Aussie Official "Optimistic" Flight 370 Will Be Found, And Soon [GALLERY & CBS VIDEO]

By: CBS News Copy Email
By: CBS News Copy Email

CBS News Copy
April 9, 2014

PERTH, Australia -- A ship searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines jet has detected two more underwater signals that may be emanating from the aircraft's black boxes, and the Australian official in charge of the search expressed hope Wednesday that the plane's wreckage will soon be found.

Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency coordinating the search for the missing plane in the southern Indian Ocean, said that the Australian navy's Ocean Shield picked up the two signals in a sweep on Tuesday, and that analysis of two sounds detected in the same area last week showed they were consistent with a plane's so-called black boxes.

"I'm now optimistic that we will find the aircraft, or what is left of the aircraft, in the not too distant future - but we haven't found it yet, because this is a very challenging business," Houston said at a news conference in Perth, the hub for the search operation.

The Ocean Shield first detected underwater sounds on Saturday before losing them, but managed to pick up the signals again on Tuesday, Houston said. The ship is towing a U.S. Navy pinger locator designed to detect signals from a plane's two black boxes - the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.
A data analysis of the signals detected Saturday determined they were stable, distinct and clear sounds that pulsed consistently - indicating they were coming from a plane's black box, Houston said.

"(The analysts) therefore assess that the transmission was not of natural origin and was likely sourced from specific electronic equipment," Houston said. "They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder."

Despite the promising evidence, Houston warned that he could not yet conclude that searchers had pinpointed Flight 370's crash site.

"I think that we're looking in the right area, but I'm not prepared to say - to confirm - anything until such time as somebody lays eyes on the wreckage," he said.

And the Reuters news agency says two U.S. Navy officers told it Wednesday that, "While the pings had been found within a 502 square mile area, they were not confident that they represented reoccurances of the same signal."

"I'd say they are separate acoustic events," Reuters quotes U.S. Navy Captain Mark Matthews as saying, pointing out that the pings weren't close together.

"There has been variability in the geographic position, which leads me to be less optimistic than I would be if I could consistently reacquire the signal so that I have a nice, small geographic area to focus the autonomous under water vehicle search on," Matthews told Reuters.
Finding the black boxes quickly is a matter of urgency, because their locator beacons have a battery life of only about a month - and Tuesday marked exactly one month since the plane vanished. Once the beacons blink off, locating the black boxes in such deep water would be an immensely difficult, if not impossible, task.

Houston acknowledged that they were running out of time, and noted that the signals picked up on Tuesday were weaker and briefer than the ones heard over the weekend - suggesting that, if they are coming from the plane's black boxes, the batteries are dying. The two signals detected on Saturday lasted two hours and 20 minutes and 13 minutes, respectively; the sounds heard Tuesday lasted just 5 and a half minutes and 7 minutes.

"So we need to, as we say in Australia, 'make hay while the sun shines,"' Houston said.

Picking up the sound again is crucial to narrowing the search area so a small submarine can be deployed to chart a potential debris field on the seafloor, which is about 14,800 feet down. If the autonomous sub was used now with the sparse data collected so far, covering all the potential places from which the pings might have come would take days, if not weeks. It takes the sub six times longer to cover the same area than it does the towed pinger, Houston said.

"The better Ocean Shield can define the area, the easier it will be for the autonomous underwater vehicle to subsequently search for aircraft wreckage," he said.
Houston said a decision had not yet been made on how long searchers would to wait after the final sound was heard before the sub was deployed, saying only that time was "not far away." He smiled but did not reply when asked if the sub would be deployed on Wednesday.

"Hopefully in a matter of days, we will be able to find something on the bottom that might confirm that this is the last resting place of MH370," he said.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished March 8 on a trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board, sparking one of aviation's biggest mysteries. The search has shifted from waters off of Vietnam, to the Strait of Malacca and then to waters in the southern Indian Ocean as data from radar and satellites was further analyzed.

But finding any wreckage in such deep water has proved to be a monumental task. In addition to the depth and remoteness of the area, search crews are also contending with layers of silt on the sea floor that can both hide any possible wreckage and distort the sounds emanating from the black boxes that may be resting there, said Royal Australian Navy commodore Peter Leavy, who is helping to lead the search.

Meanwhile, the search for debris on the ocean surface picked up intensity on Wednesday, with 15 planes and 14 ships scouring a 29,121 square mile area that extends from 1,405 miles northwest of Perth.

The search zone, though still vast, is about a third the size it was just a few days ago, having been narrowed down based on the sounds picked up by Ocean Shield. Officials are hoping to find something from the plane on the ocean surface to confirm the aircraft entered the water in that area.

Reuters notes that, "Authorities say evidence suggests the plane was deliberately

diverted by someone familiar with the aircraft, but have not ruled out mechanical problems."

CBS/AP


CBS News Copy
April 8, 2014

PERTH, Australia -- Search crews hunting for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet have failed to relocate faint sounds heard deep below the southern Indian Ocean that officials said were consistent with a plane's black boxes, the head of the search operation said Tuesday.

Angus Houston, the retired Australian air chief marshal who is heading the search far off Australia's west coast, said sound locating equipment on board the Ocean Shield has picked up no trace of the signals since they were first heard late Saturday and early Sunday.

Time may have already run out to find the devices, whose locator beacons have a battery life of about a month. Tuesday marks one month since the plane vanished. Once the beacons blink off, locating the black boxes in such deep water would be an immensely difficult, if not impossible, task.

