U.S. investigators searching for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 believe the plane could have flown for another four hours after its last confirmed location.
Data from the plane’s Rolls Royce engines, which was apparently automatically transmitted during the flight, indicate the Boeing flew for hours after losing contact with air traffic control and dropping off radar, according to a Thursday Wall Street Journal report.
The new evidence led U.S. officials to question whether the passenger jet carrying 239 people may have flown off course deliberately so someone could use it later “for another purpose,” according to a “person familiar with the matter.”
If the new data is accurate, it would indicate the plane’s total flight time was roughly five hours. That means the plane may have traveled another 2,200 nautical miles, which could have taken the plane as far as the India/Pakistan border or even the Arabian sea.
Flight 370 disappeared around 1 a.m. Saturday morning, one hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Since then, various different leads have placed the plane somewhere off the Vietnamese coast or the Strait of Malacca. In the latter case, the plane would have had to have turned around at some point.
Chinese State TV broadcast satellite images of possible floating debris from the plane in the South China Sea Thursday, but dismissed the find after a sweep of the area produced nothing.
Malaysian officials quickly dismissed the Wall Street Journal report, saying there was no evidence to back up the claim, and that Malaysian Airlines never received transmissions of any such data from the plane’s engines.