The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight has reached a virtual dead end as conflicting revelations, including data showing the jet might have travelled for many more hours after it lost contact, threw investigators off course on the sixth day of searches.
Vietnamese and Malaysian search teams failed to find any debris of the plane at a location in the South China Sea, where suspected wreckage of the missing jet was reportedly found by Chinese satellite images.
The lead provided by the Chinese government had looked promising as the location specified in the satellite images was close to where the Beijing-bound plane had its last contact with air traffic control.
However the search returned no clues, taking the investigators back to square one.
Meanwhile, US investigators have suggested that according to the engine data of the missing plane, the aircraft travelled for at least four more hours after it recorded its last contact with the ground.
The Wall Street Journal reported that data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Boeing 777's engines indicated that the ill-fated jet was in the air for a substantial period of time after it vanished from civilian radars.
This would mean the plane, in all likelihood, travelled for more than 2,000 nautical miles, deviating from its scheduled flight path.
The report said US counterterrorism investigators are looking at the possibility of hijackers diverting the plane and taking it to a faraway location after turning off the aircraft's transponders to evade radar detection.
The new revelation has given life to a host of theories about the plane's fate.
US aviation experts and counter-terrorism officials believe the plane must have been commandeered by someone on board and steered to a location off its original flight path "with the intention of using it later for another purpose," the report said, citing a source familiar with the situation.
However, there is no clue where the plane might have headed under this scenario, whether it reached any such destination, or eventually crashed.
If the plane had travelled for a total five hours after it took off from Kuala Lumpur shortly after midnight on Saturday, it could have covered an "additional distance of about 2,200 nautical miles, reaching points as far as the Indian Ocean, the border of Pakistan or even the Arabian Sea, based on the jet's cruising speed," the Australian Financial Review reported.
"It could also have reached North Korea," the report said, harking back to myriad conspiracy theories that surfaced on the internet after the plane mysteriously disappeared.
FLIGHT MH370 FACTBOX
Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport en route to Beijing at 00:41 on Saturday 8 March (16:41 GMT Friday).
About 50 minutes later, the aircraft lost contact with air traffic control.
No distress call was made.
On board, there were 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 countries. That included 153 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.
Two Iranian male passengers, Pouria Nour Mohammad Mahread and Delavar Syed Mohammad Reza, were travelling on fake passports. Neither had any apparent links to terrorist groups.
No debris from the plane has been found in the international search.
At least 10 countries, including China, the US and Singapore, were using a total of 42 ships and 39 aircraft to search for the missing plane in the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Andaman Sea.