Two people briefed on the U.S. investigation of missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 said that the plane may have continued traveling for at least four hours after it was last seen on transponders.
The Wall Street Journal reports that one of their sources said officials were told by investigators that the plane may have been diverted “with the intention of using it later for another purpose." What that purpose was remains obscure.
Data gathered automatically by Boeing, the plane manufacturer, and Rolls-Royce, the engine and monitoring system maker, was analyzed by aviation investigators and national security officials. They concluded that the plane was probably in the air for a total of five hours, disappearing from the air-traffic control radar an hour into the Beijing-bound flight from Kuala Lumpur.
Officials are not ruling terrorism off the list of possibilities, but there is not yet concrete evidence to support a hijacking.
Malaysian authorities have since called the reports about the plane being off the radar for several hours “inaccurate.” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Rolls-Royce and Boeing did not deliver correct information about the time the plane was last tracked, and that it was around 1 a.m., about an hour after takeoff.
The fact that the Boeing 777 disappeared from radar screens continues to be the most baffling hitch in the investigation. No catastrophic incident would have caused that to happen, experts say.
It is still unknown if the plane carrying 239 people made it to a different destination or crashed. No debris has yet been found.
According to CNN, a Chinese satellite captured three pictures of large floating objects near the site were the plane last appeared on civilian radar screens. The satellites also reportedly “observed a suspected crash at sea” northeast of Kuala Lumpur and south of Vietnam.