The US Navy has ordered a ship to the Indian Ocean to search for a missing Malaysian airliner amid reports the plane kept “pinging” a satellite after losing radar contact.
The focus of search efforts shifted from the South China Sea after the White House said “new information” indicated the plane may have gone down to the west in the Indian Ocean.
“The USS Kidd is transiting the Strait of Malacca en route to the Indian Ocean,” a navy official said, referring to a guided-missile destroyer initially deployed to the Gulf of Thailand.
An additional US aircraft, a P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane, also was headed to the area, where a P-3 Orion was already aiding the search effort, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move followed reports that the Boeing 777 airliner’s communication system continued to “ping” a satellite for a number of hours after the plane disappeared off radar.
The signal came from the jet’s “airplane health management system” that provides a flow of data on the airliner’s operations, according to the Wall Street Journal and ABC News.
The Journal later retracted one detail in its original report, which had incorrectly stated that investigators were looking at signals from the plane’s Rolls-Royce engines.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, with 239 on board, took off from Kuala Lumpur nearly a week ago bound for Beijing, but vanished off radar somewhere across the Gulf of Thailand.
The possibility that the plane kept flying for several hours raised a host of new questions about the fate of the airliner and deepened the mystery surrounding the jet’s disappearance.
The international hunt initially focused on the South China Sea east of Malaysia, along the plane’s intended route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The White House said that unspecified new information had prompted authorities to examine an area to the west in the Indian Ocean.
“It’s my understanding that based on some new information that’s not necessarily conclusive, but new information, an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
“We are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy.”
Malaysian officials have said the airliner may have doubled back after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.
A second American destroyer, the USS Pinckney, remains in the Gulf of Thailand, and it was unclear if it would remain in the international search effort after this week, officials said.
US officials said on Wednesday that American military spy satellites detected no sign of a mid-air explosion when the plane went missing at 1.30 am Malaysian time on Saturday.