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Missing Airplane Flew On for Hours

  

马航失联飞机可能飞行五个小时

 

  3月12日,马来西亚交通部长Hishammuddin Hussein在吉隆坡举行的关于搜救行动的新闻发布会上。

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  U.S. investigators suspect that Malaysia Airlines 3786.KU -2.04% Flight 370 stayed in the air for about four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, according to two people familiar with the details, raising the possibility that the plane could have flown on for hundreds of additional miles under conditions that remain murky.

  Aviation investigators and national security officials believe the plane flew for a total of five hours based on data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Boeing Co. BA -0.99% 777's engines as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring program.

  That raises a host of new questions and possibilities about what happened aboard the widebody jet carrying 239 people, which vanished from civilian air-traffic control radar over the weekend, about one hour into a flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

  Six days after the mysterious disappearance prompted a massive international air and water search that so far hasn't produced any results, the investigation appears to be broadening in scope.

  U.S. counterterrorism officials are pursuing the possibility that a pilot or someone else on board the plane may have diverted it toward an undisclosed location after intentionally turning off the jetliner's transponders to avoid radar detection, according to one person tracking the probe.

  The investigation remains fluid, and it isn't clear whether investigators have evidence indicating possible terrorism or espionage. So far, U.S. national security officials have said that nothing specifically points toward terrorism, though they haven't ruled it out.

  But the huge uncertainty about where the plane was headed, and why it apparently continued flying so long without working transponders, has raised theories among investigators that the aircraft may have been commandeered for a reason that appears unclear to U.S. authorities. Some of those theories have been laid out to national security officials and senior personnel from various U.S. agencies, according to one person familiar with the matter.

  At one briefing, according to this person, officials were told investigators are actively pursuing the notion that the plane was diverted "with the intention of using it later for another purpose."

  As of Wednesday it remained unclear whether the plane reached an alternate destination or if it ultimately crashed, potentially hundreds of miles from where an international search effort has been focused.

  In those scenarios, neither mechanical problems, pilot mistakes nor some other type of catastrophic incident caused the 250-ton plane to mysteriously vanish from radar.

  The latest revelations come as local media reported that Malaysian police visited the home of at least one of the two pilots.

  Boeing officials and a Malaysia Airlines official declined to comment.

  The engines' onboard monitoring system is provided by their manufacturer, Rolls-Royce RR.LN -1.71% PLC, and it periodically sends bursts of data about engine health, operations and aircraft movements to facilities on the ground.

  Rolls-Royce couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

  As part of its maintenance agreements, Malaysia Airlines transmits its engine data live to Rolls-Royce for analysis. The system compiles data from inside the 777's two Trent 800 engines and transmits snapshots of performance, as well as the altitude and speed of the jet.

  Those snippets are compiled and transmitted in 30-minute increments, said one person familiar with the system. According to Rolls-Royce's website, the data is processed automatically "so that subtle changes in condition from one flight to another can be detected."

  The engine data is being analyzed to help determine the flight path of the plane after the transponders stopped working. The jet was originally headed for China, and its last verified position was half way across the Gulf of Thailand.

  A total flight time of five hours after departing Kuala Lumpur means the Boeing 777 could have continued for an additional distance of about 2,200 nautical miles, reaching points as far as the Indian Ocean, the border of Pakistan or even the Arabian Sea, based on the jet's cruising speed.

  Earlier Wednesday, frustrations over the protracted search for the missing plane mounted as both China and Vietnam vented their anger over what they viewed as poor coordination of the effort.

  Government conflicts and national arguments over crises are hardly unique to the Flight 370 situation, but some air-safety experts said they couldn't recall another recent instance of governments publicly feuding over search procedures during the early phase of an international investigation.

  Authorities radically expanded the size of the search zone Wednesday, which already was proving a challenge to cover effectively, but the mission hadn't turned up much by the end of the fifth day.

  WSJ has confirmed that the pilot had the ability to manually turn off the transponder on Flight MH370. A mid-air catastrophe could have destroyed it. Why is the transponder so significant? WSJ's Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.

  Also on Wednesday, a Chinese government website posted images from Chinese satellites showing what it said were three large objects floating in an 8-square-mile area off the southern tip of Vietnam. The objects were discovered on Sunday , according to the website, which didn't say whether the objects had been recovered or examined.

