Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Thai radar data add clue to plane search

AP, KUALA LUMPUR

A visitor yesterday hangs a message of hope for passengers and crew of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Photo: EPA

New radar data from Thailand yesterday gave Malaysian investigators more potential clues for how to retrace the course of the missing Malaysian airliner, while a massive multinational search unfolded in an area the size of Australia.

Search crews from 26 countries, including Thailand, are looking for the plane that vanished early on March 8 with 239 people aboard en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Investigators have identified two giant arcs of territory spanning the possible positions of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 about seven-and-a-half hours after take-off, based on its last faint signal to a satellite.

Aircraft from Australia, the US and New Zealand yesterday scoured a search area stretching across 305,000km2 of the Indian Ocean, about 2,600km southwest of Perth.

Thai military officials on Tuesday said their own radar showed an unidentified plane, possibly flight 370, flying toward the strait minutes after the Malaysian jet’s transponder signal was lost.

Thai air force spokesman Air Vice Marshal Montol Suchookorn said the Thai military does not know whether the plane it detected was flight 370.

Thailand’s failure to quickly share that information may not substantially change what Malaysian officials now know, but it raises questions about the degree to which some countries are sharing their defense data.

When asked why it took so long to release the information, Montol said it did not raise any alarms at the time because the signal was not of something heading toward Thailand. He said the plane never entered Thai airspace.

Investigators now will be checking previous Malaysian military radar data against the Thai data to see if they can confirm locations for the plane and possibly a direction it was heading, aviation safety experts said.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Defense Minister and Acting Minister of Transport Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday said files were recently deleted from the home flight simulator belonging to the pilot aboard the missing jetliner.

Hishammuddin told a news conference that investigators are trying to retrieve the files. He also said that the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, is innocent until proven guilty of any wrongdoing.

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