Could aircraft have disintegrated in mid-flight?

As the search for MH370 enters day three, a new theory emerged yesterday as to why the debris from the aircraft has been so difficult to locate.

News agency Reuters reported late Sunday night that officials investigating the disappearance of the Malaysian airliner are narrowing the focus of their inquiries on the possibility that it disintegrated in mid-flight.

The aircraft, which vanished after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing in the early hours of Saturday, had still not been located as at press time.

Reuters quoted a senior source involved in the investigations in Malaysia as saying that the lack of debris thus far may be indicative of a mid-air disintegration.

"The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet," said the source.

If the plane had plunged intact from such a height, breaking up only on impact with the water, search teams would have expected to find a fairly concentrated pattern of debris, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly on the investigation.

The source was speaking shortly before Vietnamese authorities said that a military plane had spotted at sea an object suspected to be part of the missing airliner.

Asked about the possibility of an explosion, such as a bomb, the source said there was no evidence yet of foul play and that the aircraft could have broken up due to mechanical issues.

Malaysian authorities have said they are focused on finding the plane and have declined to comment, when asked about the investigations.

Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told a press conference last Sunday that a total of 34 aircraft and 40 ships are now in the search operation as the affected area has been extended from the South China Sea to the Strait of Malacca.

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