"There have been no further contacts with any transmission and we need to continue (searching) for several days right up to the point at which there's absolutely no doubt that the batteries will have expired," Houston said.
If, by that point, the U.S. Navy listening equipment being towed behind the Ocean Shield has failed to pick up any signals, a sub on board the ship will be deployed to try to chart out any debris on the sea floor. If the sub maps out a debris field, the crew will replace the sonar system with a camera unit to photograph any wreckage.

Houston's comments contradicted an earlier statement from Australia's acting prime minister, Warren Truss, who said search crews would launch the Bluefin 21 autonomous sub on Tuesday.

The towed pinger locator detected late Saturday and early Sunday two distinct, long-lasting sounds underwater that are consistent with the pings from an aircraft's "black boxes" - the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, Houston said, dubbing the find a promising lead in the month-long hunt for clues to the plane's fate.

Still, officials warned it could take days to determine whether the sounds were connected to Flight 370, which vanished March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 on board.

"This is an herculean task - it's over a very, very wide area, the water is extremely deep," Defense Minister David Johnston said. "We have at least several days of intense action ahead of us."
Houtson said finding the sound again was critical to narrowing down the search area before the sub can be used. If the vehicle went down now with the sparse data collected so far, it would take "many, many days" for it to cover all the places the pings might have come from.

"It's literally crawling at the bottom of the ocean, so it's going to take a long, long time," Houston said.

Despite the excitement surrounding the Ocean Shield's sound detections, Houston warned that the search had previously been marred by false leads - such as ships detecting their own signals. Because of that, other ships cannot be sent in to help with the underwater search, as they may add unwanted noise.

"We're very hopeful we will find further evidence that will confirm the aircraft is in that location," Houston said. "There's still a little bit of doubt there, but I'm a lot more optimistic than I was one week ago."

Finding the black boxes is key to unraveling what happened to the Boeing 777, because they contain flight data and cockpit voice recordings that could explain why the plane veered so far off-course.

"Everyone's anxious about the life of the batteries on the black box flight recorders," said Truss, who is acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is overseas. "Sometimes they go on for many, many weeks longer than they're mandated to operate for - we hope that'll be the case in this instance. But clearly there is an aura of urgency about the investigation."
The first sound picked up by the equipment on board the Ocean Shield lasted two hours and 20 minutes before it was lost, Houston said. The ship then turned around and picked up a signal again - this time recording two distinct "pinger returns" that lasted 13 minutes. That would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder.

The black boxes normally emit a frequency of 37.5 kilohertz, and the signals picked up by the Ocean Shield were both 33.3 kilohertz, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews said. But the manufacturer indicated the frequency of black boxes can drift in older equipment.

Houston said the frequency of the sounds heard was considered "quite credible" by the manufacturer, and noted that the frequency from the Air France jet that crashed several years ago was 34 kilohertz. Pressure from being so deep below the surface and the age of the batteries can also affect the transmission level, he said.

The frequency used by aircraft flight recorders was chosen because no other devices use it, and because nothing in the natural world mimics it, said William Waldock, a search-and-rescue expert who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.

But these signals are being detected by computer sweeps, and "not so much a guy with headphones on listening to pings," said U.S. Navy spokesman Chris Johnson. So until the signals are fully analyzed, it's too early to say what they are, he said.

"We'll hear lots of signals at different frequencies," he said. "Marine mammals. Our own ship systems. Scientific equipment, fishing equipment, things like that. And then of course there are lots of ships operating in the area that are all radiating certain signals into the ocean."

The Ocean Shield is dragging a ping locator at a depth of 1.9 miles. It is designed to detect signals at a range of 1.12 miles, meaning it would need to be almost on top of the recorders to detect them if they were on the ocean floor, which is about 2.8 miles deep.

Meanwhile, the search for any trace of the plane on the ocean's surface continued Tuesday. Up to 14 planes and as many ships were focusing on a single search area covering 29,954 square miles of ocean, 1,400 miles northwest of the Australian west coast city of Perth, with good weather predicted, said the Joint Agency Coordination Center, which is overseeing the operation.

One-hundred-thirty-three missions have been completed so far in the hunt from the air for debris that could be from Flight 370, but no debris from the plane has been found.


CBS News Copy
April 7, 2014

PERTH, Australia -- U.S. Navy equipment has picked up signals consistent with the pings from aircraft black boxes, an Australian search official said Monday, describing the discovery as "a most promising lead" in the month-long hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency coordinating the search in the southern Indian Ocean, called it "very encouraging" but warned it may take days to confirm whether signals picked up by the ship Ocean Shield are indeed from the flight recorders on Flight 370.

"Clearly, this is a most promising lead, and probably in the search so far, it's the probably the best information that we have had," Houston said at a news conference.

The Australian navy's Ocean Shield, which is carrying high-tech sound detectors from the U.S. Navy, picked up two separate signals within a remote patch of the Indian Ocean far off the west Australian coast that search crews have been crisscrossing for weeks. The first signal lasted two hours and 20 minutes before it was lost. The ship then turned around and picked up a signal again - this time recording two distinct "pinger returns" that lasted 13 minutes, Houston said.

"Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder," Houston said.

He said the position of the noise needs to be further refined, and then an underwater autonomous vehicle can be sent in to investigate.

"It could take some days before the information is available to establish whether these detections can be confirmed as being from MH370," Houston said. "In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast."

The Ocean Shield was continuing to comb the area to try pick up the signals again, Houston said.

