Flight 370 Could've Flown For Four Hours Longer Than Thought, According To American Security Higher-Ups

Yet another theory about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 fate surfaced Thursday: Some U.S. security higher-ups now apparently believe that the plane, which went missing between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, flew on for four hours longer than originally thought. This could mean that the aircraft, wherever it is, is hundreds of miles beyond the current search area.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, investigators say that data transmitted automatically from the engine to the ground suggests that the plane could have flown for a total of five hours, although there is still much speculation as to what actually took place on-board. U.S. counterterrorism officials are examining the possibility that the plane could have been diverted toward an unknown location, either by a pilot or one of the passengers or crew on-board after turning off the plane's transponders to evade radar detection.

Although nothing points toward terrorism at the moment, the possibility hasn't been ruled out, and U.S. authorities are still none the wiser as to why the plane might have been hijacked.

At a press conference Thursday, Malaysian officials firmly denied the theory that the plane flew on for four hours, reiterating that the last transmission of engine data happened at 1:07 a.m. — just over 20 minutes before air traffic controllers lost all contact with the plane.

The two conflicting accounts, based on the same data transmitted from the aircraft's engines, make this story even more baffling. On the one hand, the Journal's sources say the on-board monitoring system, provided by the engines' manufacturer Rolls-Royce — which spits out data about engine health, operations and the aircraft's movements periodically — was still transmitting data long after the plane disappeared from the radars.

On the other hand, Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said Thursday that Rolls-Royce and Boeing didn't receive any transmissions at all after 1:07 a.m. For the time being, Rolls-Royce is declining to comment.

On Wednesday there was a small glimmer of hope that Flight 370 may have been found, after Chinese officials released satellite photographs which appeared to show large pieces of floating debris in the South China Sea, not far from the aircraft's last known position. However, an extensive search of the area by Chinese and Vietnamese crews found nothing. There is also no sign on U.S. satellite images of a mid-air explosion.

On Thursday, Malaysian officials said they've widened the search area out to the west to include India and its surrounding waters: the Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea, and the Arabian Sea. The search and rescue effort for Flight 370 and its 239 passengers now involves 12 nations and more than 80 ships, aircrafts, and satellites.

UPDATE: The USS Kidd, the guided missile destroyer that had been searching for the missing jet alongside a second destroyer, the USS Pickney, just south of the Gulf of Thailand, has been redeployed to the Strait of Malacca off Malaysia's west coast at the request of Malaysian authorities. The move comes after the US received information about an expanded search area that could soon stretch into the Indian Ocean. A senior Pentagon official has also said that US officials have an "indication" that Flight 370 might have crashed in the Indian Ocean. The USS Kidd has helicopters aboard that can help to search the area.