Mystery Malaysia flight may have lost signal, gone hundreds of miles off courseBy Greg Botelho. Michael Pearson and Jethro Mullen, CNNUpdated 9:20 PM ET, Tue March 11, 2014Just WatchedVirtual look at Flight 370's routereplayMore Videos ...Virtual look at Flight 370's route 01:47Story highlights Japan to join 8 other nations in search, ministry says Plane's transponder had stopped, Malaysian Air Force official says Missing flight was way off course, heading in wrong direction, official saysExperts unsure on what caused transponder to go off, what it means for plane It was 1:30 a.m. when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 lost all communications, including important transponder signals that send data on altitude, direction and speed. Still, it showed up on radar for about 1 hour, 10 minutes longer -- until it vanished, having apparently moved away from its intended destination, hundreds of miles off course.Those details -- told to CNN by a senior Malaysian air force official, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media -- seemingly shed more light on what happened to the aircraft that mysteriously went missing early Saturday.But if these assertions are true -- and other reports, citing a different Malaysian official, cast doubt on them -- many big questions remain. Why were the communications lost? Why was the Boeing 777 going the direction it was? And where did it end up?"Something happened to that airplane, that was obviously out of the norm, that caused it to depart from its normal flight path," said Mark Weiss, a former 777 pilot now with the Washington-based Spectrum Group consulting firm. "... It's difficult not to speculate."Peter Goelz, former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board, thinks all this information -- if correct -- ominously suggests that someone purposefully cut off the transponder and steered the plane from its intended destination."This kind of deviation in course is simply inexplicable," said Goelz.Just WatchedTake a virtual look inside a Boeing 777replayMore Videos ...Take a virtual look inside a Boeing 777 03:27PLAY VIDEOJust WatchedHow does a Boeing 777 become invisible?replayMore Videos ...How does a Boeing 777 become invisible? 02:34PLAY VIDEOJust WatchedAuthorities 'puzzled' by missing flightreplayMore Videos ...Authorities 'puzzled' by missing flight 03:00PLAY VIDEOJust WatchedHow can a massive airplane go missing?replayMore Videos ...How can a massive airplane go missing? 01:58PLAY VIDEOOther experts aren't convinced that there were bad actors -- be they hijackers or an ill-intentioned crew member. They say there could have been some sort of sudden catastrophic electronic failure or more that spurred the crew to try to turn around, with no luck."Perhaps there was a power problem," said veteran pilot Kit Darby, former president of Aviation Information Resources, adding that backup power systems would only last about an hour. "(It is) natural for the pilot, in my view, to return to where he knows the airports." Still, while they have theories, even those who have piloted massive commercial airliners like this one admit that they can't conclude anything until the plane is found. For now, the massive multinational search has yielded no breakthrough -- which has only added to the heartache for the friends and family of the 239 passengers and crew on board.The Malaysian air force official's revelations may provide more direction, though clarity and closure are still elusive."There are still as many possibilities out there, maybe more, now that we know about the transponders being off and the length of time that plane flew in the air without them," said CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. "It still leaves mechanical, terrorism (and) other issues as much in the air as they were before."Intentional or catastrophic mechanical failure?According to the Malaysian air force official, the plane's transponder apparently stopped working at about the time flight controllers lost contact with it, near the coast of Vietnam. The air force eventually and totally lost track of the plane over Pulau Perak, a tiny island in the Strait of Malacca -- many hundreds of miles from the usual flight path for aircraft traveling between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, the official said.If the data cited by the source is correct, the aircraft was flying away from Beijing and on the opposite side of the Malay Peninsula from its scheduled route.Why would the transponder -- an electrical instrument in commercial airline cockpits that continuously transmits information such as altitude, location, direction and speed -- have gone off? Goelz, the former NTSB managing director, and others point out the only reason for someone to intentionally turn off the transponder is to conceal the plane's location and direction. Someone with nefarious intentions of taking over an aircraft and steering it to where it wasn't supposed to be -- or perhaps planning on crashing it -- might do just that."You have to have a very deliberate process to turn the transponder off," he said. "... There might still be mechanical explanations on what was going on, but those mechanical explanations are narrowing quickly."Anthony Roman, a trained pilot and consultant, said that a fast-moving fire might have moved through the cockpit and rendered everything, including the crew, effectively powerless to do much more than turn the plane around."Fires are insidious," Roman told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "They can happen quickly and knock out multiple systems quickly."Darby, for one, believes purely mechanical issues remain the most valid possibility now. His main point is: "Everything is electrical." In other words, if there's some sort of "catastrophic failure" for whatever reason, that could knock out systems like the transponder.If that would happen, the plane could fly for some time without electricity but not indefinitely. Any attempts to steer it would be harder in the dark without functioning flight instruments said Darby, a retired United captain.Whether the air force official's account is true, that possibility and others make the mystery more and more confounding.The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosThe search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosRelatives of passengers from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 console each other outside the Malaysia Airlines office in Subang, Malaysia, on Thursday, February 12. Protesters demanded that the airline withdraw the statement made in January that all the