Satellite images do not belong to missing plane

07:19, Mar 13 2014
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Journalists attempt to interview a woman who is the relative of a passenger on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, as she crouches on the floor crying, at the Beijing Capital International Airport.
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A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries, surrounded by journalists, at the Beijing Capital International Airport on March 8, 2014.
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The Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew lost contact with air traffic controllers early on Saturday en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the airline said in a statement.
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An aerial view of an oil spill is seen from a Vietnamese Air Force aircraft in the search area for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, 250 km from Vietnam and 190 km from Malaysia, in this handout photo from Thanh Nien Newpaper taken on March 8.
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A spokesman (centre) of Malaysia Airlines is surrounded by journalists as he gives a briefing about Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at a hotel in Beijing March 8, 2014.
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A relative (front) of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she walks past journalists at a hotel in Beijing March 9, 2014. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER aircraft carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew was presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast on Saturday.
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Malaysia Airlines Commercial Director Hugh Dunleavy (centre) speaks to journalists about information of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
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Vietnamese Air Force officers sit in the cockpit of a search and rescue aircraft as they fly over the search area for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
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Volunteer rescue workers and religious organisations pray during multi-religion mass prayers for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.
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A view of oil slicks (pale line near the bottom right) spotted in an area of the South China Sea about 100 nautical miles (185 km) from Tok Bali Beach in Malaysia's Kelantan state.
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Admiral Datuk Mohd Amdan Kurish, Director General of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, looks at a radar screen while searching for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane in the South China Sea.
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A relative (left) of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is escorted by a caregiver from Malaysia Airlines as they walk in a corridor at a hotel in Beijing.
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Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik applies the final touches to a sand art sculpture he created wishing for the well being of the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, on a beach in Puri, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
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Life vests and lifesavers are seen onboard a Vietnam Air Force search and rescue aircraft on a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Tho Chu island.
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Journalists place their recorders as they get ready for the first briefing of the day at a news conference at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 10.
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Relatives of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cry inside a hotel they are staying, in Putrajaya. China has urged Malaysia to step up the search for the jetliner that went missing with 239 people on board, about two-thirds of them Chinese, and said it has sent security agents to help with an investigation into the misuse of passports.
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An officer looks out of a helicopter during a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, near Tho Chu Island.
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A map of a flight plan is seen on a computer screen during a meeting before a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, at Phu Quoc Airport.
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A woman stands in front of a giant screen showing the number hours since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing, in Beijing on March 10.
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A family member of a passenger from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 waits for news at Lido Hotel on March 10, in Beijing, China. Investigative teams continue to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and the 293 passengers that were travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
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Dato' Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation briefs the media over latest updates on missing Malaysia Airline MH370 on March 10, in Kuala Lumpur.
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Clouds hover outside the window of a Vietnam Air Force search and rescue aircraft An-26 on a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Vietnam's Tho Chu island.
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People believed to be relatives of passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are escorted to the VIP section of the Beijing Capital International Airport prior to flying to Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia Airlines
A Chinese relative of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines MH370 is comforted by a staff member of the airport as she shields her face from journalists at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
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A combination photo shows two men whom police said were travelling on stolen passports onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane.
Military personnel look out of a Singapore Air Force plane during the search
Military personnel look out of a Singapore Air Force plane during the search.
General Khalid Abu Bakar
Malaysia's police chief, Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar, addresses a news conference.
Zhuji, China
Students from an international school in east China city Zhuji pray for the passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Flight MH370 relatives
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: Family members of missing passengers leave a meeting in a Beijing Hotel.
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MESSAGE OF HOPE: A Vietnamese tourist writes a message of hope for missing passengers and crew.
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MESSAGES FOR THE MISSING: Tying a message of hope on a message board for passengers and crew.
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A relative of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 answers media questions at Lido Hotel.
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A charity worker comforts an emotional relative of a passenger.
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Indian sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik works on a sand sculpture of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at golden beach at Puri in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
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Satellite images reveal a possible crash site for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, where three large objects were seen in the water.
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An object sits in the water in satellite imagery released by China.
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The zone where the mystery objects were found.
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What appears to be fuel sits on the water in the area where three large objects were found.
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A crew member from the Royal Malaysian Air Force looks through the window of a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during a Search and Rescue operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Kidd and USS Pinckney are seen en transit in the Pacific Ocean in this US Navy picture taken May 18, 2011. Kidd and Pinkney have been searching for the missing Malaysian airliner and are being re-deployed to the Strait of Malacca off Malaysia's west coast as new search areas are opened in the Indian Ocean.
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Students watch as a group of artists put the finishing touches to a three dimensional artwork at a school in Makati city, metro Manila. According to the artists, the artwork is their way of expressing sympathy towards the relatives of passengers onboard the missing Boeing 777-200ER.
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Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein shows two maps with corridors of the last known possible location of the missing plane.
Selamat Omar shows a picture of his son, flight engineer Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat
Selamat Omar shows a picture of his son, flight engineer Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat who was onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Chinese relatives of the missing passengers
Chinese relatives of the missing passengers who were travelling onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 watch a television displaying a Malaysian press conference at Lido Hotel in Beijing.
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A family member of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as he watches a message board dedicated to passengers.
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Satellite photos from March 20 show the objects "possibly associated" with the search for the missing plane. The images were released hours after Australia announced it had "credible" leads in the search for flight MH370.
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Satellite photos from March 20 show the objects "possibly associated" with the search for the missing plane. The images were released hours after Australia announced it had "credible" leads in the search for flight MH370.
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A still image taken from video shows an image of an object spotted in the southern Indian Ocean by the Gaofen-1 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite of CNSA.
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Pilot Dave Smith (R) gives a pre-flight briefing aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft before taking off to search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, at RAAF base Pearce near Perth, March 22, 2014.
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Family members of passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 raise their fists as they shout "return our families" to protest against the lack of new information after a routine briefing given by Malaysia's government and military representatives at Lido Hotel in Beijing March 22, 2014.
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Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds up a note that he has just received on a new lead in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, during a news conference at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 22, 2014.
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Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (bottom C) takes part in a special prayer for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin mosque in Putrajaya March 21, 2014.
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A woman writes on a banner of well wishes for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 14, 2014.
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A family member of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 covers her face as she cries after a routine briefing given by Malaysia Airlines at Lido Hotel in Beijing, March 22, 2014.
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A girl reads some of the messages of hope and support for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at a mall outside Kuala Lumpur March 22, 2014.
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A crew member aboard a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion uses binoculars as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean during the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 March 22, 2014.
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A woman writes another message of hope and support for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at a mall outside Kuala Lumpur March 22, 2014.
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Map of the southern Indian Ocean locating site where a satellite may have found debris related to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; includes satellite images of possible debris. MCT
Search for MH370
Solid matter is pictured floating in the southern Indian Ocean seen from a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft searching for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
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INDIAN OCEAN - This handout Satellite image made available by the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) shows a map of the planned search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on March 24, 2014.
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Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds satellite images as he speaks about the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 26.
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A satellite photo, showing the locations and co-ordinates of unknown objects reported by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA) in the Indian Ocean. The images were taken on March 23 and released on March 26.
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A satellite photo, showing the location of unknown objects reported by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA) in the Indian Ocean. The images were taken on March 23 and released on March 26.

