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Report: Flight 370 Shifted Altitude and Path After Dropping Contact

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A new report Friday says Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 significantly changed altitudes and altered its course as if under pilot control after it disappeared from civilian radar less than an hour into the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The New York Times report, citing unnamed American officials and people familiar with the investigation, adds a new dimension to earlier indications that Flight 370 may have deliberately flown hundreds of miles off course.

Nearly a week after the plane disappeared, twelve countries have joined the massive and widening sweep of the region involving scores of aircraft and ships.

According to the Times, Malaysian military radar showed what is believed to be the missing Boeing 777 climb to 45,000 feet—above the approved altitude limit for the aircraft—after taking a sharp turn west, and then descend to 23,000 feet, well below normal cruising altitude, before gaining altitude and shifting its flight path north over the Strait of Malacca toward the Indian Ocean.

Malaysian authorities have shared the radar data with the U.S. and China but not to the public, and the reliability and implications of the revelations are still unclear. Ravi Madavaram, an aerospace engineer at the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan based in Kuala Lumpur, told the Times that the radar altitude readings can be unreliable when the plane is far away.

[New York Times]

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Write to Noah Rayman at noah.rayman@time.com