KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The search for a missing jetliner has been expanded well west of its last reported position, toward India, six days after it vanished an hour after taking off for Beijing.
(CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO TIMELINE OF FLIGHT 370 INVESTIGATION)
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that some searchers were being shifted hundreds of miles west of Malaysia, far off course from the intended flight path of the jet.
"It is my understanding the one possible piece of information, or pieces of information, has led to the possibility that a new search area be opened up over the Indian Ocean," said Carney, who added that U.S. government "may be allocating" resources to that area to take part in the search.
Meanwhile, Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein dismissed as "inaccurate" Thursday a report that claimed, based on engine data, that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may have flown for four hours following its last communication with air-traffic control.
Hishammuddin acknowledged that it is possible that the plane continued flying for a period of time but said a report in the Wall Street Journal stating that engine data from the jetliner continued to transmit information even after the plane lost contact with airport authorities was not correct.
The Journal issued a correction to its report, stating that it was based not on engine data but on unnamed U.S. investigators who analyzed signals sent through the plane's satellite-communication link, which transmits the status of some onboard systems.
The last data transmitted from the engines was received at 1:07 a.m. Saturday on the day the plane with 239 people on board vanished, and indicated that "everything is operating normally," said Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya.
In another twist in the search-and-rescue efforts now into their sixth day, Hishammuddin said that satellite images released Wednesday by China are not debris from the plane.
The murky images showed what might have been three pieces of debris of significant size, leading to a fruitless search Thursday by Malaysian aircraft in the area indicated, which matched the expected flight path.
Chinese authorities later explained the image release was an accident, and did not show Flight 370 plane debris, said Hishammuddin. The publication on an official Chinese government agency website was a result of "personal behavior which is now under investigation," and was not authorized nor endorsed by the Chinese government, he said, reading from a statement from the Chinese Embassy to Malaysia.
The statement echoed remarks earlier from Li Jiaxing, China's civil aviation chief, that China could not confirm the debris pictured was from the missing plane.
Hishammuddin again defended the Malaysian authorities' response to what he called an "unprecedented" and "crisis" situation.
The original flight plan ran up the east side of the peninsula, over the South China Sea, but the search was extended in recent days to the west side — the Straits of Malacca — after military radar indicated the possibility of a plane making a turn back and flying into that area.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board reviewed the data and agreed with Malaysian authorities that there were "reasonable grounds" to search on the western side of peninsular Malaysia, he said.
Malaysia would not ordinarily release raw data from its military radars, but "in this case we have put the search effort above our national security," and shared data with the USA, China and others, said Hishammuddin.