Nightly News   |  March 13, 2014

Malaysia Jet Mystery Deepens

It now appears that the Malaysia jet continued flying for hours after it vanished from radar based on signals described as ‘pings’ that were picked up by communication satellites.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, i'm lester holt sitting in tonight for brian. a stunning new revelation in the search for that missing malaysian jetliner throwing a lot into question tonight from the area being searched to what possibly could have been going on inside the cockpit. it now appears that the triple 7 continued flying for hours after it vanished from radar. we know that, sources say being the plane was transmitting discreet automated signals after the controllers lost sight of it on their radar. it opening up vast possibilities on where the plane went and some wonder if the plane vanished because somebody wanted it to. nbc's tom costello has more on the very latest, explain to me, tom, what the signals are.

>> reporter: yeah, they are described as pings, and also described as a router that stays on even when you're not really surfing the net, transmitting data or information. now, as it appears the plane headed out over the indian ocean the surface appears to change. it is now friday morning in southeast asia and the search for flight 370 is shifting to the west as u.s. government sources tell nbc news there is evidence that the plane's automated system gave off faint pings after traveling 400 miles, which means it could have traveled miles in any direction, a vast span that includes the indian ocean .

>> what it does not tell us, though, is the direction, whether it went northeast, west, north, south, because we have no radar coverage. so at this point we just know that the plane was still operational and probably didn't have a mechanical malfunction or failure.

>> reporter: at the request of the malaysians, the u .s. destroyer usskidd is moving into the area and the search could expand further.

>> based on new information that is not necessarily conclusive, but new information shows a search may open in the indian open and we are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy.

>> reporter: the u.s. government sources say also likely it appears that the radar did pick up the plane making a u -turn and reversing course over malaysia and the indian ocean , meanwhile, search teams today were unable to find any debris in the area where the chinese satellites spotted something south of vietname vietnam. today, some of the information they know was a mistake, but the controllers lost contact with the flight somewhere between malaysia and vietnam. no radar, no identifying transponder. triple 7 simulator teacher said if the plane made a u -turn it would be a deliberate action.

>> there is absolutely nothing that could go wrong with the airplane that would cause the transponder to turn off and the plane to automatically start to do a turn.

>> we have extended the search area because it is our duty to follow every lead and we owe it to the families a and trust me when i say we will not give up.

>> reporter: still, after six days no sign of flight 370. meanwhile investigators continue to look at the backgrounds of the crew, the 53-year-old captain and his 27-year-old first officer. so far, we are told, they have turned up nothing of concern, lester?

>>> all right, we're joined by aviation expert greg fife, a former search you air safety director and a veteran pilot in daytona beach , florida, greg, i know we risked getting into the loop of the cause, but let's look at what we know, the plane sending signals after it goes off radar. the transponder we're told it has to be manually clicked off. is this looking less and less to you like an accident?

>> exactly, lester, that is one of the first things you know, three days ago when they didn't find the wreckage in the search area that really started to concern me. and when the evidence came forth with the radar, and the fact the plane may have made a u -turn that was really suspicious, and when i think back at silk air , some of the suspicious things taking place, that got me interested in the fact this was an intentional act and not an accide accident.

>> and i'm painfully aware the pilots are not here to defend themselves, you mentioned 1997 , silk air , the plane deliberately flown into the water by the pilot. we're getting into a criminal area here, but what would they need to do to at least run that possibility through?

>> typical accident investigation looks at the pilot background. they do a 72-hour history of the pilot. they try to determine personal life and things like that. but with silk air we had to take it much deeper. we actually got into a personal issue with the pilot. we saw there were psychological issues that were developing, looking at the character. i think that is what the investigators will have to