The Malaysian Insider
March 10, 2014
An extensive air and sea search resumed for the third day this morning for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370, as more questions arose over its last known location and the identity of some of its passengers on board the Boeing 777-200ER that vanished early Saturday morning.
Vietnamese authorities found fragments believed to be the composite inner door and tail section of the 11-year-old passenger jet, 50 miles south-southwest of Tho Chu island.
Malaysian authorities also found oil slicks some 20 nautical miles from MH370’s last known position when it disappeared from radar screens without even a distress call or signal.
Officials investigating the disappearance of flight MH370 with 239 people on board are narrowing the focus of their inquiries on the possibility that it disintegrated in mid-flight.
The MAS jet vanished after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing in the early hours of Saturday, but search teams have not been able to make any confirmed discovery of wreckage in seas beneath the plane’s flight path almost 48 hours after it took off.
“The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” said the official, who is involved in the investigations in Malaysia.
If the passenger jet had plunged intact from such a height, breaking up only on impact with the water, search teams would have expected to find a fairly concentrated pattern of debris, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
While 40 ships and 22 planes scour the South China Sea and Malacca Straits for the plane, other questions abound about some of the passengers on board the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight.
At least five people on board the plane were believed to have travelled with suspect documents, with at least two of them using passports stolen from Thailand’s holiday island of Phuket.
The International Criminal Police Organisation, or Interpol, confirmed that two passports used by passengers on board the missing flight were recorded in its database as lost or stolen.
“While it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol’s databases,” Interpol secretary-general, Ronald Noble, said in a statement yesterday.
Global TV station CNN reported that the two people who traveled on the flight under the passports of an Italian and an Austrian citizen appear to have bought their tickets together.
The tickets were bought from China Southern Airlines in Thai baht at identical prices, according to China’s official e-ticket verification system, Travelsky.
The ticket numbers are contiguous, which indicates the tickets were issued together. China Southern Airlines sold seven tickets for the code share flight, another media reported yesterday.
Italy and Austria have said that none of their citizens were on board the plane. And officials say the Italian and Austrian, whose names were on the passenger manifest, both had their passports stolen in Thailand in recent years.
The two tickets booked with China Southern Airlines both start in Kuala Lumpur, flying to Beijing, and then onward to Amsterdam. The Italian passport’s ticket continues to Copenhagen, the Austrian’s to Frankfurt, CNN said.
It is understood the tickets were sold in Pattaya, but authorities are looking into the reasons for the roundabout journey to the European cities via Beijing when Kuala Lumpur has direct flights.
“Why did the two travel from Thailand to Malaysia to China and then Europe? There are direct flights from Thailand so this does not make sense,” a source said.
It is also understood that the passengers did require a Chinese visa as they were Europeans and were using Beijing as a transit point to Europe. The other curious part is that the tickets were bought on March 6, a day before the passengers checked in for the redeye flight.
Two other European passengers aboard MH370 are still having their identities checked while China’s Xinhua news agency said there were discrepancies for a Chinese man who never left China but had his passport number listed in the flight manifest.
Also another mystery is the reasons for the Boeing 777-200ER to change course and turn back toward Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian military officials said at a news conference today.
But the pilot appeared to have given no signal to authorities that he was turning around, the officials said, attributing the change of course to indications from radar data.
“The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” a source involved in the investigations told Reuters.
If the plane had plunged intact from close to its cruising altitude, breaking up only on impact with the water, search teams would have expected to find a fairly concentrated pattern of debris, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the investigation publicly.
Asked about the possibility of an explosion, such as a bomb, the source said there was no evidence yet of foul play and that the aircraft could have broken up due to mechanical causes.
Dozens of military and civilian vessels have been criss-crossing waters beneath the aircraft’s flight path, but have found no confirmed trace of the lost plane, although oil slicks have been reported in the sea south of Vietnam and east of Malaysia.
Late on Sunday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said on its website that a Vietnamese navy plane had spotted an object in the sea suspected of being part of the plane, but that it was too dark to be certain. Search planes were set to return to investigate the suspected debris at daybreak. – March 10, 2014.