While the head of Malaysia Airlines insisted on Thursday that the final dispatch from Flight 370 came less than a half an hour after takeoff, a steady leak of information about the flight’s transmissions offered new clues about the plane’s fate. Two sources told ABC News that American officials believe the plane’s communications systems turned off at different times, with the data-reporting system shutting down at 1:07 a.m. and the transponder going off at 1:21 a.m. Since a catastrophic failure probably would have knocked out both systems at once, one source says U.S. investigators are “convinced that there was manual intervention,” further bolstering the terrorism theory.
Despite the airline’s denial, The Wall Street Journal expanded its report that the plane kept flying for five hours after it disappeared from radar. Satellites reportedly picked up speed and altitude information in intermittent “pings” from the Boeing 777, though no data was transmitted to the satellite because Malaysia Airlines didn’t subscribe to the monitoring service.
“It’s like when your cellphone is off but it still sends out a little `I’m here’ message to the cellphone network,” a U.S. official told the Associated Press. “That’s how sometimes they can triangulate your position even though you’re not calling because the phone every so often sends out a little bleep. That’s sort of what this thing was doing.”
Sources tell the Journal that the final ping was sent from over water at “a normal cruising altitude.”
Adding to the confusion, a senior Pentagon official told ABC News, “We have an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean.” (Though, it’s possible that the plane was hijacked, then plunged into the ocean.) There’s been growing speculation that the jet turned off course, traveling hundred of miles west across the Malaysian peninsula. On Thursday, the U.S. stepped up search efforts in the Indian Ocean, moving the the destroyer USS Kidd to the area.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. is refocusing its search effort “based on some new information that’s not necessarily conclusive.” But of course, he wouldn’t elaborate on what exactly that “new information” might be.