April 10th, 2014
12:13 PM ET

New Details on Jet's Last Moments

Investigators got new information that may help them narrow the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Thursday as new details shed light on the doomed flight's final moments early March 8 as it flew from Kuala Lumpur toward Beijing.

A search plane has detected a possible signal - the fifth so far - from the locator beacons from the missing jet's so-called black boxes, the Australian agency coordinating the search announced.

The acoustic data from the possible signal, detected by an RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft on Thursday afternoon, were being analyzed at RAAF Base Edinburgh near Adelaide, according to a source with the Australian Defense Force. The source said the signal was detected by sonar buoys that had been deployed by the aircraft earlier.

The data show "potential of being from a man-made source," said retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the agency's chief coordinator.

A senior Malaysian government official and another source involved in the investigation divulged Thursday a number of details about the flight:

• Malaysian air force search aircraft were scrambled about 8 a.m. March 8, soon after Malaysia Airlines reported that its plane was missing, Malaysian sources told CNN. The aircraft took off before authorities corroborated data indicating that the plane turned back westward, a senior Malaysian government official told CNN.

• But the air force did not inform the Department of Civil Aviation or search and rescue operations until three days later, March 11, a source involved in the investigation told CNN.

• Flight 370's pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was the last person on the jet to speak to air-traffic controllers, telling them "Good night, Malaysian three-seven-zero," Malaysian sources told CNN. The sources said there was nothing unusual about his voice, which betrayed no indication that he was under stress. One of the sources, an official involved in the investigation, told CNN that police played the recording to five other Malaysia Airlines pilots who knew the pilot and co-pilot. "There were no third-party voices," the source said.

• Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared from military radar for about 120 nautical miles after it crossed back over the Malaysian Peninsula, sources say. Based on available data, this means the plane must have dipped in altitude to between 4,000 and 5,000 feet, a senior Malaysian government official and a source involved in the investigation tell CNN.

The dip could have been programmed into the computers controlling the plane as an emergency maneuver, said aviation expert David Soucie.

"The real issue here is it looks like - more and more - somebody in the cockpit was directing this plane and directing it away from land," said CNN aviation analyst and former National Transportation Safety Board Managing Director Peter Goelz. "And it looks as though they were doing it to avoid any kind of detection."

Follow updates at CNN.com. 

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. Brant

    I feel the plane had to have belly landed gently (stall just before touching the water) to keep the plane fully intact. I believe this is likely the only plausible way to crash a plane on water without any floating debris. At low altitude or after it landed, someone would have to open a door to allow the water to rush in for a rapid sink in the water. Or it hit just hard enough to crack the hull to allow water & air exchange into the cabin space. Many items in the plane would float if the plane came apart in a crash.

    April 10, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Reply

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