No signs of the missing Malaysian jetliner have been found at a spot where Chinese satellite images showed what might be plane debris, Malaysia's civil aviation chief said Thursday, deflating the latest lead in the five-day hunt.

"There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Vietnamese officials previously said the area had been "searched thoroughly" in recent days.

Satellite
CRASH SITE?: Satellite images reveal a possible crash site for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, where three large objects were seen in the water.

The hunt for the Boeing 777 has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard just hours after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. 

The plane was heading northeast over the South China Sea when it disappeared, but authorities believe it may have turned back and headed into the upper reaches of the Strait of Malacca or beyond.

Adding to the mystery, The Wall Street Journal reported that US investigators suspect the plane flew on for four hours once it lost contact with air traffic controllers, based on data from the plane's engines that are automatically downloaded and transmitted to the ground as part of routine maintenance programs.

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The location where Chinese images showed possible debris is not far from where the last confirmed position of the plane was between Malaysia and Vietnam. The images and coordinates were posted on the website of China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

A Xinhua report said the images from around 11am on Sunday appear to show "three suspected floating objects" of varying sizes in a 20-kilometre radius, the largest about 24-by-22 metres off the southern tip of Vietnam, near an oil rig off where a New Zealand worker claimed to have witnessed a burning object in the sky.

Pham Quy Tieu, deputy transport minister, told The Associated Press that the area had been "searched thoroughly" by forces from other countries over the past few days. Doan Huu Gia, chief of air search and rescue coordination center, said Malaysian and Singaporean aircraft were scheduled to visit the area again Thursday.

