Australia takes up southern search for plane

Airport staff move a white board plastered with messages of hope and encouragement to all involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, MH370, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Sepang, Malaysia. Authorities hunting for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner expanded their search on land and sea Tuesday, reflecting the difficulties in locating traces of the plane more than three days after it vanished.
Airport staff move a white board plastered with messages of hope and encouragement to all involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, MH370, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Sepang, Malaysia. Authorities hunting for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner expanded their search on land and sea Tuesday, reflecting the difficulties in locating traces of the plane more than three days after it vanished. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Australia took the lead Monday in searching for the missing Boeing 777 over the southern Indian Ocean as Malaysia appealed for radar data and search planes to help in the unprecedented hunt through a vast swath of Asia stretching northwest into Kazakhstan.

Investigators say Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was deliberately diverted and its communications equipment switched off shortly after takeoff during an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8. Suspicion has fallen on anyone aboard the plane with aviation experience, in particular the pilot and co-pilot.

Malaysian police confiscated a flight simulator from the home of the pilot Saturday and also visited the home of the co-pilot, in what Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said Sunday was the first visit to their homes. The government issued a statement Monday contradicting that account by saying that police first visited the pilots’ home on March 9, the day after the flight.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament that he agreed to take the lead scouring the southern Indian Ocean for the “ill-fated aircraft” during a conversation Monday with Malaysia’s leader Najib Razak. Australia already has had two AP-3C Orion aircraft involved in the search, one of them looking north and west of the remote Cocos Islands.

Malaysian authorities have said that satellite signal or “ping” received from the jet carrying 239 people more than seven hours after it took off shows that it also may have entered a northern corridor stretching over land from Southeast Asia northwest into Central Asia.

Twenty-six countries are involved in the search, the government said in a statement Monday.

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