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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, August 20, 2018

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Search for missing Malaysian airliner widens into Indian Ocean

We will not stop searching: said China

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KUALA LUMPUR - The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is to widen into the Indian Ocean with reported data from the airliner indicating it might have flown into the vast ocean even as authorities are paying special attention to the background of a Chinese Uighur passenger.

New information, U.S. officials told CNN, indicates the missing airplane could have flown for several hours beyond the last radar reading.

Malaysian authorities believe they have several "pings" of engine data from the airliner's service data system, known as ACARS, transmitted to satellites in the four to five hours after the last transponder signal, suggesting the plane could have flown into the Indian Ocean, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

That information combined with known radar data and knowledge of fuel range leads officials to believe the plane may have made it to the Indian Ocean.

"It appears the plane was flying most of that time," the senior U.S. official told CNN. The "indication" that the plane kept flying is not based on U.S. government information but rather based on radar readings and plane data.

There is reason to believe the plane flew for four hours, the officials said, but there is no specific indication where the plane actually is.

This new information has now led to a decision to move the USS Kidd into the Indian Ocean in the coming hours to begin searching that area, the official said.

The official said multiple bursts of data were received indicating the plane was flying over the Indian Ocean.

But there's another confusing twist. An emergency beacon that would have sent data if the plane was about to impact the ocean apparently did not go off, the official said, suggesting perhaps the plane was still likely in some stable flight pattern when it disappeared, said CNN.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that many countries are partnering in the search and "following leads where we find them.

"Carney told reporters that "some new information that's not necessarily conclusive" could lead to "reallocating some assets" toward the Indian Ocean.

"We are looking at information, pursuing possible leads, working within the investigation being led by the Malaysian government, and it is my understanding that one possible piece of information or collection of pieces of information has led to the possibility that a new search area may be opened," Carney said.

According to a Wall Street Journal report the plane's engines have an on-board monitoring system supplied by their manufacturer, Rolls-Royce PLC. The system "periodically sends bursts of data about engine health, operations and aircraft movements to facilities on the ground," the newspaper said.

Malaysia Airlines sends its engine data live to Rolls-Royce for analysis, the report said, and that data is now being analyzed to figure out the flight path of the missing plane after contact was lost with its transponder, a radio transmitter in the cockpit that communicates with ground radar.

Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said that Rolls-Royce and Boeing have reported that they didn't receive transmissions of any kind after 1:07 a.m.

Saturday. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane shortly afterward, around 1:30 a.m. Erin Atan, a spokeswoman for Rolls-Royce in Asia, declined to comment on the matter, telling CNN it was "an official air accident investigation.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese and Chinese search crews found nothing where Chinese satellite photographs released Wednesday showed large floating objects in the South China Sea.

 The spot is between Malaysia and Vietnam and not far from the plane's expected flight path. In another major development, police investigating the backgrounds of the 239 people aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight are paying "special attention" to a 35 year-old Chinese Uighur man who had undertaken flight simulation training.

Leading Malay language newspaper, Harian Metro, quoted an unnamed source as saying the Uighur man is not a suspect over the plane's disappearance but that investigators were delving into his background.

According to the source the man has a PhD from a university in Britain was recently working as a lecturer at a university in Turkey.

The source said he undertook flight simulation training in Sweden around 2006. Malaysian officials have not confirmed the information.

No group has claimed responsibility for the plane's disappearance. Police are checking the psychological and personal backgrounds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew, including chief pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, whose house has been raided by police, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Police questioned his family about his behaviour over the days before the plane's disappearance, the same as they plan to do for all who were on board. Zharie is a veteran pilot with 18,000 flying hours. Police say they are investigating the possibilities of hijacking or sabotage.

Uighurs Muslims, an ethnic minority group from the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang, have been battling for independence since they were brought under Chinese control in 1949. They claim they are oppressed by China's authoritarian government and face religious restrictions and widespread discrimination.

Earlier this month the Uighurs, who make up 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang, were blamed for a violent attack at a Chinese train station. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, speaking at his annual press conference, reiterated that families and 1friends of more than 150 Chinese passengers on board the missing jet were "burning with anxiety".

 He said the Chinese government had asked Malaysian authorities to co-ordinate their activities and establish the cause of the disappearance.  "As long as there is a glimmer of hope, we will not stop searching," he said.

The aircraft, with 239 people on board, disappeared from civilian radar at 1.30am Saturday as it crossed the Gulf of Thailand from Malaysia > more...

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