Planes Turn Back, But Ships Continue Search For Flight 370
Nearly three weeks after it disappeared, the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and any sign of the 239 people who were on board continues in the southern Indian Ocean. Thursday's news is that:
-- Planes Grounded. Bad weather in the search area, about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia, has forced planes involved in the operation to turn around and return to Australia. But the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says the five ships assisting in the search are continuing to look for any signs of the jet.
According to the safety authority, the bad weather is expected to continue for at least the next 24 hours. So the aerial search may have to be suspended on Friday, as well.
-- Another Satellite Image. As the BBC reports, "a Thai satellite has detected some 300 objects in an area of the southern Indian Ocean being searched for [the] missing Malaysia Airlines flight." The image was taken on Monday, "a day after images from a French satellite purported to show 122 floating objects."
So far, though, the planes and ships searching the area have not found any debris from the missing jet.
-- Pilot's Son Speaks Out. The youngest son of Flight 370 Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah has told Malaysia's New Straits Times that "I know my father," and he rejects speculation that the pilot may have deliberately crashed the plane.
As the BBC explains, "investigators have ruled nothing out, including mechanical or electrical failure, hijacking, sabotage or deliberate action by the pilot or co-pilot. On Wednesday, FBI chief James Comey said that analysis of data from a flight simulator taken from the home of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah should be completed 'within a day or two.' "
The Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared in the early hours of March 8, local time, which was midday March 7 on the East Coast of the U.S. Bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 passengers and crew, it was over the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam when the last message from the cockpit to air traffic controllers — "all right, good night" — was heard.
Investigators believe the plane then turned sharply to the west, and flew back over the Malay Peninsula and south over the Indian Ocean. It may have been in the air for six or seven more hours. Theories about what happened vary widely, from some sort of catastrophe on board that disabled the crew to a hijacking.
There have been a series of satellite images in recent days showing large objects floating in the area, and analyses of some signals sent from the jet have led investigators to believe it likely dropped into the southern Indian Ocean. But as of Thursday evening (local time) in the area, nothing definitive had been found. Officials have cautioned throughout the search that it is not unusual to find shipping containers and other large objects floating in the waters there.
According to the Australian maritime authority, six countries are assisting in the search and recovery operation — Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, China and the Republic of Korea.