The Wall Street Journal has this afternoon published sensational claims that counterterrorism officials now believe somebody on board deliberately turned off the plane’s transponders to avoid radar detection.
The report said data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Boeing 777’s engines indicated the plane remained in the air for a total of five hours – a further four hours after contact was lost.
“Officials were told investigators are actively pursuing the notion that the plane was diverted ‘with the intention of using it later for another purpose’,” the paper said, quoting an unnamed source.
A total flight time of five hours after departing Kuala Lumpur means the Boeing 777 could have continued for an additional distance of about 2,200 nautical miles, reaching points as far as the Indian Ocean, the border of Pakistan or even the Arabian Sea, based on the jet’s cruising speed, the paper said.
The latest revelation comes as no signs of the missing Malaysian jetliner were found at a spot where Chinese satellite images showed what might be plane debris, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief said in the five-day hunt for the plane.
“There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing,’’ Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.