The Boeing 777 continued to send signals to satellites for more than six hours after its last message: 'All right, good night.' As 14 countries continue the hunt, new questions are being asked
After a week of false leads, U-turns, wild speculation and outright contradictions, it was hard to believe there could be any more surprises in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
But when Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, finally appeared before the media on Saturday afternoon – almost 45 minutes later than scheduled and for the first time since flight MH370 went missing seven days before – his words were startling.
Not only did investigators believe the plane had been deliberately diverted after its communication systems were switched off, but they believed it had been sending signals to satellites from air or ground as late as 8.11am on Saturday morning, more than six-and-a-half hours after it had lost contact with air control staff and 45 minutes after the Boeing 777 had been declared missing in a statement from the airline.
That final ping came from one of two lengthy air corridors stretching as far as Kazakhstan to the north or the southern Indian Ocean – around western Australia – to the south; by that point, if still in the air, the plane would probably have been almost out of fuel. The initial search area in the South China Sea was no longer relevant, but an even vaster swath of land and sea was now in play.