Li Jiaxiang, chief of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said later China had yet to confirm any link between the suspected floating objects and the plane.

Malaysia has come under some criticism for its handling of the search, which currently covers 92,600 square kilometers) and involves 12 nations.

FLYING ON FOR FOUR HOURS?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that US investigators suspect a missing Malaysian jetliner flew on for four hours once it lost contact with air traffic controllers.

The suspicion is based on data from the plane's engines that are automatically downloaded and transmitted to the ground as part of routine maintenance programs.

The report, based on two anonymous sources, raises questions as to why the Boeing 777 would have been flying without passive or active contact with the ground, and if anyone would have been in control during that time.

US counterterrorism officials are considering whether a pilot or someone else on board intentionally disabled the jetliner's transponders to avoid detection and divert it, the report said.

The plane's last known confirmed position was roughly halfway between Malaysia and Vietnam.

Malaysian authorities have since said they tracked what could have been the plane changing course and heading west.

Investigators have not ruled out any possible cause to explain the disappearance of the plane and the 239 people on board.

"There are issues about the quality of this information," said Steven Wallace, former director of the Office of Accident Investigation at the Federal Aviation Administration, when asked if the turnaround scenario was plausible.

"That question is very much on the table," he said. "What's the quality of this data?"

Uncertainty about the military's claim may explain why the search for the plane continued Wednesday in waters off both sides of the Malaysian peninsula. The chief of Malaysia's air force denied early reports attributed to him that military radar showed the China-bound plane turning back, but said he had "not ruled out the possibility of an air turn-back".

''I am not saying it's Flight MH370. We are still corroborating this,'' said General Rodzali Daud.

The radar used to track the flight after its transponder went dark Saturday morning was no more sophisticated than that used almost 75 years ago by London's defenders during the Battle of Britain.

It sends radio waves into the sky. When those waves encounter something, they bounce back. If the object happens to be the metal skin of an aircraft, it registers as a blob moving across the radar screen.

At the time Flight 370's transponder stopped functioning, the plane was at the outer range of Malaysia's radar. Radar is a line-of-sight instrument that can't look over the horizon, so its reach depends on the altitude of the airplane and on whether the radar equipment is located at ground level or on a mountaintop.

When a transponder is turned on — as is required on all commercial aircraft — it sends a signal to air-traffic controllers that reports the plane's speed, direction, altitude and call sign — in this case, MH370.

Because jetliners file flight plans in advance, a controller can check paperwork to confirm the type of plane — in this case, a Boeing 777.

If the transponder is turned off or suffers an electrical problem, the plane becomes no more than a moving blob on the screen, like a German Stuka dive bomber approaching London.

Air-traffic controllers have access to traditional radar, but they focus on transponder signals, which are referred to as secondary systems.

"The important distinction is that what 99.9 percent of air traffic controllers see is the secondary radar, which means that the controller is seeing information sent by the transponder of the airplane," Wallace said.

"Primary radar is what you need to have if you're trying to see someone who doesn't want you to see them, like an enemy attacking you," he said. "So primary radar is just looking at the reflection of the radar beam off the skin of the airplane, and it's of lesser quality; it doesn't provide any data."

The Malaysian military said that after Flight 370's transponder stopped transmitting, an unidentified airplane was detected at an altitude used only by airliners and military jets.

"That would not happen at high altitude unless it was military," Wallace said. "There wouldn't be any legal civilian operation without a transponder."

Wallace, who has spent decades investigating air crashes, ticked off notable cases in which an airplane has gone off course.

"Korean Airlines 007 in 1983, due to crew error, went off course into Soviet airspace and was shot down," he said. "Crew error is highly unlikely here. This was a way more modern airplane that has a GPS flight management system."

In two cases — involving EgyptAir in 1999 and SilkAir in 1997 — a suicidal pilot was thought to have brought the planes down, he said.

"I'm not suggesting that that was the case here," he said. "What happened here, if you believe this information [from the Malaysian military], was that the changing of course appeared to happen pretty much concurrently with the loss of the transponder. That has to suggest that control of the airplane was taken over by someone unauthorised."

MAP SHOWING WHERE KIWI SIGHTED 'BURNING OBJECT'

THE EMAIL ABOUT A 'BURNING OBJECT'

- Washington Post, with Stuff, AP, Reuters