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Missing Malaysia Airlines plane update: Unsearched 'hotspot' gets clarification

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It has been over 100 days since Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing, its erratic flight path taking it away from its intended destination of Beijing, China, and eventually winding up in the southern Indian Ocean. Or that is where the missing plane is believed to have ended its flight, data from the British satellite company Inmarsat suggests. And it was a somewhat hopeful article from the BBC that quoted an Inmarsat scientist as saying that the search for Boeing jet had not even been in the general area of the "hotspot," the most likely part of the ocean where the plane might have went down. But now it appears that the term "hotspot" might need a bit of clarification.

Deutsche Welle reported June 18 that Inmarsat's senior vice-president for external affairs, Chris McLaughlin, explained that the information given the BBC by the scientist actually wasn't a small area, nor was there any actual "hotspot" that could be pinpointed.

"There is no "hotspot," McLaughlin said. "The comment made by Inmarsat scientist Chris Ashton on the BBC's Horizon program refers to a large area of ocean and should not be thought of as a small defined point. We can only identify an approximate course based on the very limited data available to be extrapolated from our network. The search area will be extensive and very difficult."

The flight projection model, the Inmarsat official explained, indicated -- as did four separate models from other professional groups -- that the plane went down beyond what is referred to as the "seventh arc." This arc is where Flight MH370 issued its final ping and is believed to be where the plane itself ran out of fuel.

But Inmarsat is of the opinion that the Malaysia Airlines plane continued flying for some distance. Without actual altitude and speed readings, the area could be close to the seventh arc or it could be a considerable distance from it.

At present, actual search operations for the missing plane have been halted. However, ships are mapping the sea floor in order to facilitate future search efforts.

McLaughlin also noted that Inmarsat has not calculated a location. "We have demonstrated a probable direction of travel," he said, "which has been independently agreed upon as the best fit for the data available by other professional bodies."

McLaughlin reinforced Ashton's defense of the international search team's decision to search the area of the four pings. However, Ashton noted that the area searched was not the "area of highest probability" of where the plane went down.

Still, as McLaughlin pointed out, "Investigators quite rightly needed to examine the signals coming from beneath the ocean surface and they did so." He said the data was given over to Malaysia and the investigation. "The data belonged to the investigation – NOT to Inmarsat," he insisted. "We were pleased to assist the investigation when it decided to make our data public."

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8. All 239 passengers and crewmen aboard are still missing and presumed dead. However, conspiracy theorists and even a few friends and relatives still believe the plane just might be intact and hold on to hope that the missing plane will soon be found.