After a month-long hunt for answers filled with dead ends, Monday's news brought fresh hope. The two black boxes, which contain flight data and cockpit voice recordings, are the key to unraveling exactly what happened to Flight 370 and why.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammudin Hussein told reporters that in light of the new information, "We are cautiously hopeful that there will be a positive development in the next few days, if not hours."

But there is little time left to find the devices, which contain critical flight data and cockpit voice recordings that could help investigators unravel exactly what happened on board Flight 370. The devices have beacons that emit "pings" so they can be more easily found, but the beacons' batteries last only about a month. Tuesday marks exactly one month since the plane disappeared.

The plane vanished March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board, setting off an international search that started off Vietnam and then shifted to the southern Indian Ocean as information from radar and satellite data was refined.

The length of the search and lack of any information on the cause of the plane to go so far off course has transfixed the world.

If the Ocean Shield manages to pick up the signal again, the crew will launch a Bluefin-21 autonomous sub that can dive to about 14,800 feet, and scan for wreckage. Given the fact that the sea floor in the area is approximately that deep - and even deeper in some spots - the sub will be operating to the limits of its capability, Houston said.

Houston cautioned that it was too early to say the transmissions were coming from the black boxes on the missing passenger jet.

"I would want more confirmation before we say this is it," he said. "Without wreckage, we can't say it's definitely here. We've got to go down and have a look, and hopefully we'll find it somewhere in the area that we narrowed to."

Meanwhile, officials were trying to determine whether two separate sounds heard by a Chinese ship about 345 miles away from the Ocean Shield were related to the plane. The patrol vessel Haixun 01 first detected a brief "pulse signal" on Friday at the same frequency used by the airliner's black boxes. The ship detected a second signal on Saturday within 1.4 miles of the original signal, this one lasting for 90 seconds. Houston said China also reported seeing floating white objects in the area.

A British navy ship, the HMS Echo, with sophisticated sound-locating equipment, arrived Monday in the area where the Chinese ship picked up signals.

The crew of the Chinese ship reportedly picked up the signals using a sonar device called a hydrophone dangled over the side of a small boat - something experts said was technically possible but extremely unlikely. The equipment aboard the British and Australian ships is dragged slowly behind each vessel over long distances and is considered far more sophisticated.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


CBS News Copy
March 27, 2014

PERTH, Australia -- A Thai satellite has detected about 300 objects near the search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner, officials in Bangkok said Thursday, but there was little chance of getting human eyes across those items in the near term as weather again forced officials to halt the search for debris by air.

Anond Snidvongs, director of Thailand's space technology development agency, said Thursday the images showed "300 objects of various sizes" in the southern Indian Ocean about 1,675 miles southwest of Perth. He said the images were taken by the Thaichote satellite on Monday, took two days to process and were relayed to Malaysian authorities on Wednesday.

Anond said the objects were about 125 miles from the area where a French satellite on Sunday spotted 122 objects. It remains uncertain whether any of the objects seen by satellites to date were from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared March 8 with 239 people aboard.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said all planes headed for the search area in the southern Indian Ocean on Thursday were returning to Perth. Ships, too, were leaving the area some 1,550 miles southwest of Perth that was buffeted by heavy rains and strong winds that brought low clouds and reduced visibility.

Eleven planes and five ships had planned to scour the sea Thursday for objects from the Boeing 777.

Search planes have been flying out of Perth for a week, looking without any success for objects spotted in vague satellite images.

Finding them would give physical confirmation that the flight had crashed, and enable searchers to narrow the hunt for the wreckage of the plane and its "black boxes," which could help solve the mystery of why the plane was so far off-course.

Malaysian officials said earlier this week that satellite data confirmed the plane crashed while on a course toward the southern Indian Ocean. Malaysia Airlines on Thursday ran a full-page condolence advertisement with a black background in a major newspaper.

"Our sincerest condolences go out to the loved ones of the 239 passengers, friends and colleagues. Words alone cannot express our enormous sorrow and pain," read the advertisement in the New Straits Times.

The 122 objects captured by a French satellite ranged in size from 3 feet to 75 feet. The sighting was called "the most credible lead that we have" by a top Malaysian official on Wednesday, but the search will now have to wait until the weather improves, echoing the frustration of earlier sweeps that failed to zero in on three objects spotted by satellites in recent days.

Malaysian officials, meanwhile, again sought to assuage the angry relatives of the flight's 153 Chinese passengers. But Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also expressed exasperation, pointedly saying Chinese families "must also understand that we in Malaysia also lost our loved ones," as did "so many other nations."

The French satellite images, captured Sunday and relayed by French-based Airbus Defense and Space, were the first to suggest a debris field from the plane, rather than just isolated objects. The items were spotted in roughly the same area as other objects previously seen by Australian and Chinese satellites, and the newly detected possible debris field seen by the Thai satellite may increase hopes that wreckage can be found once the weather clears.

At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Hishammuddin said some of the objects seen by the French satellite "appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid materials."

But experts cautioned that the area's frequent high seas and bad weather and its distance from land complicated an already-trying search.

In addition, one expert told CBS News it was "highly likely that it is trash and not evidence of the plane."

Charles Moore, who's been studying ocean trash for nearly 20 years at the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Long Beach, Calif., points out that there are "thousands of shipping containers lost overboard every year" in that part of the Indian Ocean. The objects could even be from the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, Moore added.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


CBS News Copy
Updated: March 24, 2014, 6pm

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CNN) -- A grim-faced Malaysian Prime Minister confirmed the worst fears of the families of those aboard Flight 370, announcing Monday that the missing plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean.

New analysis of satellite data by a British satellite company and accident investigators led to that conclusion, Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

"They have told us all lives are lost," a missing passenger's relative briefed by the airline in Beijing said.

While the last-minute announcement appeared to end hopes of finding survivors more than two weeks after the flight vanished, it left many key questions unanswered, including what went wrong aboard the Beijing-bound airliner and the location of its wreckage in the deep, wild waters of the Indian Ocean.

For families, some of whom had held out hope their relatives somehow were still alive, the news appeared to be devastating. At a briefing for relatives in Beijing, some were overcome and had to be taken from a hotel on stretchers. In Kuala Lumpur, a woman walked out of a briefing for families in tears.

"My son, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter were all on board. All three family members are gone. I am desperate!" a woman said outside the Beijing briefing.

Another woman came out of the briefing room screaming, expressing doubts about the Malaysian conclusion.

"Where is the proof?" she said. "You haven't confirmed the suspected objects to tell us no one survived."

Sarah Bajc, the partner of one of three Americans aboard the flight, Philip Wood, canceled all media interviews after the announcement.

"I need closure to be certain, but cannot keep on with public efforts against all odds," she wrote. "I still feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along."

A committee representing some of the families of the 154 Chinese and Taiwanese passengers aboard the missing aircraft sharply criticized the Malaysian government in a statement, accusing authorities of deliberate search delays and cover-ups, China's state-run CCTV reported.

"If our 154 relatives aboard lost their lives due to such reasons, then Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and the Malaysian military are the real murderers that killed them," the statement said, according to CCTV.

Malaysian police have interviewed more than 50 people in their investigation into the missing plane, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakal told Malaysia's national news agency Bernama.

He said police are still focusing on four possibilities about what happened: a potential hijacking, sabotage, psychological issues or personal problems of the passengers and/or crew.

"Such cases may take up to a year," Khalid said, "so please don't jump to conclusions that the police are slow."

While investigators have yet to find even a piece of the plane, the Prime Minister based his announcement on what he described as unprecedented analysis of satellite data by British satellite provider Inmarsat and the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch. He didn't describe the nature of the analysis.

But he said the data -- drawn from satellite pings the ill-fated airliner continued to send throughout its final flight -- made it clear that the plane's last position was in the middle of the remote southern Indian Ocean, "far from any possible landing sites."

He begged reporters to respect the privacy of relatives.

"For them, the past few weeks have been heartbreaking," he said. "I know this news must be harder still."

The Prime Minister's statement came after the airline sent a text message to relatives saying it "deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those onboard survived."

The airline said it was making plans to fly families to Australia once wreckage is found.

Debris spotted in Indian Ocean

The announcement came the same day as Australian officials said they had spotted two objects in the southern Indian Ocean that could be related to the flight, which has been missing since March 8 with 239 people aboard.

One object is "a grey or green circular object," and the other is "an orange rectangular object," the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting transportation minister, said Monday that Australian authorities hoped to retrieve the objects by Tuesday morning. The Australian naval ship HMAS Success was steaming toward the location at last word Monday evening.

The objects are the latest in a series of sightings, including "suspicious objects" reported earlier Monday by a Chinese military plane that was searching in the same region, authorities said.

A U.S. surveillance plane sent to follow up was unable to find the objects, and so far, none of the sightings has been definitively linked to Flight 370.

Ten aircraft -- from Australia, China, the United States and Japan -- searched the area Monday.

China said Monday after the Prime Minister's announcement that it would be sending more ships to help search for the aircraft.

China has a particularly large stake in the search: Its citizens made up about two-thirds of the passengers on the missing Boeing 777.

Beijing, which has repeatedly called on Malaysian authorities to step up efforts to find the plane, repeated those calls Monday after the Prime Minister's announcement.

China is paying "high attention" to the Malaysian announcement that the plane had gone down in the ocean, and asked authorities there for "all information and evidence leading up to such a conclusion," according to a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website.

Satellites focus search

Amid a vast regional search that at one point spanned nearly 3 million square miles, searchers have homed in on the southern Indian Ocean in recent days following satellite images that have spotted a variety of unknown objects in an area roughly 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.

Australia reported the first images in the area, followed by China and France.

The area also lies on a projected flight path for the aircraft calculated in part from the satellite pings sent by the plane after other communications systems had shut down.

Australian officials have repeatedly warned that the objects may not be from the missing plane. They could be containers that have fallen off cargo ships, for example.

On Saturday, searchers found a wooden pallet as well as strapping belts, Australian authorities said. Hishammuddin said Monday that wooden pallets were among the items on Flight 370. But such pallets are also common in the ocean shipping industry, so it they may be unrelated to the flight.

The investigation into the passenger jet's disappearance has already produced a wealth of false leads and speculative theories. Previously, when the hunt was focused on the South China Sea near where the plane dropped off civilian radar, a number of sightings of debris proved to be unrelated to the search.

Plane said to have flown low

Monday's dramatic developments came after a weekend during which other nuggets of information emerged about the movements of the errant jetliner on the night it vanished.

Military radar tracking shows that after making a sharp turn over the South China Sea, the plane changed altitude as it headed toward the Strait of Malacca, an official close to the investigation into the missing flight told CNN.

The plane flew as low as 12,000 feet at some point before it disappeared from radar, according to the official. It had reportedly been flying at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet when contact was lost with air traffic control.

