Malaysia Reveals MH370 Sent a Final Partial Signal Eight Minutes After Last Known Satellite Contact

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Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 25 2014 9:34 PM

Malaysia Reveals MH370 Sent a Final Partial Signal Eight Minutes After Last Known Satellite Contact

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Malaysia's Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (C) answers questions during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on March 24, 2014.

Photo by MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Malaysian government offered new details on the possible path of Malaysia Airways Flight MH370, as the families of the passengers onboard staged angry protests outside of the country’s embassy in Beijing. During a press conference on Tuesday, Malaysia’s acting transportation minister said that the plane appeared to have made one more partial connection, or handshake, with a satellite. According to the New York Times, this newly disclosed partial signal came “eight minutes after the last of the previously disclosed electronic ‘handshakes’ between the plane and a satellite, which engineers have analyzed to infer the plane’s probable path after it disappeared from radar screens early on March 8.”

The final transmission, the Wall Street Journal reports, “could help investigators unravel what happened to the missing jet before it stopped flying.” Chris McLaughlin, a senior vice president at Inmarsat, the company that operates the satellite, discussed possible implications of the transmission with the Journal:

The company is investigating the partial ping—or digital handshake between the jet and the satellite—as "a failed login" to its satellite network or as "potential attempt by the system [aboard the aircraft] to reset itself," Mr. McLaughlin said. The partial ping could have several possible explanations, he added, but that human interaction with the satellite communications system had been ruled out. We're not looking at this [partial ping] as someone trying to turn on the system and communicate," he said… Mr. McLaughlin in an interview said Inmarsat's engineers and investigators were trying to understand the conditions that could cause a final incomplete ping, but added that this "does not affect the plot for the probable end location of the flight" in the southern Indian Ocean.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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