nearby planes, stopped working.
But asked if it were possible that the plane kept flying for several hours, Hishammuddin said: 'Of course, we can't rule anything out. This is why we have extended the search. We are expanding our search into the Andaman Sea.' The sea, part of the Indian Ocean, is northwest of the Malay Peninsula.
More than two-thirds of those on board the plane were from China, which has shown impatience with the absence of any results.
Hishammuddin said satellite images of three pieces of large debris floating near to the jet's last recorded position in the South China Sea had been released by China 'by mistake'. He said searches were conducted of the area but nothing was found.Responding to reports of a U.S safety directive that ordered additional inspections for cracking and corrosion on certain 777 planes, Hishammuddin insisted all maintenance checks on the plane 'were in order'
A woman writes a message with others expressing prayers and well-wishes for passengers onboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, displayed outside a mall in Kuala Lumpur
Part of the search area is seen on an iPad of a military officer onboard a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft
A crew member of a Royal Malaysian Air Force CN-235 aircraft looks out of the window during a search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane over the Straits of Malacca
Indonesian Air Force officers examine the projection of a map that shows their operation area over the Strait of Malacca during a briefing following a search mission
The defence minister confirmed the aircraft had been 'fully serviced' and all maintenance checks 'were in order', following reports of a safety directive by the U.S Federal Aviation Administration about a potential problem with cracking and corrosion in the fuselage.
Hishammuddin also continued to defend Malaysia's response to the incident.
He said: 'We have spared no expense and no effort - from day one we have been in regular contact with our neighbouring countries and accepted all international offers of help.'
He said Malaysia would not normally share military radar data with other countries, but in this case the search effort had been placed 'above our national security'.
He said: 'We have shared our data with our international partners including the U.S. and China to help with the search efforts.'
Six days on and a massive international air and water search involving 10 nations using 56 surface ships has failed to find a single piece of debris or sign of the Malaysia Airlines aircraft.
Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news at a hotel room in Beijing, China
A man writes a message for the passengers of the missing Malaysian Airline plane, on a banner at Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing early on Saturday morning with 239 people on board while on its way to Beijing
A visitor writes on a banner carrying messages for the passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Hopes of a resolution were briefly raised when a Chinese state agency released satellite images of three pieces of large debris floating near to the jet's last recorded position in the South China Sea.
These were dashed early on Thursday morning when Vietnamese and Malaysian authorities said they found no trace at the co-ordinates.
'There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing,' Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's civil aviation chief said on Thursday morning.
Vietnam had already searched the area where Chinese satellites showed objects that were suspected to have been debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet but a plane was sent to check the area again, Vietnamese military officials said.
'We are aware and we sent planes to cover that area over the past three days,' Deputy Transport Minister Pham Quy Tieu told Reuters. 'Today a military plane will search the area again,' he said.
And on Thursday morning Vietnamese authorities said two military jets searching for clues to the missing Malaysia Airlines jet found no wreckage at the location.
False hope for resolution: This image released by Chinese authorities was initially billed as the crash site of what could have been Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 - this was later refuted by authorities
The sighting was made on March 9 - the day after Malaysian Airlines flight 370 went missing - however Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities said they could not locate any trace of the aircraft or debris
This is the third image released by Chinese authorities that was thought to be a piece of the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777
Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) personnel participating in the search and rescue operations, approximately 380 nautical miles (700 kms) north of Singapore, in the South China Sea
A dozen countries are taking part in the search, with 42 ships and 39 aircraft involved
Crew members of the Chinese Air Force search the sea areas where the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 lost contact
Meanwhile, heavy smoke from illegal fires set to clear land for plantations has blanketed parts of Indonesia's Sumatra island, disrupting flights and hampering search efforts for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner, officials and a pilot said today.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told reporters in Beijing on Thursday that he would like to see better coordination among countries involved in the search.
The passengers' 'families and friends are burning with anxiety, the Chinese government and Chinese people are all deeply concerned about their safety,' he said at the close of the annual session of the country's legislature. 'As long as there is a glimmer of hope we will not stop searching for the plane.'
He said China had deployed eight ships and was using 10 satellites to search for the plane.
Investigators have not ruled out any possible cause for the plane's disappearance.
Investigators have not ruled out any possible cause for the plane's disappearance.
Experts say a massive failure knocking out its electrical systems, while unlikely, could explain why its transponders, which identify it to civilian radar systems and other nearby planes, were not working.
AN INTERNATIONAL SEARCH AND RESCUE EFFORT: THE NAVAL PRESENCE OF EACH OF THE COUNTRIES HELPING TO FIND MISSING FLIGHT MH370
Life vests are prepared before search and rescue (SAR) operations for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, at Tan Son Nhat international airport in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
A Vietnamese military official works inside a flying Soviet-made AN-26 of the Vietnam Air Force during search and rescue operations for the missing plane
Another possibility is that the pilot, or a passenger, likely one with some technical knowledge, switched off the transponders in the hope of flying undetected.
The jet had enough fuel to reach deep into the Indian Ocean.
Malaysia's air force chief said Wednesday that an unidentified object appeared on military radar records about 200 miles (320 kilometers) northwest of Penang, Malaysia, and experts are analysing the data in an attempt to determine whether the blip is the missing plane.
Malaysia has received some criticism for its handling of the search, in part because it took several days to fully explain why it couldn't state for sure whether the plane had turned back.
Soldiers discuss the search plan at the Pingtung Air Base in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan, before taking off in a P-130 military transport plane to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane over the South China Sea
A Royal Malaysian Navy Fennec helicopter prepares to depart to aid in the search and rescue efforts for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane over the Straits of Malacca
Crew members from the Royal Malaysian Air Force prepare a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft for a Search and Rescue operation to find the missing plane
Officials say they are not hiding anything and are searching areas where the plane is most likely to be, while attempting to establish its actual location.
'There is no real precedent for a situation like this. The plane just vanished,' Hishammuddin said.
Experts say that if the plane crashed into the ocean then some debris should be floating on the surface even if most of the jet is submerged. Past experience shows that finding the wreckage can take weeks or even longer, especially if the location of the plane is in doubt.