The sharp turn seemed to be intentional, the official said, because executing it would have taken the Boeing 777 two minutes -- a time period during which the pilot or co-pilot could have sent an emergency signal if there had been a fire or other emergency.

Authorities say the plane didn't send any emergency signals, though some analysts say it's still unclear whether the pilots tried but weren't able to communicate because of a catastrophic failure of the aircraft's systems.

The official, who is not authorized to speak to the media, told CNN that the area the plane flew in after the turn is a heavily trafficked air corridor and that flying at 12,000 feet would have kept the jet well out of the way of that traffic.

Was plane's route reprogrammed?

Also over the weekend, Malaysian authorities said the last transmission from the missing aircraft's reporting system showed it heading to Beijing -- a revelation that appears to undercut the theory that someone reprogrammed the plane's flight path before the co-pilot signed off with air traffic controllers for the last time.

That reduces, but doesn't rule out, suspicions about foul play in the cockpit.

Last week, CNN and other news organizations, citing unnamed sources, reported that authorities believed someone had reprogrammed the aircraft's flight computer before the sign-off.

CNN cited sources who believed the plane's flight computer must have been reprogrammed because it flew directly over navigational way points. A plane controlled by a human probably would not have been so precise, the sources said.

Malaysian authorities never confirmed that account, saying last week that the plane's "documented flight path" had not been altered.

On Sunday, they clarified that statement further, saying the plane's automated data reporting system included no route changes in its last burst, sent at 1:07 a.m. -- 12 minutes before the last voice communication with flight controllers.

Analysts are divided about what the latest information could mean. Some argue it's a sign that mechanical failure sent the plane suddenly off course. Others say there are still too many unknowns to eliminate any possibilities.

CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien called the fresh details about the flight a "game changer."

"Now we have no evidence the crew did anything wrong," he said. "And in fact, now, we should be operating with the primary assumption being that something bad happened to that plane shortly after they said good night."

If a crisis onboard caused the plane to lose pressure, he said, pilots could have chosen to deliberately fly lower to save passengers.

"You want to get down to 10,000 feet, because that is when you don't have to worry about pressurization. You have enough air in the atmosphere naturally to keep everybody alive," he said. "So part of the procedure for a rapid decompression ... it's called a high dive, and you go as quickly as you can down that to that altitude."

Authorities have said pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah was highly experienced. On Monday, Malaysian authorities said Flight 370 was co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid's sixth flight in a Boeing 777, and the first time when he was not traveling with an instructor pilot shadowing him.

"We do not see any problem with him," said Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya.


CBS News Copy

A new analysis of satellite data indicates the missing Malaysia Airlines plane plunged into a remote corner of the Indian Ocean, Malaysia's prime minister said.

The news is a major breakthrough in the unprecedented two-week struggle to find out what happened to Flight 370, which disappeared shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew aboard on March 8.

Dressed in a black suit, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the news in a brief news conference late Monday night.

"It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean," he said.

He said Malaysia Airlines has informed the families of passengers of the plane's fate.

"For them the past few weeks have been heartbreaking," Razak said. "I know this news must be harder still."

Najib said the information was based on an unprecedented analysis of satellite data from Inmarsat.

Malaysia Airlines also released a statement on its website, saying "our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time... The ongoing multinational search operation will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain. Alongside the search for MH370, there is an intensive investigation, which we hope will also provide answers."

Earlier Monday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the crew on board an Australian P3 Orion had located two objects in the search zone - the first grey or green and circular, the second orange and rectangular. The crew was able to photograph the objects, but it was unclear if they were part of an aircraft.

Separately, the crew aboard one of two Chinese IL-76 aircraft combing the search zone observed two large objects and several smaller ones spread across several square miles, Xinhua News Agency reported. At least one of the items - a white, square object - was captured on a camera aboard the plane, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

China had redirected the icebreaker Snow Dragon toward the latest find, and that ship was due to arrive early Tuesday. Six other Chinese ships have been directed toward the search zone, about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth, along with 20 fishing vessels that have been asked to help, Hong said.

The ocean depth in the search area ranges between 3,770 feet and 23,000 feet, and the U.S. Pacific Command said it was sending a black box locator.

The Towed Pinger Locator, which is pulled behind a vessel at slow speeds, has highly sensitive listening capability so it can hear the black box "pinger" down to a depth of about 6,100 meters, Cmdr. Chris Budde, a U.S. 7th Fleet operations officer, said in a statement.

An Australian navy support vessel, the Ocean Shield, was also moving into the search zone and would arrive in three or four days, a defense official said. The ship is equipped with acoustic detection equipment that can also search for the missing plane's black box.

The search was given added momentum when a French satellite detected potential debris on Sunday, after Australia and China earlier released satellite images identifying suspect objects.

Malaysian authorities have said pings sent by the Boeing 777-200 for several hours after it disappeared indicated that the plane ended up in one of two huge arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia, or a southern corridor that stretches toward Antarctica.
Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Authorities are considering the possibilities of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.

Malaysia's police chief, Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar, reiterated at a news conference Monday that all the passengers had been cleared of suspicion.

But he said the pilots and crew were still being investigated. He would not comment on whether investigators had recovered the files that were deleted a month earlier from the home flight simulator of the chief pilot.

Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid had just transitioned to flying Boeing 777s from other commercial planes and the missing flight was his sixth on that type of aircraft.

Fariq had passed all training requirements to fly without incident, Ahmad said.

