A new Reuters report says that “radar data” suggests the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was deliberately flown off course for hundreds of miles.
That data, the outlet says, shows the plane headed west using routes usually reserved for flights to Europe or the Middle East, and followed known navigational waypoints.
From the report:
This indicates that it was either being flown by the pilots or someone with knowledge of those waypoints, the sources said.
The last plot on the military radar’s tracking suggested the plane was flying toward India’s Andaman Islands, a chain of isles between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, they said.
Waypoints are geographic locations, worked out by calculating longitude and latitude, that help pilots navigate along established air corridors.
A third source familiar with the investigation said inquiries were focusing increasingly on the theory that someone who knew how to fly a plane deliberately diverted the flight.
“What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards,” a source told Reuters.
And now the search is expanding.
India said Friday it was expanding its search for the missing Malaysian jetliner to seas west of the Andaman Islands as the international hunt shifted toward the Indian Ocean amid signs that the jet may have flown on for hours after last contact.
A U.S. official told The Associated Press that the Malaysia Airlines plane sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing early last Saturday, raising the possibility the jet carrying 239 people could have flown far from the current search areas.
Potentially, this vastly expands the area the lost jet might be. It also complicates an international search effort that has turned up no trace of the plane nearly a week after it vanished above the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam in one of aviation history’s most puzzling mysteries.
Much of the early search has focused east of Malaysia in the South China Sea, where the aircraft last communicated with air traffic base stations about an hour after departing on a flight to Beijing.
A similar-sized search is also being conducted in the Strait of Malacca, west of Malaysia, because of military radar sightings that might indicate the plane turned in that direction after its last contact, passing back over the Malay Peninsula and heading westward.
The White House said the U.S. may be drawn into a new phase of the search in the vast Indian Ocean. The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet said it is moving one of its ships, the USS Kidd, into the Strait of Malacca.
Six Indian navy and coast guard ships plus reconnaissance planes have searched eastern parts of Andaman seas over the past three days, and were expanding their search to areas west of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain Friday, said V.S.R. Murty, an Indian Coast Guard inspector.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.