Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet: Search Expands to 11 Countries, 'Deep and Remote Oceans'

Malaysian government asks 25 countries for help with search for flight MH 370.

ByABC News
March 16, 2014, 3:55 AM

March 16, 2014— -- The search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet now spans "large tracts of land crossing 11 countries as well as deep and remote oceans," according to Malaysian government officials, who reached out to 25 countries about whether they had any contact with the plane and asked for help in the search.

Those countries include Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia.

"We are asking countries that have satellite assets, including the U.S., China and France, amongst others, to provide further satellite data, and we are contacting additional countries who may be able to contribute specific assets relevant to the search and rescue operation," Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also Malaysia's minister of defense, said during a news conference.

India suspended its search around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as well as the Bay of Bengal after finding no hits for the plane on its radar, a spokesman for the country's military said today. The director general civil aviation authority in Pakistan issued a statement saying they also had no radar recordings of the flight, adding that it didn't contact Pakistani air traffic control.

Both the northern and southern corridors -- which span from Kazakhstan to the southern Indian Ocean -- are being treated with equal importance, said Hishammuddin. But sources told ABC News the southern corridor is more likely the path that the plane took because of radar capabilities and air defenses of countries in the northern corridor, which include nuclear-armed states.

One source close to the investigation told ABC News the search will concentrate in the southern Indian Ocean 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia.

Limited data from satellites positioned over the equator means analysts can determine the airplane's rough distance from the satellite from six "pings" received from the plane but not whether it was flying north or south of the equator, according to a source. That is why there are two possible arcs and may be why Hishammuddin said one is not more likely than the other.

Investigators also are examining the flight simulator in the home of Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the 53-year-old pilot of the missing plane, who has been described as an affluent aviation buff with more than 18,000 hours of experience in the air. Police spoke with his family members during their visit to his home Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said today.

Police also searched the home of his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, who joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007 and has 2,000 hours of flying time.

The pair did not ask to fly together, according to the airline.

The details of Malaysian officials' investigation of the pilot and co-pilot came as two senior law enforcement officials told ABC News that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials are focusing on the possibility that at least one of the Malaysia Airlines pilots is responsible for the disappearance of flight MH 370 after new information revealed the plane performed "tactical evasion maneuvers" after it disappeared from radar.

U.S. authorities believe only a person with extensive flight or engineering experience could have executed the maneuvers. They also are suspicious of what appeared to be attempts to evade radar.

MORE: A Timeline of What Happened to MH370

After the plane's transponder -- which reports the plane's location and altitude -- was turned off about 1:20 a.m. last Saturday, the plane was picked up by military radar as it turned back towards Malaysia and passed above Peninsular Malaysia before heading into the Strait of Malacca.

Razak said Saturday that "these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane."

After a week of scrutinizing passengers and the crew, one of the officials said there were no indications anyone besides the pilots had the ability to perform the complicated maneuvers done by the plane. Furthermore, officials said they have found no link between the passengers and known terrorist groups and that the plane could have been flown into a densely populated area if the incident was related to terrorism -- but it wasn't.

Another possibility that can't be ruled out is that the pilots were coerced or made to redirect the plane by force. Malaysian officials are investigating all crew and passengers, as well as "all ground staff handling the aircraft," said Hishammuddin.

Follow All the Latest News on Missing Flight MH 370