Several U.S. lawmakers on Sunday panned the Malaysian government's role in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, accusing the Malaysians of withholding information and bungling the crucial early days of the search.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said the Malaysian government squandered the early days of the search looking for the plane in Central Asia when it was likely to be found in the southern Indian Ocean .

"I think the Malaysian government spent way too much time focusing on the northern routes and the Gulf of Thailand and Kazakhstan," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "It would have been picked up by radar and we knew that. And I know satellite imagery given to the Malaysians established that, but we wasted a week of precious time up in that region when all along it's been in southern Indian Ocean, I think is where the location is."

CBS News Aviation and Safety Expert Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger said on "Face the Nation" that some "missteps" early in the investigation have impaired the search effort.

"Here we are...into the third week of the investigation and just now beginning to re-narrow the search to areas that are still as large as the United States," he said.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Associated Press News Release

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says a new analysis of satellite data shows that the missing Malaysia Airlines plane plunged into the southern Indian Ocean.

If confirmed, the news would be a major breakthrough in the unprecedented two-week struggle to find out what happened to Flight 370, which disappeared shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew aboard.


CBS News Copy
March 20, 2014 7am

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Search planes flying out of Australia resumed a difficult hunt through rough seas in one of the most remote places on Earth Friday for objects that may be from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

In what one official called the "best lead" of the nearly 2-week-old aviation mystery, a satellite detected two large objects floating off the southwest coast of Australia about halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.

The area in the southern Indian Ocean is so remote is takes aircraft longer to fly there -- four hours -- than it allows for the search.

The discovery raised new hope of finding the vanished jet and sent another emotional jolt to the families of the 239 people aboard.

A search Thursday with four planes in clouds and rain found nothing, and Australian authorities said Friday a fifth plane would be added. All five were in the air Friday -- en route, at the scene some 1,400 miles off western Australia, or heading back. The first of the planes returned without spotting anything.

Friday did at least bring better weather in the search area than the planes encountered the day before. There were some low clouds forecast, but relatively clear conditions under them, John Young, of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, told reporters Friday.

Three Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orion planes and an ultra-long-range Bombardier Global Express were part of the search group, along with a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft.

The planes only have enough fuel for two to three hours of search time before having to return to Perth.

A New Zealand P-3 Orion plane took part in the unsuccessful search Thursday. Mike Yardley, an air commodore with New Zealand's air force, said the plane was forced to duck below thick clouds and fog to a very low altitude of 200 feet, hampering the operation.

But Yardley was optimistic that the searchers will find the objects. "We will find it - I'm sure about that piece of it. The only reason we wouldn't find it was that it has sunk," he said of the large unidentified object spotted by the satellite.

"I've been on these missions before when it's taken a few days to come across it," he said.

Speaking at a news conference in Papua New Guinea, Australian leader Tony Abbott said, "We've been throwing everything we've got at that area to try to learn more about what this debris might be."
He said that the objects "could just be a container that's fallen off a ship - we just don't know."

Abbott spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he described as "devastated." Of the 227 passengers on the missing flight, 154 were from China.

"It's about the most inaccessible spot that you could imagine on the face of the earth, but if there is anything down there we will find it. We owe it to the families of those people to do no less," Abbott said.

One of the objects on the satellite image was almost 80 feet long -- which is longer than a standard container -- and the other was 15 feet. There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from Australia, John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division, said Thursday.

"This is a lead, it's probably the best lead we have right now," Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a busy shipping route.

Truss said officials were checking more satellite images with stronger resolution to find out how far the objects might have shifted since the initial images were captured. "They will have moved because of tides and wind and the like, so the search area is quite broad," Truss said.
"CBS This Morning" contributor Michio Kaku, a physics professor at the City University of New York, said the area is "quite turbulent, and even a gentle current of five miles an hour could carry debris of hundreds of miles across."

The search is a "literal race against time," according to Kaku. "The black box has a beacon, but that beacon has a battery -- a battery with a life 30 days," he explained. "And we've already lost two weeks, so of the window of opportunity is closing very rapidly."

The Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg, with a Filipino crew of 20, arrived in the area and used lights to search overnight before it resumed a visual search Friday, said Ingar Skiaker of Hoegh Autoliners, speaking to reporters in Oslo.

The Norwegian ship, which transports cars, was on its way from South Africa to Australia, he said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said another commercial ship and an Australian navy vessel were also en route to the search area.

Three Chinese naval ships were heading to the area. China's search and rescue agency also said it had asked the country's Oceanic Administration to dispatch the icebreaker Xue Long (the Snow Dragon), which was in Perth following a voyage to the Antarctica in January, to take part in the search.

There have been several false leads since the Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and one analyst cautioned against rising hopes the objects are from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
"The chances of it being debris from the airplane are probably small, and the chances of it being debris from other shipping are probably large," said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The development also marked a new phase for the anguished relatives of the passengers, who have been critical of Malaysian officials for what the relatives say has been the slow release of timely information. While they still hope their loved ones will somehow be found, they acknowledged that news of the satellite images could mean the plane fell into the sea.

"If it turns out that it is truly MH370, then we will accept that fate," said Selamat Omar, the father of a Malaysian passenger. The jet carried mostly Chinese and Malaysian nationals. There were three Americans on board.

But he cautioned that relatives still "do not yet know for sure whether this is indeed MH370 or something else. Therefore, we are still waiting for further notice from the Australian government."

Sarah Bajc, whose boyfriend, American Philip Wood, was aboard the plane, is one of those anxiously awaiting news.