  Ten countries were helping to scour the seas around Malaysia, including China, the U.S. and Vietnam. Taiwanese vessels are expected to be on the scene by Friday, with India and Japan having also agreed to join the search soon.

  In all, 56 surface ships were taking part in the search, according to statements issued by the contributing governments, with Malaysia providing 27 of them. In addition, 30 fixed-wing aircraft were also searching, with at least 10 shipboard helicopters available, mostly in the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam.

  China's government was especially aggrieved. More than 150 of the 239 people on board are Chinese, and family members in Beijing have at times loudly expressed their frustration over the absence of leads.

  More than a dozen Chinese diplomats met with Malaysian authorities in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday as tension grew over the search.

  "At present there's a lot of different information out there. It's very chaotic and very hard to verify," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a regular press briefing. "We've said as long as there is a shred of hope, you can't give up."

  The day before, Beijing pointedly pressed Malaysia to accelerate its investigation, which has been hampered by false leads on suspected debris and conflicting reports on radar tracking.

  Vietnam on Wednesday suspended its search flights after conflicting reports from Malaysia that authorities had tracked the plane to the Strait of Malacca before it disappeared.

  Gen. Rodzali Daud, Malaysia's air force chief, denied saying he had told local media that military radar facilities had tracked the plane there, saying they were still examining all possibilities. Vietnam later resumed normal search sweeps.

  Malaysian authorities divided the search area into several sectors on either side of the country, as well as areas on land.

  The challenge, said Lt. David Levy, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, isn't so much coordination as the sheer size of the area involved. The search grids are up to 20 miles by 120 miles, and ships and aircraft employ an exhaustive methodical pattern "like mowing your lawn" in their search for the plane, he said.

  China and Vietnam venting their frustration with the slow progress of the mission and what they view as poor coordination of the effort to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Allison Morrow reports on the News Hub. Photo: Getty Images.

  U.S. defense officials sought to play down any suggestion that the Malaysian government was doing a poor job with the search.

  "It is not unusual for searches to take a long time, especially when you are working with limited data," one official said.

  Aviation experts say the absence of an electronic signal from the plane before it disappeared from radar screens makes it difficult to pin down possible locations. Some radar data suggested the Boeing 777 might have tried to turn back to Kuala Lumpur before contact was lost, a detail that prompted a search for the plane on both sides of the Malaysian peninsula.

  A U.S. Navy P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft has been searching the northern Strait of Malacca, west of Malaysia, while destroyers USS Kidd and USS Pinckney have been deploying helicopters in the Gulf of Thailand to the east.

  So far the U.S., like other nations taking part in the search, has had no success. Many aviation experts are concluding that searchers might not have been looking in the right places. Even if the plane broke up in midair, it would have left telltale traces of debris in the ocean. The cracks now emerging between some of the participants in the search could make it even more difficult.

  You can help search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, thanks to a website called Tomnod.com. It allows anyone to comb the area where rescue workers are searching using satellite images. The WSJ's Deborah Kan speaks to DigitalGlobe's Luke Barrington.

  Diplomatic feuds over air disasters have generally erupted over the conclusions of the investigations, long after the initial search is over.

  The results of the 1999 crash of an Egyptair Boeing 767 en route to Egypt from New York, which killed 217 people, spawned a dispute between Washington and Cairo that strained ties for years. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the plane's co-pilot purposely put the twin-engine jet into a steep dive and then resisted efforts by the captain to recover control before the airliner slammed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nantucket. Egyptian authorities insisted the evidence indicated mechanical failure.

  Years earlier, Washington and Paris butted heads over the investigation of an American Eagle commuter turboprop that crashed in 1994 near Roselawn, Ind. The French objected to the NTSB's conclusions that French regulators failed to take actions that could have prevented the accident.查看译文

  据《华尔街日报》3月13日报道,据两位知情人士透露,美国调查人员怀疑马航370航班离开最后被定位的位置后,仍在空中飞行约4个小时。而这意味着飞机在失联后可能又继续飞行了几百英里,虽然后来飞行时的具体情况目前尚未可知。

