Nightly News   |  March 15, 2014

Missing Malaysia Flight 370 Mystery Becomes Criminal Investigation

Malaysia’s prime minister says the missing plane was airborne for seven hours and only could have been taken down with someone at the controls.

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

>>> malaysia tonight is that whatever happened to malaysia airlines flight 370 was no accident. the country's prime minister publicly confirming today what has been a widely held suspicion that the plane was deliberately flown off course. continuing some six hours after radar contact was lost. so are we looking at a hijacking? suicide or terror mission? officials can't say. and they can see the answers could lie anywhere from the far-flung reaches of the indian ocean to the mountains of central asia and possibly to the doorsteps of the two pilots themselv themselves. it is an aviation mystery with no precedent with the face of 239 people hanging in the balance . once again our team is in place to take us to the latest developments, kerry sanders has more.

>> reporter: well, lester because the malaysian prime minister said it was a deliberate act it now has turned the incident into a criminal investigation. the malaysian prime minister ended the speculation today saying flight 370 airborne for more than seven hours could only have taken the route it did with someone at the controls.

>> this movement consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.

>> reporter: the jet's whereabouts remains a mystery, but not for a lack of scientific creativity. to track the plane, officials are now relying heavily on a technology that was never designed to chart a jet's route. on top it an antenna that automatically sends bursts of data, routinely it is mechanical, like how much jet fuel it is burning, engine performance, but a team of clever technicians realized the ping on the satellite could also reveal how far the plane was from a satellite. like a string connected to a balloon. while the distance is useful it doesn't show exactly where the plane is because it could be anywhere along the arc. the map shared by the malaysian government established a last known point of contact. and from there, the spread, like that string from the balloon is a wide v, flight 370 could have flown directly west, north towar towar towards antarctic a or anywhere in between, while not exact it is enough for the navy's p 8 and p 3 aircraft to search off the coast of myanmar, towards burma.

>> if there is anything like a section of a door or window or anything like that our radar will pick it up.

>> reporter: finding the debris will tell a story but it is the flight data recorder that will best provide the clues to explain what happened to flight 370. as far as an airplane vanishing or disappearing, this is probably the most bizarre i've seen in my career.

>> reporter: tonight, there are 40 ships, 16 different aircraft from 14 different countries including the united states all working together to find clues. the area they're searching is far larger than the nenlt united states .