Officials deny report that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 kept flying for hours

(CNN) -- Yet another conflicting storyline emerged overnight in the perplexing disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 nearly six days ago.

After search crews failed to find any trace of debris suggested by Chinese satellite photographs, Malaysian officials on Thursday denied a newspaper report that suggested the plane may have kept flying for four hours after its last reported contact.

The officials acknowledged the search for the jetliner, which disappeared early Saturday, is becoming harder and harder.
The report from The Wall Street Journal said U.S. aviation investigators and national security officials were basing their belief that the missing plane kept flying on data automatically transmitted to the ground from the passenger jet's engines.

The account has raised questions among some U.S. officials about whether the plane had been steered off course "with the intention of using it later for another purpose," the newspaper reported, citing a "person familiar with the matter."

The newspaper said it was unclear whether the aircraft had landed somewhere or had crashed.
But Malaysia's acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein denied the Wall Street Journal report at a news conference Thursday, reiterating that all contact had been lost with the plane at 1:07 a.m. Saturday.

The news came after Vietnamese and Chinese search crews found nothing where Chinese satellite photographs released Wednesday showed large floating objects in the South China Sea.
The spot is between Malaysia and Vietnam and not far from the plane's expected flight path.
China's State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense described the images as showing "a suspected crash site."

But Chinese authorities later said the release of the satellite images was a mistake and that they didn't show any debris relating to the plane, Hishammuddin said.
Engine data controversy

The Malaysian denial of the Wall Street Journal piece is the latest in a series of conflicting accounts involving crucial details such as the plane's route, when it vanished and other issues.
The Wall Street Journal report said the plane's engines have an onboard monitoring system supplied by their manufacturer, Rolls-Royce PLC. The system "periodically sends bursts of data about engine health, operations and aircraft movements to facilities on the ground," the newspaper said.
Malaysia Airlines sends its engine data live to Rolls-Royce for analysis, the report said, and that data is now being analyzed to figure out the flight path of the missing plane after contact was lost with its transponder, a radio transmitter in the cockpit that communicates with ground radar.

But Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said Thursday that Rolls-Royce and Boeing have reported that they didn't receive transmissions of any kind after 1:07 a.m. Saturday. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane shortly afterward, around 1:30 a.m.
Erin Atan, a spokeswoman for Rolls-Royce in Asia, declined to comment on the matter, telling CNN it was "an official air accident investigation."

Malaysian officials said they had consulted with the makers of the plane and its engines, who told them that no transmissions of any kind were received from the plane after air traffic controllers lost contact with it.

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