According to the Guardian, CNN is broadcasting news that a Chinese satellite may have spotted large pieces of wreckage in the South China Sea not far off the plane’s projected flight path. Chinese officials believe it could be the wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The images were published by the Chinese State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND). Read more and see the satellite images here and here.
Among all the uncertainties, rumors and theories about the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines jetliner, compounded by what appear to have been false reports on the whereabouts of the aircraft, the New York Times has perhaps the best update on the search for the ill-fated airliner and how false leads are setting back the hunt for the jet.
Among the false leads appear to be the two large oils slicks that were spotted in Malaysian waters, a “suspected life raft bobbing in the Gulf of Thailand,” and “what was initially thought to be an aircraft tail floating in the Gulf of Thailand was actually ‘logs tied together,’ according to a Malaysian official.”
There was also a report of the sighting of what could possibly be a door of the aircraft.
“The failure so far to locate any trace of the aircraft raised questions about whether the ships, planes and helicopters searching the waters south of Vietnam, some of them using highly sophisticated equipment, were looking in the right place,” says the Times and adds, “Malaysian officials said late on Monday that they were expanding the search to a much wider area, including waters north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, hundreds of miles from the aircraft’s last reported position.”
On the use of stolen passports by passengers on the flight:
The Malaysian government distributed photos to foreign intelligence agencies showing two men who boarded the plane using one-way tickets and stolen passports from Italy and Austria. It was not clear whether the two men, whom Malaysian officials described only as “not Asian,” had anything to do with the plane’s disappearance.
The men were scheduled to connect in Beijing for flights to Europe. The police in the Thai resort city of Pattaya, where the men’s tickets were issued, said they were bought not by the passengers themselves but by an Iranian man known to the police only as Mr. Ali.
Supachai Phuikaewkhum, the chief of police in Pattaya, said in an interview late on Monday that Mr. Ali, who formerly lived in Pattaya and operated a restaurant there but now appears to have moved back to Iran, was a regular customer of the travel agency. Mr. Supachai said Mr. Ali called the agency from an Iranian telephone number and asked for the cheapest fares available from Kuala Lumpur to two separate destinations in Europe.
Read more here
The search continues
A U.S. Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopter lands aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney during a crew swap before returning to search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight in the Gulf of Thailand, March 9, 2014. The Seahawk is from the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 (Photo: US Navy).
Update III ( from U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs):
A Navy P-3C Orion and an MH-60R helicopter launched from USS Pinckney are searching over the last known communication and radar positions of Malaysia Airlines MH370, March 9, 2014.
There has been no report of debris sighted at this time.
The P-3 took off from Okinawa and arrived on station early afternoon March 9, with approximately three hours of fuel remaining for searching the site.
The P-3C brings long-range search, radar and communications capabilities to the efforts.
Pinckney was diverted from a training mission in the South China Sea to search for signs of the missing aircraft. Its MH-60R Seahawk helicopters are designed search and rescue, as well as anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, surveillance, communications relay, naval gunfire support and logistics support. It can fly a maximum of 180 knots with a ceiling of13,000 ft. and maximum range of 245 Nautical Miles.
USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194) is en route to the scene to provide underway fuel and logistics replenishment, ensuring Pinckney and its helicopters can maximize their time on station.
Reports continue to surface on two passengers who may have traveled aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight with stolen passports.
Bloomberg News reports that two passengers used stolen Austrian and Italian passports to board the ill-fated aircraft.
“Austrian officials contacted a man from the nation listed on the passenger manifest and found him to be ‘well” says Bloomberg and adds that the Austrian’s passport was stolen two years ago during a trip to Asia and that the man is now in Austria.
Yahoo reports Italy’s Foreign Ministry saying that “an Italian man whose name was listed as being aboard is traveling in Thailand and was not aboard the plane” and that Luigi Maraldi had reported his passport stolen last August.
The Italian news agency ANSA says Maraldi called home after hearing reports that an Italian with his name was aboard the plane, according to Yahoo.
Malaysian Airline Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said of Maraldi’s passport. “We have to verify the report and there is too much of speculation,” according to Bloomberg.
Malaysia Airlines has posted a table with nationalities of the passengers on Flight MH370 and numbers of each nationality.
To see the passenger manifest, click here.
By now most have heard or read the tragic news of the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 with 239 souls on board on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
According to the New York Times, Flight MH370 took off at 12:41 a.m. Air traffic control in Subang, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, lost contact with the plane almost two hours later, at 2:40 a.m. The plane was scheduled to land at 6:30 a.m. in Beijing, but there was no further word on its fate by early Saturday afternoon.
The BBC reports that although no wreckage has been reported by the airline, Vietnamese planes have reported seeing oil slicks in the sea:
The Vietnamese government said two slicks, about 15km (9 miles) long, were consistent with those that could be left by an airliner and had been detected off the coast of southern Vietnam.
However, there is no confirmation the slicks relate to the missing plane
In the meantime, planes and ships from several south east Asian countries and the United States have joined forces to search the South China Sea for the missing aircraft.
One of those ships is the USS Pinckney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that is en route to the southern coast of Vietnam to aid in the search efforts of the missing aircraft.
The U.S. navy reports that the Pinckney was conducting training and maritime security operations in international waters of the South China Sea. The ship could be in vicinity of the missing jet within 24 hours and carries two MH-60R helicopters equipped for search and rescue.
A P-3C Orion aircraft will also depart shortly from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan bringing long-range search, radar and communications capabilities to the efforts.
As the U.S. Navy says, “our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by this tragic event.”
Sadly, these days, when such tragedies occur, the possibility of terrorism cannot be ruled out.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
Malaysian officials investigating the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane Saturday said they were not ruling out terrorism — or any other causes — as reports emerged that two Europeans listed on the passenger manifest were not aboard and may have had their passports stolen.
Lead image: www.shutterstock.com
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.