KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Global satellite company Inmarsat revealed today that it had registered “routine, automated signals” from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 during its flight from Kuala Lumpur.
The news adds to the intrigue surrounding the aircraft’s disappearance, particularly as it appears to corroborate reports that said satellites had picked up faint, electronic pulses or “pings” from MH370 hours after it was last heard from.
Inmarsat, a London-based firm, reported its findings in a statement on its website but did not elaborate on when or how long the signals were received.
“This information was provided to our partner SITA, which in turn has shared it with Malaysia Airlines,” it said in the statement, adding that further information should be obtained from MAS, the owner of the Boeing 777 aircraft that went missing.
SITA is a global specialist in air transport communications and information technology.
Earlier this morning, Reuters reported that satellites had picked up faint electronic pulses from the aircraft after its disappearance, which it said suggested that the plane’s maintenance troubleshooting system were “switched on and ready to communicate” with satellites at the time.
Citing sources, the report said the system “pings” about once every hour and in the case of MH370, around five or six such pulses were heard. This could mean that MH370, which was ferrying 239 people, had continued to fly on for a number of hours after it left the radar screens.
Rescue efforts have now expanded to include the Indian Ocean, following fresh leads that a US experts said shows an “indication” that the plane had flown in that direction.
If proven true, it could make an already daunting operation even more difficult to conduct and coordinate as the sheer size of the Indian Ocean would increase the search area exponentially.
But the chances of finding the plane intact — seven days after flight MH370 was to hand landed in Beijing — in the world’s third largest water body are looking slim.
The Indian Ocean has an average depth of 13,002 feet (3,963 metres) while its deepest point, the Java Trench is believed to be at -23,812 feet (-7,258 metres), according to information in the CIA World Factbook.
But according to US Navy Commander William Marks of the USS Kidd, the vessel can spot “something the size of a small wooden crate or basketball on the surface of the water.”
The vessel was dispatched to the Indian Ocean following reports on the possibility that MH370’s believed mid-air turn-back had taken the aircraft in that direction.
The Boeing 777 aircraft had enough fuel to fly up to 8.30am on March 8, leaving it with some seven hours of fuel in its tanks when it lost contact with Subang Air Traffic Control (ATC).
When it disappeared, the plane was flying 120 nautical miles off Kota Baru in the east coast of Malaysia, between the waters of Malaysia and Vietnam.
The current search operation involving 13 countries and dozens of air and sea vessels are already scouring a watery expanse significantly larger than Malaysia’s total land mass of about 330,000 square kilometres.