Oil slick not of missing Malaysia plane

Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2014 - 1:37pm

MANILA, Philippines — "As we enter into Day 4, the aircraft is yet to be found."

The latest report from Malaysia Airlines (MAS) spells misery as not a single trace of Flight MH370 has been spotted even as eight countries, including the Philippines, have joined the search for the missing airplane.

The oil slick, previously thought to be from Flight MH370 found in waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, was confirmed on Tuesday as not from the ill-fated plane carrying 239 people.

"The search and rescue teams have analysed debris and oil slick found in the waters. It is confirmed that it does not belong to MH370," Malaysia Airlines said in a statement on Tuesday.

Rescue teams are searching a 50-nautical mile radius from the point the plane vanished, but the only finds have been false alarms — a yellow object spotted by a search plane believed to have come from the plane turned out to be trash.

At least 34 aircraft and 40 ships have been deployed by Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines and the United States for the search mission, which has been expanded on Tuesday beyond the flight path.

The airline said that the military and patrol assets are searching in the West Peninsular of Malaysia in the Straits of Malacca.

"The authorities are looking at a possibility of an attempt made by MH370 to turn back to Subang. All angles are being looked at. We are not ruling out any possibilities," MAS said.

Military radar indicates that the missing Boeing 777 jet may have turned back, Malaysia's air force chief said Sunday.

The last known position of MH370 before it disappeared off the radar was 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude). It was originally en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

Police and Interpol questioned the proprietors of a travel agency in Thailand that sold one-way tickets to two men who traveled on stolen passports.

No technical issues

MAS also belied reports that there might have been safety flaws in the Boeing 777-200 jet, a model which has a nearly spotless flight record on safety.

"The B777-200 aircraft that operated MH370 underwent maintenance 10 days before this particular flight on 6 March 2014. The next check is due on 19 June 2014. The maintenance was conducted at the KLIA hangar and there were no issues on the health of the aircraft," it added.

There were neither distress calls nor information sent to the monitoring team during the flight. MAS said that the jet was far from being ill-equipped, with a data monitoring system which automatically transmits signals.

The airlines has also reiterated its apologies to the families of the victims and the public.

"We regret and empathize with the families and we will do whatever we can to ensure that all basic needs, comfort, psychological support are delivered. We are as anxious as the families to know the status of their loved ones," it said.

It also extended sympathies with the loved ones its crew on board left behind.

"To the families of the crew on-board MH370, we share your pain and anxiety. They are of the MAS family and we are deeply affected by this unfortunate incident," MAS noted.

What is not yet known

Authorities, meanwhile, still have unanswered questions on the missing flight:

What has happened to cause the plane to lose contact? Catastrophic failure of the engines or plane structure, extreme turbulence or pilot error or even suicide, are possible, though the use of the stolen passports has strengthened speculation of foul play.

Without debris, there's no confirmation that the plane crashed. But finding traces of an aircraft lost at sea can take days or longer, even with a sustained search effort.

It is neither known if the two men using stolen passports had anything to do with the plane's disappearance. - with Associated Press

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