New Delhi: US officials believe that two communications systems aboard Malaysian Airlines flight 370 were shut down separately, 14 minutes apart - which indicates the plane did not come down because of a sudden catastrophic failure.
The data reporting system was shut down at 1.07 am and the transponder was turned off at 1.21 am just after the pilot signed off to Malaysian air traffic controllers with 'All right, good night,' and before the Boeing 777 apparently changed course and turned west.
While that could suggest a deliberate act, CBS News aviation and safety expert Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger cautioned that it is "conceivable" that the communications systems could shut down sequentially on their own in the event of a catastrophic electrical failure.
He said the systems in a plane are so compartmentalized that things could shut down in a cascading, domino fashion instead of all at once.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board when it disappeared early on Saturday.
After days of hunting for the missing plane, authorities expanded the search west toward India on Thursday, saying the plane may have flown for several hours after its last contract with air traffic control.
There are technical indicators suggesting the plane continued to fly for an unspecified period of time after civilian air traffic controllers lost radar contact with the jet, Orr said.