passengers aboard the plane are dead. The plane, which disappeared on March 8, has not been found.Hide Caption 1 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA policewoman watches a couple whose son was on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 cry outside the airline's office building in Beijing after officials refused to meet with them on June 11, 2014. The search for the missing plane has been ongoing since early 2014.Hide Caption 2 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosMembers of the media scramble to speak with Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia's Civil Aviation Department, at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on May 27. Data from communications between satellites and missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was released the day before, more than two months after relatives of passengers say they requested that it be made public.Hide Caption 3 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosOperators aboard the Australian ship Ocean Shield move Bluefin-21, the U.S. Navy's autonomous underwater vehicle, into position to search for the jet on April 14.Hide Caption 4 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force looks out of a window while searching for debris off the coast of western Australia on April 13.Hide Caption 5 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosThe Echo moves through the waters of the southern Indian Ocean on April 12.Hide Caption 6 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion, on a mission to drop sonar buoys to assist in the search, flies past the Australian vessel Ocean Shield on April 9.Hide Caption 7 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA relative of a missing passenger cries at a vigil in Beijing on April 8.Hide Caption 8 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosAustralian Defense Force divers scan the water for debris April 7, in the southern Indian Ocean.Hide Caption 9 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA towed pinger locator is readied to be deployed April 7 off the deck of the Australian vessel Ocean Shield.Hide Caption 10 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force looks at a flare in the Indian Ocean during search operations on April 4.Hide Caption 11 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA member of the Japanese coast guard points to a flight position data screen while searching for debris from the missing jet on April 1.Hide Caption 12 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA woman prepares for an event in honor of those aboard Flight 370 on March 30, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.Hide Caption 13 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA Royal New Zealand Air Force member launches a GPS marker buoy over the southern Indian Ocean on March 29.Hide Caption 14 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosThe sole representative for the families of Flight 370 passengers leaves a conference at a Beijing hotel on March 28, after other relatives left en masse to protest the Malaysian government's response to their questions.Hide Caption 15 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA member of the Royal Australian Air Force is silhouetted against the southern Indian Ocean during the search for the missing jet on March 27.Hide Caption 16 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosFlight Lt. Jayson Nichols looks at a map aboard a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft during a search on March 27.Hide Caption 17 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosPeople in Kuala Lumpur light candles during a ceremony held for the missing flight's passengers on March 27.Hide Caption 18 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosMalaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, delivers a statement about the flight on March 24 in Kuala Lumpur. Razak's announcement came after the airline sent a text message to relatives saying it "deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH 370 has been lost and that none of those onboard survived."Hide Caption 19 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosGrieving relatives of missing passengers leave a hotel in Beijing on March 24.Hide Caption 20 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosGround crew members wave to a Japanese Maritime Defense Force patrol plane as it leaves the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Subang, Malaysia, on March 23. The plane was heading to Australia to join a search-and-rescue operation.Hide Caption 21 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA passenger views a weather map in the departures terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 22.Hide Caption 22 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA Chinese satellite captured this image, released on March 22, of a floating object in the Indian Ocean, according to China's State Administration of Science. It is a possible lead in the search for the missing plane. Surveillance planes are looking for two objects spotted by satellite imagery in remote, treacherous waters more than 1,400 miles from the west coast of Australia.Hide Caption 23 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosSatellite imagery provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on March 20, shows debris in the southern Indian Ocean that could be from Flight 370. The announcement by Australian officials that they had spotted something raised hopes of a breakthrough in the frustrating search.Hide Caption 24 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosAnother satellite shot provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority shows possible debris from the flight.Hide Caption 25 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA distraught relative of a missing passenger breaks down while talking to reporters at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 19.Hide Caption 26 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA relative of a missing passenger tells reporters on March 18 in Beijing about a hunger strike to protest authorities' handling of information about the missing jet.Hide Caption 27 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosU.S. Navy crew members assist in search-and-rescue operations March 16, in the Indian Ocean.Hide Caption 28 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosMembers of the Chinese navy continue search operations on March 13. The search area for Flight 370 has grown wider. After starting in