  根据自动下载并发送至地面的波音777发动机数据(该数据平时用于对飞机的例行检查和监控),美国航空调查人员和国家安全部门官员认为该失联航班飞行了总计5个小时。

  该航班于3月8日从吉隆坡出发飞往北京,但刚刚起飞不到1个小时,就突然失去了同地面的通讯联络,同时雷达信号消失,并自此失踪。这一新发现对此班载有239人的大型客机失联后发生的情况,又提出了很多新的问题和可能性。

  在该航班神秘失踪之后的六天里,多国在相关海域展开了空中和海上搜救。但是截至目前,救援工作仍未取得重大发现或实质性进展,救援力量已决定扩大搜索范围。

  美国反恐官员根据一名飞机探测器监控人员的观察猜测,可能是机组人员或机上其他人士故意关闭了应答器以躲避雷达监测后,人为地更改了飞机的航向驶向目前为不人知的目的地。

  目前,该调查仍在进行中,但是还不明确调查人员是否已发现暗示恐怖袭击或间谍行动的证据。截至目前,美国国家安全部门的官员表示,尚未发现将该事件指向恐怖袭击的任何线索,但也并不排除恐怖袭击的可能。

  对于该失联航班到底去向何方,以及为何在应答器停止工作的情况下继续飞行那么久,眼下还是疑云密布。这些疑点让一些调查人员提出了失联航班可能被一些人非法利用的猜测,但对于非法利用的原因,美国官方目前难以给出可能的答案。据一名知情人士透露,这种猜测已上报美国国家安全部门官员和其他部门的高级官员。

  这名知情人士表示,美国官员们在一次发布会上表示,调查人员正在积极调查失联航班被故意改变航向以“在稍后用于其他的目的”的可能性。

  截止到3月12日,仍然不明朗的是该架飞机是否降落在其他的机场,或者如果最终坠机,还是在各国集中搜救的几百英里范围内。

  在上述情况里,机械故障、驾驶员错误操作以及一些灾难性事故都不会造成重达250吨的飞机无故从雷达中消失。

  马来西亚当地媒体最新披露的消息显示,马来西亚警方曾去过至少一位驾驶员的家中。

  波音公司和马来西亚航空公司的人员拒绝对此发表评论。

  飞机引擎上的内置监测系统由制造商劳斯莱斯公司(Rolls-RoycePLC)并会定时向地面发送有关引擎条件、运行情况以及飞机飞行的数据包。

  目前还未能立刻联系到劳斯莱斯公司进行采访。

  作为维护协议的一部分,马来西亚航空公司将其实时引擎数据传送给了劳斯莱斯公司进行数据分析。这一系统可以对波音777飞机内两个Trent800引擎的数据进行汇编并传送操作照片、海拔高度和飞行速度。

  据一位熟悉该系统的人士透露,这些数据每三十分钟就会进行汇编和传送。据劳斯莱斯网站介绍,这些数据都是自动处理,因此任何一点小的变动都能够被探测到。

  在应答器停止工作之后,目前正在分析引擎数据以断定飞机的飞行航线。该架飞机原定飞向中国,其最后的确定位置为泰国湾的中间地段。

  该架波音777飞机离开吉隆坡后原定飞行五小时,根据飞机的巡行航速,它还可能继续飞行大约2200海里,到达印度洋、巴基斯坦边境甚至阿拉伯海地区。

  本周三(3月12日)早些时候,中国和越南都表达了对于搜救行动协调不足的愤怒,对于失联飞机延迟搜救的失望之情也越发强烈。

  面对危机,政府内部矛盾和全国性争论的情况不仅仅只出现在MH370这一事件中,但是一些航空安全专家表示,在国际调查的初步阶段就出现政府关于搜救程序的公开不和在近一段时间是很少见的。

  尽管在当前范围内也很难进行有效搜索,当局在周三继续扩大了搜救范围,但截至第五天搜救行动仍未有有效信息。

  《华尔街日报》证实飞行员可以手动关闭MH370飞机上的应答器。空中灾难可能已经将它摧毁。应答器为何如此重要?华尔街日报的杰森贝里尼能够给我们一个“简短的回答”。

  中国一政府网站也在周三公布了中国卫星拍摄到的三个大型物体漂浮在越南南部8平方英里的海域中的画面。据该网站介绍,这些物体是在周日被发现的,但未透露是否这些物体已经被取得或接受检查。

