Missing flight MH370: Rolls Royce dragged into the mystery as rumours surface suggesting that data from the plane's engines showed it had flown for four hours more than thought

 

Asia Correspondent

The British company Rolls Royce was tonight at the centre of growing confusion and mystery about the plight of missing Flight MH370 after it was claimed data sent from the plane’s engines suggested it had flown for a further four hours from its last known location.

Six days after the Malaysian Airlines plane disappeared, officials in Kuala Lumpur said they had still detected no trace of the jet or its 239 passengers and crew. The search operation, involving 12 nations, is to be enlarged yet again, this time pushing westwards towards Indian waters.

At a news conference on Thursday, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said a search involving more than 80 aircraft and planes had still failed to uncover any trace of the Boeing 777. “There is no real precedent for a situation like this. The plane vanished,” he said.

Mr Hussein strongly denied reports that data from the plane’s two Trent 800 engines, manufactured by Rolls Royce in Derby, showed that it had flown for a further four hours from where it was last located and may have been steered off course.

Earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that investigators in the US were examining whether the missing plane was intentionally “diverted” from its planned route.

The report said US counter-terrorism officials were examining the possibility that the plane’s route had been changed “with the intention of using it later for another purpose” and that its transponders were intentionally turned off to avoid radar detection.

It said said data downloaded automatically as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring programme, suggested the plane flew for a total of five hours. Its final confirmed location was at 1.31am last Saturday, about 40 minutes after it took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. At that point it was heading north-east across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand on what should have been a six-hour flight to Beijing.

If true, the information would mean the plane could have flown on for up to 2,000 more miles and reached as far as India and Pakistan or even the north-west coast of Australia. It would expand the possible search area almost limitlessly.

By this stage in the investigation, most reports have suggested that terrorism or hijacking had been largely discounted. The report said the new data raised a “host of new questions and possibilities about what happened” to the plane and those aboard.

Mr Hussein rejected the report, saying experts from both Boeing and Rolls Royce were assisting the investigation and that the last transmission received from the engines was at 1.07am on Saturday morning. It had suggested everything was normal.

“Rolls Royce and Boeing teams are here in Kuala Lumpur and have worked with [Malaysia Airlines] investigation teams since Sunday,” he said. “This issue has never been raised. Since today’s media reports [Malaysia Airlines] has asked Rolls Royce and Boeing specifically about the data. As far as Rolls Royce and Boeing are concerned those reports are inaccurate.”

However, when asked if it was possible that the plane had kept flying for several more hours, the minister said: “Of course, we can’t rule anything out. This is why we have extended the search. We are expanding our search into the Andaman Sea.”

Mr Hussein also denied reports in the Malaysian media which claimed police had raided the home of the plane’s main pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, to determine whether or not he was encountering any psychological problems. “The pilot’s house has not been searched,” he said.

Neither Rolls Royce or Boeing have yet commented on the report. Bill O’Sullivan, a communications manager with Rolls Royce, told The Independent that any statement would be sent out by email if the company had one to make. A Boeing spokesman, John Dern, said it was up to the Malaysian authorities to make any comments about the investigation.

The dramatic claim and the strident denial mean that almost a week after the plane disappeared, there is more, rather than less, confusion about may have happened.

These developments came as an effort to locate the plane spread out over more than 27,000 nautical square miles. Search planes were dispatched to a site believed to be the location of where a Chinese government agency website said a satellite had photographed three “suspicious floating objects” on Sunday.

The location was close to where the plane lost contact with air traffic control but by early Thursday afternoon local time, nothing had been found at the spot. “We are in the middle of a multinational search involving many countries and more than 80 ships and aircraft. This is a crisis situation. It is a very complex operation and it has not always been easy,” said Mr Hussein, the transport minister.

Earlier on Thursday, China continued to put pressure on Malaysia. Of the 239 people on board, more than 150 were from China. China has criticised Malaysia for the slow pace of the operation and what it has called conflicting information about the search.

Speaking in Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang, called for the “relevant party” step up coordination while China’s civil aviation chief. “We will not give up on any suspected clue that has been found,” he said. “This is an international and large-scale search operation involving many countries.”

The last definitive sighting on civilian radar screens of MH370 came at 1.31am on Saturday, less than an hour after the plane took. On Wednesday Rodzali Daud, the Malaysian air force chief, said a dot was plotted on military radar at 2.15 a.m., 200 miles north-west of Penang Island off Malaysia’s west coast at the northern tip of the Strait of Malacca.

But he stressed that there was no confirmation that the dot on the radar was Flight MH370. He said Malaysia was sharing the data with the US Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Security Board.

Malaysia Airlines has said that as a mark of respect to the passengers and crew on board MH370, the MH370 and MH371 flight codes are to be will be retired from Kuala Lumpur- Beijing-Kuala Lumpur route.

The search for MH370 will push westwards into the Andaman Sea. India announced it will send three ships and three aircraft to help in the search. A spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, said two Dornier aircraft and a helicopter were being dispatched

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us