"I'm desperate to hear it is an airplane wing and there are survivors clinging to it, and one of them is Philip," she told CBS News by email. "I'm apprehensive it will be unrelated and the wait will just continue after many more hours of misery."

"I am prepared for dead bodies," she wrote, "but I am not prepared for never knowing."

Malaysian officials met with the relatives Thursday night in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, but journalists were kept away. After the meeting, groups of people left looking distraught.

Hamid Amran, who had a child on Flight 370, said questions asked at the meeting made it "apparent that Malaysia's military is incapable of protecting its own airspace."

He believes "that my child and all the other passengers are still alive. I will not give up hope."

The hunt has encountered other false leads. Oil slicks that were seen did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be sea trash. Chinese satellite images showed possible debris, but nothing was found.

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


CBS News Copy
March 20, 2014 7:20am

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Four military search planes were dispatched Thursday to try to determine whether two large objects bobbing in a remote part of the Indian Ocean were part of a possible debris field from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

One of the objects spotted in the satellite imagery was approximately 24 meters (79 feet) long, and another was thought to be about 5 meters (16.5 feet). There could be other objects in waters nearby in the area that's a four-hour flight from Australia's southwestern coast, said John Young, manager of Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division.

"This is a lead, it's probably the best lead we have right now," said Young, while cautioning that the objects could also be seaborne debris along a key shipping route where containers periodically fall off cargo vessels.

Young told a news conference in Canberra, Australia's capital, that planes had been sent to the area about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth to check on the objects. He said that satellite images "do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our views on that until they are sighted close-up."
He said one of the planes had arrived and dropped marker buoys to begin tracking the drift of objects in the ocean currents in the area. The other jets were several hours away. Young said and Australian Navy vessel was en route to the area to try and collect the floating objects and determine conclusively whether they're linked to the missing passenger plane. That ship was "days" away.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had earlier told Parliament about the debris.

Young said visibility was poor and may hamper efforts to find the objects. He said they "are relatively indistinct on the imagery ... but those who are experts indicate they are credible sightings. The indication to me is of objects that are a reasonable size and probably awash with water, moving up and down over the surface."

CBS News' Bob Orr reported Thursday that the objects spotted on the satellite images were at the extreme southern end of the projected southern search corridor, so in an area where all earlier information suggested crews might expect to find the missing jet. He said it was conceivable that the largest object -- nearly 80 feet in length -- was one of the Boeing 777's wings. As the flight would have been near the end of its fuel supply in reaching the area, the fuel tanks in the wings would be close to empty, giving the wings added buoyancy.

Military planes from Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand have been covering a search region over the southern Indian Ocean that was narrowed down from 232,000 square miles to 117,000 square miles.

The hunt for the Boeing 777 has been punctuated by several false leads since it disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand.
Oil slicks that were spotted did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be a piece of sea trash. Chinese satellite images showed possible plane debris, but nothing was found.

But this is the first time that possible objects have been spotted since the search area was massively expanded into two corridors, one stretching from northern Thailand into Central Asia and the other from the Strait of Malacca down to southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.
Abbott said he spoke to the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, about the latest developments. Australia's envoy to Malaysia, Rod Smith, joined a meeting of senior Malaysia search officials at a Kuala Lumpur hotel after Abbott's announcement. Smith did not respond to reporters' questions.

"As I've been doing from day one, I've followed every single lead. And this time, I hope it is a positive development," Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters

CBS News has confirmed the FBI has been provided electronic data to analyze from a flight simulator belonging to the pilot of the missing jet. It is expected the hard drive will be brought to an FBI lab in the United States. This FBI is lending technical expertise, not taking over the investigation.

Files containing records of flight simulations were deleted Feb. 3 from the device found in the home of the pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu said.

It was not clear whether investigators thought that deleting the files was unusual. They might hold hints of unusual flight paths that could help explain where the missing plane went, or the files could have been deleted simply to clear memory for other material.

Hishammuddin told a news conference Wednesday that Zaharie is considered innocent until proven guilty. He said members of the pilot's family are cooperating in the investigation.

Zaharie was known to some within the online world of flight simulation enthusiasts.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation by name, said the FBI has been asked to analyze the deleted simulator files.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in Washington that the FBI was working with Malaysian authorities. He said U.S. investigators are prepared to help any way they can.. "At this point, I don't think we have any theories," he said.

President Obama says finding out what happened to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane is a top priority for the U.S.
"We have put every resource that we have available at the disposal of the search process," Obama said in an interview with Dallas-Fort Worth television station KDFW. He said the nation's thoughts and prayers were with the grieving families. Three Americans were aboard the flight.

Flight 370 disappeared March 8 on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation, but have said the evidence so far suggests the flight was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Investigators have identified two giant arcs of territory spanning the possible positions of the plane about 7-and-a-half hours after takeoff, based on its last faint signal to a satellite - an hourly "handshake" signal that continues even when communications are switched off. The arcs stretch up as far as Kazakhstan in central Asia and down deep into the southern Indian Ocean.

Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board, and have asked for background checks from abroad on all foreign passengers.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


CBS News Copy
Timeline of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

It all began early Saturday morning - March 8.

Sometime after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 took off at 12:41 a.m., investigators believe someone re-programmed the plane's flight management system to turn away from its original flight plan. Then 26 minutes after take-off, the plane sent its last automatic maintenance data transmission to the airline.

At 1:19 a.m., the co-pilot, Fariq Hamid, told air traffic controllers in Malaysia, "All right, good night," as the plane moved toward Vietnamese airspace. They were the last words heard from the cockpit.

