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Flight MH370: Thai Air Force says radar signal may have been missing plane

WATCH ABOVE: Who programmed the missing Malaysia Airlines plane to turn off course and why they did it are among the many unanswered questions in the investigation. Robin Stickley explains.

LATEST UPDATES:

  • China finds no terror link to its nationals on jet
  • Missing plane’s off-flight path was reportedly programmed into computer
  • Angry relatives of Flight MH370 passengers confront Malaysia Airlines staff
  • Several hundred people gather to pray for passengers on missing plane
  • Officials revealed new timeline suggesting final voice transmission occurred before comm. systems disabled
  • 26 countries are involved in the massive international search for the missing jet

TORONTO – Thailand’s military says its radar detected a plane that may have been Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 just minutes after the missing jetliner’s communications went down.

Thai Air Force spokesman Air Vice Marshal Montol Suchookorn said the flight path taken by the plane took the detected jet to the Strait of Malacca, which is where Malaysian radar tracked Flight 370 early March 8.

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It is unknown whether the Thai military detected the same plane.

The search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 now covers 7.7 million square kilometres.
The search for the plane is one of the largest in aviation history, and now involves 26 countries. The search area now covers 7.7 million square kilometres. Global News

Suchookorn said the air force didn’t share the information before because it wasn’t specifically asked for it.

“The Royal Thai Air Force only looks after any threats against our country, so anything that did not look like a threat to us, we simply look at it without taking actions,” he said.

Suchookorn said the detected plane never entered Thai airspace and Malaysia’s initial request for information in the early days of the search was not specific.

“When they asked again and there was new information and assumptions from (Malaysian) Prime Minister Najib Razak, we took a look at our information again,” he said. “It didn’t take long for us to figure out, although it did take some experts to find out about it.”

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While Thailand’s failure to quickly share possible information regarding the fate of the plane may not substantially change what Malaysian officials know, it does raise questions about the degree to which some countries are sharing their defence information, even in the name of an urgent and mind-bending aviation mystery.

Several hundred people gather to pray for passengers on missing plane

Hundreds of well-wishers gathered at a plaza in Petaling Jaya on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday to show their support for the passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and their families.

VIDEO: Hundreds gather in vigil for victims for missing Malaysian jet passengers

Many participants wore white T-shirts and held white balloons as they prayed for those missing.

China finds no terror link to its nationals on jet

Background checks into the Chinese citizens on board the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner have uncovered no links to terrorism, the Chinese ambassador to Malaysia said in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Missing Malaysia plane: frequently asked questions, few answers

The plane was carrying 154 Chinese passengers, when Malaysian officials say someone on board deliberately diverted it from its route to Beijing less than one hour into the flight.

Plane’s off-flight path reportedly diverted through computer system

The missing plane was diverted from its path not by autopilot but by a computer system on the plane.

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The turn that diverted the missing jet off of its scheduled route to Beijing was programmed into a computer system on board, the New York Times reported Monday.

WATCH BELOW: Search for missing Malaysian flight expands

“The fact that the turn away from Beijing was programmed into the computer has reinforced the belief of investigators — first voiced by Malaysian officials — that the plane was deliberately diverted and that foul play was involved,” said the Times. “It is not clear whether the plane’s path was reprogrammed before or after it took off.”

New timeline casts doubt on theory of pilots’ deception

On Monday, Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said an initial investigation indicated that the last words ground controllers heard from the plane – “All right, good night” – were spoken by the co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid.

On Sunday, defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said those words were spoken after the jetliner’s data communications system – the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System – had been switched off, suggesting the voice from the cockpit was knowingly deceiving ground controllers.

READ MORE: Flight MH370: New timeline casts doubt on pilot deception theory

But Ahmad made a potentially significant change to that timeline.

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Speaking alongside Hishammuddin, he said that while the final data transmission from ACARS, which gives plane performance and maintenance information, came before the co-pilot’s words, it was still unclear at what point the system was switched off.

Pilots of missing jet investigated

Malaysian police are investigating the pilots and ground engineers of the plane, and have asked intelligence agencies from countries with passengers on board to carry out background checks on those passengers.

Malaysian authorities say that someone on board the flight switched off two vital pieces of communication equipment, allowing the plane to fly almost undetected. Satellite data shows it might have ended up somewhere in a giant arc stretching from Central Asia to the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.

READ MORE: What we know about the missing pilots of Malaysia Airlines jet

Huang said China had begun searching for the plane on its territory, but gave no details. When asked at a Foreign Ministry briefing Tuesday in Beijing what this search involved, ministry spokesman Hong Lei said only that satellites and radar were being used.

A Chinese civilian aviation official previously has said that there was no sign of the plane entering the country’s airspace on commercial radar. The government has not said whether this has been confirmed by military radar data.

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WATCH BELOW: Missing Malaysia airplane investigation focuses on the pilots

Malaysian police say they are investigating the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board, but have yet to give any update on what they have uncovered.

Malaysian police confiscated a flight simulator from the home of MH370’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah on Saturday and also visited the home of the co-pilot in what Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar initially said was the first police visits to those homes. However, the government issued a statement Monday contradicting that account by saying police first visited the pilots’ homes as early as March 9, the day after the flight.

26 countries involved in search

The search for the plane is one of the largest in aviation history, and now involves 26 countries.

It was initially focused on seas on either side of Peninsular Malaysia, in the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. It has since expanded to include the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal and 11 countries to the northwest that the plane in theory could have crossed, including China and India.

WATCH BELOW: More countries involved in Malaysia Airlines mystery

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American, Australian and Indonesian planes and ships are searching waters to the south of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island all the way down to the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.

READ MORE: A look at the 26 nations involved in search for missing Malaysia Airlines jet

China was also sending ships to the Indian Ocean, where they will search two blocks of sea covering a total of 300,000 square kilometres (186,000 square miles), or three times the area they had searched in the South China Sea.

The area being covered by the Australians is even bigger – 600,000 square kilometres (232,000 square miles) – and will take weeks to search thoroughly, said John Young, manager of Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division.

“This search will be difficult. The sheer size of the search area poses a huge challenge,” Young said. “A needle in a haystack remains a good analogy.”

Angry relatives of Flight MH370 passengers confront Malaysia Airlines staff

A group of relatives of Chinese passengers in Beijing said they decided Tuesday to begin a hunger strike to express their anger over the handling of the investigation and the lack of any sign of the plane.

Angry relatives and friends of Chinese passengers on the missing Malaysian plane confronted airline officials on Tuesday, demanding more clarity about the fate of their loved ones.

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Prompted by complaints from the audience about the handling of the situation by the Malaysian government, a Chinese lawyer for the airline implied that Kuala Lumpur was “talking too much but doing little”, in contrast with actions by Chinese government.

China has the most at stake, as most of the missing passengers are Chinese, and has been taking an unusually high-profile role.

“What we want is the truth, don’t let the passengers become the victims of a political fight,” one distressed relative told the officials.

With files from the Associated Press