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Missing Malaysian plane: Summary of what’s known

Royal Australian Air Force Flight Engineer, Warrant Officer Ron Day, keeping watch for any debris or wreckage during the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

HAMISH PATERSON/AFP/Getty Images

Royal Australian Air Force Flight Engineer, Warrant Officer Ron Day, keeping watch for any debris or wreckage during the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

A summary of the latest information on the search for the plane and the investigation into what happened:

LATEST

— The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane is focused in remote waters far southwest of Australia after two large objects were spotted in satellite imagery bobbing in the ocean.

THE SATELLITE IMAGES

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— Australian defense force experts assessed images taken by a commercial satellite of two main objects: one 79 feet long (24 meters) and the other 16 feet (5 meters). The objects are south of the area where searchers have been focusing in recent days.

— The location is about 1,550 miles southwest of Perth in remote waters that often are stormy. Searchers caution the objects could be shipping debris or something else unrelated to the plane.

— Both objects have an indistinct, whitish appearance and are floating or just underneath the water surface.

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— These are the first objects to be identified as possible debris since the search focused on the southern Indian Ocean.

WHAT’S NEXT

According to latest information from Australian maritime authorities:

— Four search planes flew over the area Thursday, but weather hampered visibility. Another plane is dropping bouys, so that the current can be monitored.

— A Norwegian merchant ship will use radar to search the area overnight, and its crew will use binoculars and their own eyesight to scan the water Friday.

— Australian navy and a second merchant ship are en route. The planes will return to search by air on Friday.

— India will have two planes involved in the search Friday.

— Australia is seeking higher resolution images of the objects.

LAST COMMUNICATIONS

— Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said that the last words ground controllers heard from the plane at 1:19 a.m. — ‘‘All right, good night’’ — were spoken by the co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid.

— Investigators believe that whoever was piloting the jetliner turned off the plane’s transponder, which helps radar pinpoint location, and a text-to-ground messaging system.

— Authorities are unsure if the communication system was switched off before or after the last communication.

SIGNALS

— Thailand said that at 1:28 a.m., Thai military radar detected weak signals showing a plane that turned toward Kuala Lumpur, and later turned right, toward Butterworth, a Malaysian city along the Strait of Malacca. The radar signal was infrequent and did not include any data such as the flight number.

— Investigators have identified two giant arcs of territory spanning the possible positions of the plane about 7½ hours after takeoff, based on its last faint signal to a satellite. Flight 370’s last ‘‘ping’’ was sent at 8:11 a.m.

THE PLANE

— Establishing what happened with any degree of certainty will require evidence from cockpit voice recordings and the flight-data recorders, which are on board the plane.

— The black boxes are designed to withstand depths of 20,000 feet (3.8 miles). That may make the signals difficult to pick up even if an underwater microphone is over the correct location, according to the maker of the equipment.

— The emergency locator transmitters on a 777 are designed for land and don’t work underwater, nor do the satellite transmissions, said experts.

THE PILOT AND PASSENGERS

— US officials had said Monday that the sharp turn to the west was achieved from the plane’s cockpit by someone in the cockpit who was knowledgeable about airplane systems.

— Police seized a flight simulator from the pilot’s home.

— Investigators are trying to restore files deleted last month from the simulator to see if they shed any light on the disappearance.

— The 53-year-old pilot had more than 18,000 hours of flight experience. People who knew him have described him as sociable, humble, caring and dedicated to his job.

— The Chinese government said March 18 that it had ruled out the possibility that any of the Chinese citizens on the plane — about two-thirds of the 227 passengers — were terrorists, separatists, or malcontents who might have tried to hijack or destroy it.

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