It’s been two full weeks since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board, signed off from Malaysian air traffic control, banked left and disappeared.
The search has focused late this week on the waters far off Australia, but it’s not clear that debris spotted there on a blurry satellite image has anything to do with the missing jet.
Here’s a look at what we’ve learned this week, the latest developments of the day and what’s ahead.
What we learned this week
— Satellite pictures spotted two objects floating in the remote South Indian Ocean, roughly 1,500 miles off the west coast of Australia, and Australian authorities said that they could be related to the plane.
— Authorities in Malaysia said that data had been deleted Feb. 3 from a flight simulator at the home of the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah. Investigators have not said who deleted the files or why.
— Sources told NBC News that the plane’s sharp left turn was programmed into an on-board computer well before the plane signed off from Malaysian air traffic control on its way toward Thailand. Aviation experts cautioned that pilots sometimes program alternate routes into the on-board computer as a backup measure.
— A second day of searching for the satellite-spotted debris ended without any sightings by five military aircraft on the hunt. The search zone is so far from land that planes can’t even look for long before they have to turn back to refuel.
— The chief executive of Malaysia Airlines said that the jet was carrying potentially flammable lithium batteries. He said that the batteries were packed according to world aviation guidelines and “are not dangerous per se.”
— The U.S. military has spent $2.5 million contributing to the search, defense officials told NBC News. The officials said that the military has budgeted $4 million and could hit that number in early April.
— Distraught relatives of people on the plane were forced out of their hotel rooms in Kuala Lumpur because of previously arranged bookings for a Formula One race there next week.
— Australia will resume its search by plane for the debris on Saturday. If debris has sunk, only a handful of submersibles in existence could plumb water so deep. Prime Minister Tony Abbott vowered to reporters: “If there is anything down there, we will find it.”
— Two Chinese planes are expected to arrive Saturday in Perth to join the hunt. Two planes from Japan will arrive Sunday. China is also sending ships, but they are several days away.
— An American P-8 Poseidon, a state-of-the-art plane that specializes in surveillance of targets on and below water and is taking part in the search from Perth, will be grounded Saturday for planned maintenance.
— Time is everything. The so-called black boxes that could hold the ultimate answer to what happened to Flight 370 can emit sonar-detectable pings from the ocean floor, but those would run out in about two and a half weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published March 21 2014, 11:20 AM