  目前已有十个国家参与搜索马来西亚周围海域,包括中国、美国和越南。台湾的舰队预计于周五到达,印度和日本也同意尽快参与搜救行动。

  据参加搜救的国家所提供的公告,一共有56艘船只在马来西亚的海域参加搜救工作。马来西亚出的了27艘船只。此外,参加搜救的还有30架固定翼飞机以及至少10架舰载直升机,主要在马来西亚和越南之间的水域进行搜救。

  中国政府尤其感到悲愤。239名乘客中有150多位中国人。在北京,这些乘客的家属也不时强烈的表达对马航负责人缺席的失望。

  3月12日,十几名中国外交官在吉隆坡会见马来西亚当局,目前,失踪航班仍在紧张搜索之中。

  “目前,马来西亚这边有许多不同的消息,信息非常混乱,很难进行核实。”外交部发言人秦刚在例行记者招待会上称:“我们的观点一直都是,只要有一丝一毫的希望,我们绝不会绝不会放弃。”

  前天,中国向马来西亚施加压力,责成其加快调查速度。此前,调查由于被错误的引导到可疑残骸和追踪雷达相冲突的报道上而被耽搁。

  3月12日,海军上将莱明坦(LeMinhThanh)在越南富国岛的一次媒体发布会上宣布,根据马来西亚的有争议的报告进行的搜寻行动失败。马来西亚当局称,在航班失踪之前,曾在马六甲海峡追踪到该航班。马来西亚空军司令罗查理(GenRodzaliDaud)拒绝谈论他曾告诉当地媒体军方雷达曾在马六甲海峡追踪到失踪航班,并称他们仍在调查一切的可能性。随后,越南当局继续进行常规搜寻。

  马来西亚当局将搜寻区域分成若干部分,搜寻区域包括马来西亚两侧海域和岛上陆地。

  美国海军第七舰队新闻发言人大卫·利维(LtDavidLevy)称由于所涉及的区域没有绝对的大小,这次的挑战非常难协调。他称,搜寻区域由20英里乘120公里的网格组成。舰船和直升机采用一种彻底的、系统的搜寻模式——就像剪草坪一样——搜寻失踪航班。

  美国国防部官员试图淡化一切关于马来西亚政府正在做欠佳的搜寻工作的建议。

  这是一次不同寻常的搜寻行动,需要花很长的时间,尤其在只具备有限数据的情况下。”一位官员称。

  航空专家称,飞机在从雷达屏幕上消失之前没有接收到电子信号,使得很难确定可能的失联地点。一些雷达数据表明,波音777在失联前,有可能试图返回吉隆坡,而这个细节让对飞机的搜救工作在马来西亚uf半岛两侧展开。

  美国一架P-3C巡逻机一直在马拉西亚以西马六甲海峡北部进行搜索,而“纪德”号和“平克尼”号驱逐舰也已派出直升机向泰国湾以东进行搜素。

  截至目前,和其他参与搜救的国家一样,美国的搜救行动也未取得任何成就。许多航空专家认为各国并未在正确的地点开展搜救行动。即使飞机在空中解体,它也该在海上留下碎片的痕迹。参与搜救各方之间出现的争议可能让搜救工作变得更加困难。

  1999年,埃及航空公司一架从埃及开入纽约的波音767发生bw坠毁,造成217名乘客死亡。此次事故引发美国和埃及之间的长达数年的争议。美国国家交通安全委员会(the NationalTransportationSafetyBoard,NTSB)认定,该架飞机的副驾驶故意将这架双引擎飞机急速俯冲,并阻止机长重新掌控飞机,致使飞机f坠入Nantucket海岸附近的大西洋里。埃及政府坚持有证据证明这是一起机械事故。

  几年以前,美国和法国投入大量的人力调查在1994年美国印弟安纳州Roselaw发生的美国老鹰涡轮螺旋桨飞机坠机事件。但是,法方反对NTSB的结论,即法国监管机构没有采取措施阻止事故的发生。

  本周早些时候,马来西亚调查人员称,他们在不断地扩大自己的调查范围,包括劫持或被破坏的可能性,以及船员和乘客可能的个人或心理问题。但马来西亚官员没有讨论关于发动机传输的问题,也没有对主要和备份转发器不工作做出任何解释。


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