|(Flight MH370) Southern Indian Ocean search futile, while Thais admit ignoring radar blip
US and Australian planes drew a blank on the first full day of a search across a vast tract of the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.
The Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8 en route to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.
While one sortie was flown late Tuesday, the search kicked into full gear with three long-range Australian, American and New Zealand surveillance planes involved on today, scouring an area of 305,000 square kilometers – bigger than Italy.
Five merchant ships also responded to a broadcast for shipping to help issued by Australia's Rescue Coordination Centre.
“Three ships have transited through the area, another is in the area today and a further ship is expected to arrive on Thursday afternoon,'' said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is in charge of the search.
"Neither the ships nor the aircraft have reported sighting anything in connection to the aircraft.''
The search Wednesday focused on an area 2,600 kilometres south-west of Perth, based on the last known satellite and military radar data received from the plane, coupled with analysis of possible routes if it had flown south.
Meanwhile, Thai air force radar picked up an “unknown aircraft'' minutes after flight MH370 last transmitted its location but did not report the findings earlier as the plane was not considered a threat.
The information emerged during checks of radar logs on Monday after a request from the Malaysian government, according to Air Marshal Monthon Suchookorn.
An “unknown aircraft was detected at 00:28 [local time, 1:28 am Malaysian time], six minutes after MH370 vanished'' in the South China Sea, moving southwest towards Kuala Lumpur and the Strait of Malacca, he told AFP.
That timing corresponds with the last transmission from the Boeing 777's transponder at 1:21 am Malaysian time, which relayed information about the plane's altitude and location.
Monthon said that although the signal was sporadic, the aircraft was later again picked up by Thai radar swinging north and disappearing over the Andaman Sea.
“It's not confirmed that the aircraft is MH370,'' he said, adding he was unable to give “exact times'' of the later sightings.
The Thai air force did not check its records because the aircraft was not in “Thai airspace and it was not a threat to Thailand,’’ the spokesman said, denying it had been “withholding information.’’