Two minutes later, at 35,000 feet, the transponder was turned off. The plane went dark on civilian radar, and then made a left turn back toward Malaysia.

Sources say it followed an established aviation corridor over several navigational "waypoints."

The Malaysian military tracked an unidentified object on its radar traveling west towards the Strait of Malacca. Authorities now believe that was Flight 370. At 2:15 a.m., it disappeared from the military radar, about 200 miles northwest of Penang.

Investigators also say the plane's antenna signaled to a satellite multiple times over the next several hours. The last signal came at 8:11 a.m., about the time the plane would have run out of fuel.

That last satellite contact led authorities to dramatically expand the search area. Now there is a lot of focus on the south Indian Ocean. The National Transportation Safety Board is now helping Australian authorities pinpoint locations to search.


CBS News Copy

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Australia took the lead Monday in searching for the missing Boeing 777 over the southern Indian Ocean as Malaysia appealed for radar data and search planes to help in the unprecedented hunt through a vast swath of Asia stretching northwest into Kazakhstan.

Investigators say Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was deliberately diverted and its communications equipment switched off shortly after takeoff during an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8. Suspicion has fallen on anyone aboard the plane with aviation experience, in particular the pilot and co-pilot.

On Sunday, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference that that the final, reassuring words from the cockpit -- "All right, good night" -- were spoken to air traffic controllers after the ACARS system was shut off. Whoever spoke did not mention any trouble on board.

In a news conference Monday morning, Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said for the first time that "initial investigations show it was the co-pilot who spoke," but government officials did not say the speaker's identity had been confirmed.

Police searched the house of co-pilot Fariq Hamid, over the weekend, though authorities have said no evidence has been found to implicate either pilot in any potential wrongdoing. CBS News' Seth Doane rang the doorbell at Fariq's house over the weekend, but nobody answered. Neighbors told Doane they had seen police cars and motorcycles at the address.

The neighbors said Fariq's family was relatively quiet and kept to themselves. They said the 27-year-old went to a good school and had a father in government. One man described the pilot as "a nice boy" who "goes to the mosque to pray quite often."

Malaysian police confiscated a flight simulator from the home of the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, Saturday, in what Malaysia's police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said Sunday was the first visit to their homes. The government issued a statement Monday contradicting that account by saying that police first visited the pilots' home on March 9, the day after the flight.

Authorities have said someone on board the plane first disabled one of its communications systems -- the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS -- about 40 minutes after takeoff. The ACARS equipment sends information about the jet's engines and other data to the airline.

Around 14 minutes later, the transponder that identifies the plane to commercial radar systems was also shut down. The fact that both systems went dark separately offered strong evidence that the plane's disappearance was deliberate.

Malaysia's police chief, Khalid Abu Bakar, said he asked countries with citizens on board the plane to investigate their backgrounds, no doubt looking for anyone with terrorism ties, aviation skills or prior contact with the pilots. He said that the intelligence agencies of some countries had already done so and found nothing suspicious, but he was waiting for others to respond.

Police confiscated the elaborate flight simulator that Zaharie had built in his home and reassembled it in their offices to study it for clues, Khalid said.

Zaharie, 53, who has three grown children and one grandchild, had previously posted photos online of the simulator, which was made with three large computer monitors and other accessories. Earlier this week, the head of Malaysia Airlines said the simulator was not in itself cause for any suspicion.

A CBS News crew tried Sunday to visit the gated community where Zaharie lives, but the crew was turned away by beefed-up security.

Doane reported that investigators were also paying close attention to one of the passengers who was a flight engineer for a private aviation charter company. He was believed to be heading for Beijing to check on one of his company's charter aircraft.

In addition to those aboard the flight, Malaysian police were also investigating engineers and ground staff who may have had contact with the plane before it took off.

Even though the ACARS system was disabled on Flight 370, it continued to emit faint hourly pulses that were recorded by a satellite. The last "ping" was sent out at 8:11 a.m. -- 7 hours and 31 minutes after the plane took off. That placed the jet somewhere in a huge arc as far north as Kazakhstan in Central Asia or far into the southern Indian Ocean.

While many people believe the plane has crashed, there is a small possibility it may have landed somewhere and be relatively intact. Affendi, the air force general, and Hishammuddin, the defense minister, said it was possible for the plane to "ping" when it was on the ground if its electrical systems were undamaged.

Australia said it was sending one of its two AP-3C Orion aircraft involved in the search to remote islands in the Indian Ocean at Malaysia's request. The plane will search the north and west of the Cocos Islands, a remote Australian territory with an airstrip about 745 miles southwest of Indonesia, military chief Gen. David Hurley said.

Given that a northern route would have sent the plane over countries with busy airspace, most experts say the person in control of the aircraft would more likely have chosen to go south. The southern Indian Ocean is the world's third-deepest and one of the most remote stretches of water in the world, with little radar coverage.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament that he agreed to take the lead scouring the southern Indian Ocean for the "ill-fated aircraft" during a conversation Monday with Malaysia's leader Najib Razak.

Given the expanse of land and water that might need to be searched, finding the wreckage could take months or longer. Or it might never be located. Establishing what happened with any degree of certainty will probably require evidence from cockpit voice recordings and the plane's flight-data recorders.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WCTV 1801 Halstead Blvd. Tallahassee, FL 32309
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 250604471 - wctv.tv/a?a=250604471
Gray Television, Inc.