Missing Jet

Missing Malaysia Plane: Lots of Leads and No Clue

Image: A crew member from the Royal Malaysian Air Force  during a Search and Rescue operation

A crew member from the Royal Malaysian Air Force uses binoculars onboard a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during a search and rescue operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight in the Straits of Malacca. SAMSUL SAID / Reuters

The six-day-old search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been marked by confusion, conflicting information and a lack of hard data about where and why it vanished on its journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Each new lead has given the families of the 239 on board and the rest of the public new hope that the mystery of the jumbo jet might soon be solved — only to evaporate as officials have hedged and backtracked.

Malaysia's transport minister tried to sort fact from fiction on his Twitter account Thursday, then seemed to throw up his hands:

Here's a look at some of the reports that have emerged in the last two days, and where they stand:

Plane kept flying for hours?

Various reports have said that U.S. investigators examining data transmitted by the Boeing 777 suspect the jet continued to fly for four hours — hundreds of miles — after its last contact.

One report by the Wall Street Journal attributed that data to the plane's engines, but the transport minister outright denied it:

Subsequent reports have ascribed the "pings" — which may have continued for hours after the last contact — to other systems in the plane.

Plane was hundreds of miles off course?

The head of the Malaysian air force was quoted in a local paper as saying the last known location of the plane was the northern end of the Strait of Malacca, suggesting a sudden detour after communications ended.

But a day later, the same official denied ever saying that. He insisted he had only repeated what authorities said all along — that it was possible the plane could have turned back.

Nevertheless, authorities expanded the 12-nation search to an area that is 35,000 square miles, including the region west and north of the Malaysian peninsula and in the opposite direction of the jet's original course.

Image:An Indonesian Air Force officer draws a flight pattern
An Indonesian Air Force officer draws a flight pattern flown earlier in a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, during a post-mission briefing at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, on March 13. Binsar Bakkara / AP

Satellite images of debris?

A report from China's official news agency on Wednesday that the government had published satellite images of what might be large pieces of plane debris in the South China Sea gave many hope that the crash site had been found.

But senior U.S. defense and military officials were unable to corroborate the report with their own satellite networks, and planes dispatched Thursday to those coordinates found nothing, Malaysia's civil aviation chief said.

"We went there, there is nothing," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.


He later said the Chinese Embassy had notified the government that the images were released by mistake and did not show any debris from Flight 370.

Witness saw jet on fire in sky?

An oil rig worker off the coast of Vietnam reported that he saw a burning object high in the sky on Saturday morning that he believes was Flight 370.

Boats sent to the site, however, found no wreckage. And it's unclear if someone on the ground could even have spotted a 209-foot long plane 6.6 miles above them.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials have told NBC News that spy satellites did not detect any kind of mid-air explosion around the time the plane vanished.