KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 ― Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could have gone down in the Bay of Bengal or the Indian Ocean, a classified analysis of electronic and satellite data by the United States and Malaysian governments indicated.
A report by news service CNN said both governments' analyses used radar data and satellite signals to calculate that the plane diverted to the west, across peninsular Malaysia, and then either flew in a northwest direction toward the Bay of Bengal or southwest into the Indian Ocean.
News of the analysis comes as the US has sent the USS Kidd, a guided missile destroyer, into the Indian Ocean while Indian officials have expanded their search effort into the Bay of Bengal.
This appears to support an earlier hypothesis by US officials that an automated reporting system on the airliner was pinging satellites for hours after its last reported contact with air traffic controllers.
According to raw military radar data released by Malaysia, the missing aircraft climbed to 45,000 feet ― above the Boeing 777’s approved operating altitude ― in the moments after its transponders stopped communicating.
MH370 then fell sporadically before reaching 23,000 feet ― well below the 35,000 feet cruising altitude — as it flew over Penang, the New York Times reported yesterday citing US government officials and sources familiar with the investigation.
The Beijing-bound plane with 239 people onboard has now been missing for over a week.
Its transponders stopped communicating when it was 120 nautical miles east of Kelantan and when it was at over 30,000 feet.
But the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) radar tracked a plane that may be MH370 in an “air turnback” and recorded the aircraft flying to the Straits of Malacca, before it lost the signal 200 nautical miles northwest of Penang on March 8.
The RMAF explained that the flight movements were recorded and not observed live. It also said the apparent intrusion by an unidentified aircraft into Malaysian airspace did not trigger security alarms as the plane’s profile did not indicate it was a hostile craft.
Malaysia later released the highly-confidential raw data from its primary radar to nations assisting the investigations, including superpowers US and China.
Yesterday, the NYT cited a “person who examined the data” as MH370 flew near or through the southern tip of Thailand, then back across peninsular Malaysia towards Penang, before venturing into the Straits.
Recent revelations continue to reinforce the hypothesis that the plane was deliberately taken off course and flow in the direction of the Indian Ocean, where rescuers are now scouring for signs of MH370.
Yesterday, satellite firm Inmarsat confirmed it continued to receive establishing signals from the plane hours after it stopped responding to air traffic controllers.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal cited US officials as saying Rolls Royce, whose engines power the Boeing 777-200ER used by MH370, received performance data bursts from the plane after it lost signal, suggesting it flew for hours after that point in time.
Rolls Royce and Boeing have since denied receiving any such data.