Officials acknowledged that the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is becoming more difficult as rescuers frantically race against time and the elements to find some trace of the aircraft. As authorities painted a grim picture of the possible fate of the flight, two promising leads emerged when Chinese officials released an image taken by one of its satellites and a man thought he had possibly located the plane on a high-resolution image from the website Tomnod.
The grainy Chinese satellite image showed three large objects floating in the water whose general dimensions appeared to match parts of a 777.
Chicago resident, Mike Seberger, also found a photo that closely resembled the outline of a submerged jetliner, partially obscured by cloud cover.
Both leads turned up empty after searchers failed to find any wreckage at the location taken by the Chinese satellite and Seberger’s images were subsequently identified as boats.
Mounting frustration among relatives of passengers led to accusations that officials have been withholding information about the missing plane.
To bolster contentions of stonewalling, authorities are at odds over significant information concerning the flight.
Investigators cannot agree on exactly where the plane was when it disappeared, drawing criticism about how the investigation is being handled. To add to the confusion, officials are also in disagreement over how long the missing jetliner may have flown after the transponder went offline.
Malaysian authorities denied a report from The Wall Street Journal that the jet continued to fly for four hours after contact was lost with it. The report, based on information from US aviation investigators and national security officials, said systems that monitor aircraft performance transmitted engine telemetry to a ground database.
This reignited speculation that the plane may have met with foul play and some experts maintain that the jetliner might have been hijacked.
Although uncommon, the disappearance of large jetliners is not unprecedented. There have been instances where planes have vanished that are as mysterious as that of flight MH370:
In 2009, an Airbus 330 disappeared en route from Brazil to France. More than 24 hours passed before any debris was spotted and five days before its wreckage was found. It took two years for the flight recorder to be located.
Perhaps one of the most baffling disappearances was that of a Boeing 727 that vanished from an airport in 2003. The plane was grounded at Luanda airport when it inexplicably started moving and took off. There was reportedly no one except a mechanic aboard the jet when it taxied down a runway and flew out over the Atlantic with its transponder turned off.
The aircraft was never found.