Communications satellites picked up a faint ‘electronic ping’ from the missing Malaysian aircraft after contact was lost according to a source close to the investigation.
The signal was an indication the aircraft’s troubleshooting systems were ready to communicate with satellites if required, but no data was sent because Malaysia Airlines had not subscribed to the full troubleshooting service, the source said.
International airlines use a reporting system which collects technical data during each flight so that engineers can identify problems. These reports are broadcast to engineers via VHF radio or satellite during the flight.
If the plane had disintegrated during flight or had suffered some other catastrophic failure, all signals – the pings to the satellite, the data messages and the transponder – would be expected to stop at the same time.
However, a US official said the signal was sent to the satellite for around four hours after the last verbal communication with the flight raising the possibility it flew on for hundreds of miles more.
News of the signal emerged as the White House announced a new search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean.
“It’s my understanding that based on some new information that’s not necessarily conclusive – but new information – an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
“And we are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy.”.. see more