The search for a missing Malaysian airliner has entered its 12th day as Australia continues to co-ordinate the search in the southern Indian Ocean, more than 3000 kilometres southwest of Perth.
Eleven days after contact was lost with Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and its 239 passengers and crew, there has been minimal progress in determining precisely what happened or where the plane ended up.
“We are still clueless at to what happened to the missing plane 12 days on,” a Malaysian aviation official told DPA on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.
A local newspaper reported that investigators found landing strips in Diego Garcia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and India in the flight simulator seized from the house of the plane’s pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, but a police source said he was not aware of such a report.
“As far as I know experts are still examining the flight simulator,” he said.
The search for the missing flight MH370, carrying 239 people on board, has been expanded to 7.68 million square kilometres, slightly larger than Australia, after Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Saturday the plane flew for up to seven hours toward an unknown destination after it vanished from radar.
Thailand’s military says its radar detected a plane that may have been MH370 just minutes after the jetliner’s communications went down.
It also says it didn’t share the information with Malaysia earlier because it wasn’t specifically asked for it.
A twisting flight path described on Tuesday by Thai air force spokesman Air Vice Marshal Montol Suchookorn took the plane to the Strait of Malacca, which is where Malaysian military radar tracked MH370 early March 8.
But Montol said the Thai military doesn’t know whether it detected the same plane.
When asked why it took so long to release the information, Montol said, “Because we did not pay any attention to it. The Royal Thai Air Force only looks after any threats against our country, so anything that did not look like a threat to us, we simply look at it without taking actions.”
He said the plane never entered Thai airspace and that Malaysia’s initial request for information in the early days of the search was not specific.
“When they asked again and there was new information and assumptions from (Malaysian) Prime Minister Najib Razak, we took a look at our information again,” Montol said.
“It didn’t take long for us to figure out, although it did take some experts to find out about it.”
The current search area, which was only properly identified after a week of fruitlessly scouring the South China Sea, is enormous – stretching from the depths of the Indian Ocean, up and over the Himalayas and into central Asia.
Twenty-six countries are now involved in that search in a northern corridor over south and central Asia, and a southern corridor stretching deep into the southern Indian Ocean towards Australia.
A French expert who took part in the search for Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic in 2009, said finding the Malaysian plane was a much tougher proposition.
“Here we simply have no idea of the location of the aircraft, because there were no ACARS signals,” said Jean-Paul Troadec, a special adviser with France’s civil aviation accident investigation agency.
Malaysia has deployed its navy and air force to the southern corridor, where Australia is taking the lead in scouring a huge section of ocean off its west coast.
“It will take at least a few weeks to search the area thoroughly,” said John Young of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
Chinese state media reported late on Tuesday that China was expanding its search efforts to waters southeast of the Bay of Bengal and west of Indonesia.
Xinhua said nine of its vessels would be involved and would focus on seas near Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia.