WASHINGTON — Investigators are examining data that appear to show that the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner was still in automated communication with satellite systems, and may therefore still have been airborne or at least functional, for hours after ground controllers last heard from it, a well-placed official involved in the investigation said on Thursday.
The information added to a growing belief that the jet turned off course after contact was lost and could have traveled hundreds of miles west, across the Malaysian peninsula and out into the Indian Ocean. Some search efforts were redirected to those waters on Thursday, with the redeployment of American naval aircraft and an American destroyer, the Kidd.
Revelations that the aircraft continued to communicate with satellites long after contact with air traffic controllers ceased added to a swirl of new information and speculation about its fate. ABC News reported on Thursday evening that American officials believed that two communications systems aboard the aircraft shut down at separate times, suggesting they were turned off deliberately rather than as a result of a catastrophic failure. The ABC report, which quoted two unidentified officials, could not be immediately corroborated.