Jet 'ended in ocean', China asks for all info

Passengers' relatives find it hard to accept the news

China has asked Malaysia to provide all the information and evidence leading to the conclusion that Malaysia Airline MH370 had ended in the southern Indian Ocean, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing early Tuesday.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the plane's fate on Monday night, adding that the conclusion was based on an unprecedented analysis of satellite data.

"With deep sadness and regret, I must inform you that flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean," he said, citing satellite data provided by the British company Inmarsat, which indicated the northern and southern corridors of the search area.

"Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth," he said.

Najib said the data indicated the plane flew to a remote location, far from any possible landing sites.

The news is a major breakthrough in the unprecedented two-week struggle to find out what happened to the Boeing 777-200, which disappeared on March 8 shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people, including 154 Chinese on board.

Dressed in a black suit, Najib said Malaysia Airlines has informed the passengers' families of the plane's fate.

In Beijing, the family members found it hard to accept the news.

"It can't be true. No debris of the plane was found," a woman shouted at the Lido Hotel before fainting and being taken to an emergency room.

Her sister and daughter-in-law were aboard the plane.

Vice-Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng met Malaysian Ambassador to China Iskandar Sarudin late on Monday night and asked him to handle the aftermath of the announcement properly.

Najib's announcement came as an Australian navy ship was close to finding possible debris from the jetliner after an increasing number of sightings of floating objects were believed to be parts of the plane.

Earlier on Monday, new floating objects were spotted by Chinese and Australian air search teams in the southern Indian Ocean close to where satellite images had detected possible debris from the plane.

The objects, described as a "grey or green circular object" and an "orange rectangular object", were spotted on Monday afternoon, said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, adding that three planes were en route to the area.

Attention and resources in the search for the plane had shifted from an initial focus north of the equator to an increasingly narrowed stretch of sea in the southern Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers from the original flight path.

Xinhua News Agency said on Monday that a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft spotted two "relatively big" floating objects and several smaller white ones dispersed over several kilometers.

In a further sign the search was bearing fruit, the US Navy was flying its high-tech black box detector to the area.

The so-called black boxes - the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder - record what happens on board planes in flight. At crash sites, finding the black boxes soon is crucial because the locator beacons they carry fade out after 30 days.

"If debris is found we will be able to respond as quickly as possible, since the battery life of the black box's pinger is limited," Commander Chris Budde, US Seventh Fleet operations officer, said in an e-mailed statement.

Investigators believe someone on the flight shut off the plane's communications systems. Partial military radar tracking showed it turning west and recrossing the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.

That has led the investigators to focus on hijacking or sabotage, but they have not ruled out technical problems.

Faint electronic "pings" detected by a commercial satellite suggested the jet flew for another six hours or so, but they could only place its final signal on one of two vast northerly and southerly arcs.

Inmarsat: Malaysia's conclusion not only based on its data

British satellite company Inmarsat said that the Malaysian government's conclusion about missing flight MH370's fate was not based solely on its tracking data.

The inability to quickly track the location of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 might cause a push to have all commercial aircraft tracked, which China could lead, said a senior executive at Inmarsat, ``It takes a major nation to step forward and say, ‘The world should track its commercial jets,’” said Chris McLaughlin, senior vice-president for external affairs at Inmarsat. McLaughlin compared the MH370 incident to the sinking of the ocean liner Titanic, which led to the establishment of International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention, a fundamental in the shipping industry, which is still in use today to protect the safety of ships.

“It does seem incomprehensible where you have passengers buying seats on aircrafts which you cannot possibly know where it has gone,’’ he said. “So it needs the leadership of China, the US and the UK and others to say, ‘It’s time to apply the technology we already have, and it’s time to track so that customers and passengers and families will all know with certainty where a commercial jet is.’’’.

If tracking of commercial aircraft is established going forward, it is “positive progress”, McLaughlin said.

“If you just imagine just over 100 years ago, ships at sea didn’t have to have their radio on to listen to other ships calling distress. If you imagine they didn’t have rules on the number of life boats they carried. They didn’t keep track of the people on board,’’ he said. ``You see great sadness like this can bring improvements to the wider human kind, and we would hope this will be the last time we ever have a discussion about an aircraft going missing when such a simple technology could be applied.”

"Experts cautious"

Chinese experts told China Daily late on Monday that though Malaysian Prime Minister has announced that flight MH370 had ended into the southern Indian Ocean, "a considerable period of time" was required to verify this conclusion. Wu Peixin, an aviation expert in Beijing, said that the Malaysian authorities reached their conclusion based on analysis of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and Inmarsat using satellite imagery.

"However, as far as I know, no one outside the two organizations and the Malaysian government has seen solid evidence such as authenticated parts of the aircraft's debris," he said. "Is there any other evidence they can provide to the public or investigators of other nations? What exactly is their 'new analysis' that was cited by the prime minister?"

Wu said he thinks the AAIB and Inmarsat have been working on imagery obtained by civilian satellites rather than military ones that have more reliable high-resolution pictures.

"In addition, the search operation for debris will take a long time because I don't think we have detailed and reliable hydrological data for many areas in that part of the Indian Ocean," Wu said. "Therefore, even nations with advanced maritime search technology such as the United States will have to use military aircraft to detect any magnetic anomaly to find traces of possible debris."

Wu's view was echoed by Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, who said he does not think this is a "final result," because there has been no clear evidence.

"The Malaysian government just announced the plane flew southward and crashed, but it didn't explain how they reached such a conclusion," he said.

Wang also suggested that search aircraft and ships should head to the southern part of Malaysia as quickly as possible.

Song Xiaojun, a military commentator in Beijing, said the information should be analyzed by satellite specialists and confirmed by more countries involved in the search for MH370. He added that the prime minister’s announcement indicated the Malaysian government had agreed with the AAIB's conclusion, which excluded the north route and claimed the flight had crashed.

But he added that no debris or wreckage has been found – and that the conclusion was "a little bit blind."

Yin Zhuo, a military expert with the Chinese navy, also said the final conclusion should be based on data from the black box of the flight, but added that it might take a long time to find.

Yin added that he does not think that this is "the final answer," but that "It's just the duty of the Malaysian government to announce the information as they find new search developments."

"Only after the search teams find and confirm that debris in the ocean is from the aircraft and retrieve the black box can a final conclusion be made," he said.