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Asia-pacific

Thai radar spotted 'unknown aircraft' after MH370 disappeared

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-19

Thai radar picked up an "unknown aircraft" minutes after Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 transmitted its last location, the air force said Wednesday. The plane was flying in the opposite direction from MH370's intended flight path.

An "unknown aircraft was detected at 00:28 (local time, 1:28am Malaysian time), six minutes after MH370 vanished" in the South China Sea, moving southwest towards Kuala Lumpur and the Strait of Malacca, air marshal Monthon Suchookorn told AFP.

Monthon said that although the signal was sporadic, the aircraft was later again picked up by Thai radar swinging north and disappearing over the Andaman Sea.

"It's not confirmed that the aircraft is MH370," he said, adding he was unable to give "exact times" of the later sightings.

The Thai authorities say their information indicates that the plane was travelling in the opposite direction from MH370's intended flight path to Beijing and comes after what was thought to be the final voice communication from the jet – a pilot saying "All right, good night" at 1:19am. Malaysia Airlines believes the sign-off was the co-pilot speaking from the cockpit.

The last transmission from the Boeing 777's transponder, relaying information about the plane's altitude and location, came in at 1:21am Malaysian time.

The new information emerged during checks of radar logs on Monday – nine days after the Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 239 passengers and crew disappeared – after a request from the Malaysian government, Monthon said.

The Thai air force did not check its records earlier because the aircraft was not in "Thai airspace and it was not a threat to Thailand", the spokesman said, denying that it had been "withholding information".

The plane slipped off Malaysian civilian radar screens at 1:30am but continued to blip on its military radars until 2:15am before disappearing entirely.

The massive search for the vanished jet initially focused on the Gulf of Thailand and the adjacent South China Sea to the east, with several nations sending boats, helicopters and jets to scour the vast waters.

The investigation into the fate of the Boeing 777 has recently focused on the theory that it was deliberately diverted from its flight path, probably by someone in the cockpit or with advanced aviation skills.

But the slow trickle of often conflicting information from Malaysian authorities has sparked fury among desperate relatives and condemnation from Beijing. Two-thirds of those on board were Chinese.

Twenty-six countries are now involved in the hunt, which covers a vast arc of land and sea, in a northern corridor over South and Central Asia, and a southern corridor stretching deep into the southern Indian Ocean towards Australia.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
 

Date created : 2014-03-19

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