the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam, the plane's last confirmed location, efforts are expanding west into the Indian Ocean.Hide Caption 29 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA Vietnamese military official looks out an aircraft window during search operations March 13.Hide Caption 30 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosMalaysian air force members look for debris on March 13 near Kuala Lumpur.Hide Caption 31 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosRelatives of missing passengers wait for the latest news at a hotel in Beijing on March 12.Hide Caption 32 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosIndonesian air force officers in Medan, Indonesia, examine a map of the Strait of Malacca on March 12.Hide Caption 33 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA member of the Vietnamese air force checks a map while searching for the missing plane on March 11.Hide Caption 34 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosVietnam air force Col. Le Huu Hanh is reflected on the navigation control panel of a plane that is part of the search operation over the South China Sea on March 10.Hide Caption 35 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA Vietnamese air force plane found traces of oil that authorities had suspected to be from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, the Vietnamese government online newspaper reported March 8. However, a sample from the slick showed it was bunker oil, typically used to power large cargo ships, Malaysia's state news agency, Bernama, reported on March 10.Hide Caption 36 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter lands aboard the USS Pinckney to change crews before returning to search for the missing plane March 9, in the Gulf of Thailand.Hide Caption 37 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA handout picture provided by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency shows personnel checking a radar screen during search-and-rescue operations March 9.Hide Caption 38 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosItalian tourist Luigi Maraldi, who reported his passport stolen in August, shows his current passport during a news conference at a police station in Phuket island, Thailand, on March 9. Iranians Pouri Nourmohammadi and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza were identified by Interpol as the two men who used stolen passports to board the flight. But there's no evidence to suggest either was connected to any terrorist organizations, according to Malaysian investigators. Malaysian police believe Nourmohammadi was trying to emigrate to Germany using the stolen Austrian passport.Hide Caption 39 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosVietnamese air force crew stand in front of a plane at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City on March 9 before heading out to the area between Vietnam and Malaysia where the airliner vanished.Hide Caption 40 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosBuddhist monks at Kuala Lumpur International Airport offer a special prayer for the missing passengers on March 9.Hide Caption 41 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosThe Chinese navy warship Jinggangshan prepares to leave Zhanjiang Port early on March 9 to assist in search-and-rescue operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. The Jinggangshan, an amphibious landing ship, is loaded with lifesaving equipment, underwater detection devices and supplies of oil, water and food.Hide Caption 42 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosMembers of a Chinese emergency response team board a rescue vessel at the port of Sanya in China's Hainan province on March 9. The vessel is carrying 12 divers and will rendezvous with another rescue vessel on its way to the area where contact was lost with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.Hide Caption 43 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosThe rescue vessel sets out from Sanya in the South China Sea on March 9.Hide Caption 44 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosMalaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, arrives to meet family members of missing passengers at the reception center at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8.Hide Caption 45 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosA relative of two missing passengers reacts at their home in Kuala Lumpur on March 8.Hide Caption 46 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosChinese police at the Beijing airport stand beside the arrival board showing delayed Flight 370 in red on March 8.Hide Caption 47 of 48The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 48 photosMalaysia Airlines Group CEO Ahmad Juahari Yahya, front, speaks during a news conference on March 8 at a hotel in Sepang. "We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts" with the jet, he said.Hide Caption 48 of 48EXPAND GALLERYJust WatchedQuestions swirl after airliner vanishesreplayMore Videos ...Questions swirl after airliner vanishes 01:57PLAY VIDEO"You couldn't make this story up," said Michael Goldfarb, a former official with the Federal Aviation Administration.Four scenariosTerrorism a possibilityAuthorities have said they're looking at all possibilities to explain what happened to the Malaysia Airlines aircraft.Earlier Tuesday, the head of the international police organization Interpol said that his agency increasingly believed the incident was not related to terrorism."The more information we get, the more we're inclined to conclude that it was not a terrorist incident," Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said at a news conference in Lyon, France.Yet -- speaking Tuesday about what he called a "very disturbing mystery" -- CIA Director John Brennan insisted terrorism remains a possibility."I don't know (what happened)," he said. "But I don't think people should, at this point, rule out any of these lines of inquiry."The two passengers who have dominated headlines the last two days entered Malaysia using valid Iranian passports, Noble said. But they used stolen Austrian and Italian passports to board the missing Malaysian plane, he said.Noble gave their names and ages as Pouri Nourmohammadi, 18, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29.Malaysian police had earlier identified Nourmohammadi, using a slightly different name and age, and said they believed he was trying to migrate to Germany.Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar of the Royal Malaysian Police said it doesn't appear the younger Iranian posed a threat. "We have been checking his background," Khalid said, noting "other police organizations" have been consulted. "And we believe that he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group," Khalid said.After he failed to arrive in Frankfurt, the final destination of his ticket, his mother contacted authorities, Khalid said. According to ticketing records, the ticket to Frankfurt was booked under the stolen Austrian passport.Extensive search for planeNo one knows where these two men and the other 237 people on the plane ended up. Every lead that has raised hopes of tracing the commercial jet has so far petered out.Over the past few days, search teams have been scouring tens of thousands of square miles of sea between the northeast coast of Malaysia and southwest Vietnam. They have also been searching off the west coast of the Malay Peninsula, in the Strait of Malacca, and north into the Andaman Sea.The search also encompasses the land in between the two areas of sea.But it could be days, weeks or even months before the searchers find anything that begins to explain what happened to the plane, which disappeared early Saturday en route to Beijing.In the case of Air France Flight 447, which disappeared over the Atlantic in 2009, it took five days just to find the first floating wreckage.And it was nearly two years before investigators found the bulk of the French plane's wreckage and the majority of the bodies of the 228 people on board, about 12,000 feet below the surface of the ocean.The Gulf of Thailand, the area where the missing Malaysian plane was last detected, is much shallower, with a maximum depth of only 260 feet and an average depth of about 150 feet.Still, they have to find it first. The newly disclosed revelation about the plane's direction doesn't help, as it means less certainty and more time for currents to move the wreckage around."Crucial time is passing," David Gallo, with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday. "That search area -- that haystack -- is getting bigger and bigger and bigger."Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, the United States, China and Malaysia are all taking part in the search, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. Japan has also dispatched a team to the area, with Japanese military and coast guard crews likely to follow, its foreign ministry announced Wednesday.Just WatchedNew details fuel missing flight theoriesreplayMore Videos ...New details fuel missing flight theories 01:33PLAY VIDEOJust WatchedMen with stolen passports identifiedreplayMore Videos ...Men with stolen passports identified 01:28PLAY VIDEOThat helps takes all forms, such as many as 10 Chinese satellites monitoring the area to the helicopters ready-to-dispatch off of U.S. warships.CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest described the search as "extremely painstaking work," suggesting a grid would have been drawn over the ocean for teams to comb, bit by bit.Quest said that the expanding search area shows how little idea rescue officials have of where the plane might be. But he's still confident they'll find it eventually."It's not hopeless, by any means. They will find it," he said. "They have to. They have to know what happened."Until they do, patience is growing thin for friends and family members of those aboard Flight 370.As a middle-aged man -- the father of one such passenger -- shouted Tuesday at an airline agent in Beijing: "Time is passing by."Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: What we know and don't knowAgonized families await answers over missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370How does a jet disappear?Malaysia Airlines Flight 370Australia: MH370 search moves southThe search for MH370 is moving to an area farther south in the Indian Ocean, said the Australian Deputy Prime Minister.MH370 radar data may have been wrongErin Burnett speaks to Miles O'Brien about the latest in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Was search hundreds of miles off? Ten experts say that the search for MH370 should move hundreds of miles away from the previous search area.An empty space on earth His wife never came home from her flight on MH370, and now K.S. Narendran is left to imagine the worst of possible truths without knowing.MH370: 100 days of very little progressFamilies are desperate for results as the search for MH370 reaches a grim milestone. Anna Coren reports from Beijing.Families: 'Whistle blower' rewardRelatives of passengers are launching an effort to raise $5 million for investigations and a "whistle blower" reward. Airlines want tracking technologyMaking sure another plane is never "lost" again is the immediate priority for the airline industry.Is this the sound of the crash?Was the sound of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 striking the water captured by ocean devices used to listen for signs of nuclear blasts?Search back to square oneWhat was believed to be the best hope of finding the missing plane is now being called a false hope. Rene Marsh explains.Bring in the lawyersInvolved parties, including the manufacturer Boeing, are bracing for a long public relations siege.Pings likely not from Flight 370Official: The four acoustic pings at the center of the search for Flight 370 are no longer believed to have come from the plane's black boxes.Quest: Is Inmarsat right?There is one fundamental question which continues to swirl: Has Inmarsat got its numbers right? Missing plane data releasedData from communications between satellites and missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was releasedFamilies want special investigationsFamily members of the people aboard missing plane want independent investigators to review the newly released satellite data.What will the Inmarsat data reveal?CNN's Richard Quest explains what kind of information should be contained in the Inmarsat data from Flight MH370.Underwater search on holdThe underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane will effectively be put on hold this week, and may not resume until August at the earliest.An MH370 movie already?Movie-makers in Cannes have announced they're making a thriller based on the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370.The story of the searchThe search for the missing Boeing 777 has gone on for eight weeks now. CNN's David Molko looks back at this difficult, emotional assignment.More from asiaPain and anger a year on from disappearance of MH370MH370 a year on: Relatives still in limboMarital rape: Why is it legal in India?