More than 27,000 square nautical miles of sea are being searched in an “unprecedented” 12-nation effort, officials said Wednesday as the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet entered its fifth day.
But investigators still do not know if Flight MH370 turned off course before it disappeared, prolonging confusion about the plane’s last known position.
Forty-two ships and 39 aircraft are searching two areas of water – one in the South China Sea, the other in the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told reporters. The search zone is about 35,000 square miles -- or almost the size of Indiana.
“We will never give up hope” of finding the missing Boeing 777, he said.
Military radar detected what could have been the jetliner at a point 200 nautical miles (320 miles) northwest of Penang Island at at 2:15 a.m. local time Saturday, Malaysia’s air force chief Rodzali Daud told the news conference.
If confirmed, that would place the aircraft hundreds of miles west of its last confirmed position on civilian radar screens, heading towards Vietnam 45 minutes earlier.
Rodzali stressed that the military radar information needed to be corroborated. While civilian radar screens display the identity of aircraft, military radar only shows objects it has detected.
India was asked to search an area near the Andaman Sea on Wednesday. Fishermen in Malaysia also found an orange and black life raft floating in the Malacca Strait, according to a local report.
Earlier, it emerged that the Federal Aviation Administration ordered checks on hundreds of U.S.-registered 777s after reports of cracking in the fuselage skin underneath a satellite antenna.
First published March 12 2014, 4:28 AM