Day 17: Plane flew at 12,000 feet, CNN reports

 A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C Orion takes off from the Royal Australian Air Force Pearce Base to commence a search for possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Perth, Australia, Monday, March 24, 2014. Satellite images released by Australia and China had earlier identified possible debris in an area that may be linked to the disappearance of the flight on March 8 with 239 people aboard. (AP Photo/Paul Kane, Pool)

A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C Orion takes off from the Royal Australian Air Force Pearce Base to commence a search for possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Perth, Australia, Monday, March 24, 2014. Satellite images released by Australia and China had earlier identified possible debris in an area that may be linked to the disappearance of the flight on March 8 with 239 people aboard. (AP Photo/Paul Kane, Pool)

CNN reports:

Military radar tracking shows that after making a sharp turn over the South China Sea, the plane changed altitude as it headed toward the Strait of Malacca, an official close to the investigation into the missing flight told CNN.

The plane flew as low as 12,000 feet at some point before it disappeared from radar, according to the official. It had reportedly been flying at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet when contact was lost with air traffic control.

The sharp turn seemed to be intentional, the official said, because executing it would have taken the Boeing 777 two minutes — a time period during which the pilot or co-pilot could have sent an emergency signal if there had been a fire or other emergency onboard.

Authorities say the plane didn’t send any emergency signals, though some analysts say it’s still unclear whether the pilots tried but weren’t able to communicate because of a catastrophic failure of the aircraft’s systems.

Read the full CNN report.

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