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Malaysia widens search for missing plane, saying it might have flown for several hours

Thursday - 3/13/2014, 12:49pm  ET

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysian authorities are again expanding the search area for the missing jetliner.

Malaysia's transport minister says it's possible the plane could have flown for several hours after its last contact with the ground.

The Wall Street Journal quotes U.S. investigators as saying they suspect the plane remained in the air for about four hours after its last confirmed contact. They cited data from the plane's engines automatically transmitted as part of a routine maintenance program.

But the transport minister says Malaysia contacted Boeing and Rolls Royce, the engine manufacturer, and both said the last engine data was received about 23 minutes before the plane lost contact. Still, he says investigators have been unable to rule anything out yet and have requested radar data from India and other neighboring countries.

Planes were sent today to search an area off the southern tip of Vietnam. Chinese satellite images reportedly showed three floating objects there, but the searchers spotted nothing.

%@AP Links

155-v-36-(Shirley Smith, AP correspondent)--Malaysian officials are dismissing reports that the missing airliner's engines continued sending data for hours after it disappeared. AP correspondent Shirley Smith reports. (replaces cut 34 with updated information) (13 Mar 2014)

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174-a-16-(David Gallo, oceanographer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Skype interview)-"they came from"-David Gallo, an oceanographer who helped find the wreckage of a 2009 Air France airliner crash, says a methodical and mathematical search is needed to try to find where the plane may have gone down. COURTESY: Sky News ((mandatory on-air credit)) (13 Mar 2014)

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172-a-09-(David Gallo, oceanographer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Skype interview)-"its absolutely perplexing"-David Gallo, an oceanographer who helped find the wreckage of a 2009 Air France airliner crash, says the missing Malaysia Airlines flight is a mystery. COURTESY: Sky News ((mandatory on-air credit)) (13 Mar 2014)

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173-a-15-(David Gallo, oceanographer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Skype interview)-"weighing on him"-David Gallo, an oceanographer who helped find the wreckage of a 2009 Air France airliner crash, says he feels for the Malaysian transport minister trying to coordinate the international efforts. COURTESY: Sky News ((mandatory on-air credit)) (13 Mar 2014)

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162-a-18-(Captain John Cox, CEO, Safety Operating Systems, in AP interview)-"then the wreckage"-Captain John Cox, an airplane safety consultant, says the hardest part for all involved is "patience." ((note cut length)) (13 Mar 2014)

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160-a-15-(Captain John Cox, CEO, Safety Operating Systems, in AP interview)-"lot of it"-Captain John Cox, an airplane safety consultant, says after three decades of being an accident investigator, he's never seen a case so mysterious as that of the missing Malaysian jetliner. (13 Mar 2014)

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161-a-14-(Captain John Cox, CEO, Safety Operating Systems, in AP interview)-"of Malaysian 370"-Captain John Cox, an airplane safety consultant, says he's confident the missing Malaysian jetliner will be found. (13 Mar 2014)

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159-a-17-(Chris Yates, independent aviation analyst, in AP interview)-"doomed it immediately"-Aviation analyst Chris Yates says he believes a catastrophic on-board failure is the reason the airplane has gone missing. (13 Mar 2014)

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157-a-07-(Chris Yates, independent aviation analyst, in AP interview)-"precisely has happened"-Aviation analyst Chris Yates says those searching for the missing airliner are no closer to finding it than they were several days ago. (13 Mar 2014)

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158-a-18-(Chris Yates, independent aviation analyst, in AP interview)-"hours or days"-Aviation analyst Chris Yates says he believes either massive mechanical failure or an on-board explosion led to the airliner's disappearance. ((note cut length)) (13 Mar 2014)

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156-a-04-(Chris Yates, independent aviation analyst, in AP interview)-"the missing airliner"-Aviation analyst Chris Yates says authorities are back to square one in the search for the missing Boeing 777 aircraft. (13 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO WM108: Malaysia's Minister of Transport Hishamuddin Hussein takes questions from the media during a press conference about the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370, Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Sepang, Malaysia. Planes sent Thursday to check the spot where Chinese satellite images showed possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner found nothing, Malaysia's civil aviation chief said, deflating the latest lead in the six-day hunt. The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) (13 Mar 2014)

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