New Data Shows MH370 May Have Drastically Altered Route, Altitude

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New radar data shows that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, now believed to have flown for several hours after losing touch with ground control, drastically altered course and altitude.

Unnamed officials gave the New York Times an educated guess at the plane's movements before disappearing, based on data from Malaysia's military radar. According to the military data, the plane rose to an altitude of 45,000 feet — about 10,000 feet higher than cruising Boeing 777-200 planes are supposed to fly — and later plummeted to 23,000 feet after disappearing from civilian radar screens. The plane made sharp turns throughout the journey, first flying west towards Penang, then shifting southwest and then going northwest over the Strait of Malacca and towards the Indian Ocean.

The strange journey outlined by the military data suggests that the plane was being controlled by a hijacker, or that the airplane's flight crew had been somehow disabled. One expert told the New York Times that flying the plane to such a high altitude would likely have caused the passengers to lose consciousness, and could have been an intentional tactic. 

More data, separately provided from the Boeing's Rolls Royce engine, suggests that the plane fell more than 40,000 in the space of a minute -- something experts contend is highly unlikely. 

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The data also raises serious concerns about Malaysia's lack of response to such an irregular flight path. The New York Times reports

The erratic movements of the aircraft after it diverted course and flew over the country also raise questions about why the military did not respond in real time to the flight emergency. Malaysian officials have acknowledged that military radar may have picked up the plane, but have said they took no action because it did not appear hostile. Seven days after the jet’s disappearance, Malaysian authorities have shared few details with American investigators, frustrating senior officials in Washington. “They’re keeping us at a distance,” said one of the officials.

CNN also just reported that, per a "classified analysis of electronic and satellite data, conducted by the United States and Malaysian governments," MH370 probably crashed into either into the Bay of Bengal or the Indian Ocean after following one of two possible flight paths. 

Another theory, that the plane may have landed on one of the Andaman Islands, has been largely dismissed as unlikely because the plane would not have had enough space to land. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.