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Missing Malaysia Airlines plane is not where "pings" were heard

The search will be suspended for a few months, but the search area will be expanded

Investigators searching for the missing Malaysian jet have concluded an area where acoustic signals were detected is not the final resting place of the plane after an unmanned submersible found no trace of it, the search co-ordinator said Thursday.

The U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21 finished its final underwater mission in the southern Indian Ocean on Wednesday after scouring 850 square kilometres (330 square miles), the Joint Agency Coordination Center said.

``The area can now be discounted as the final resting place'' of the missing plane, the Australia-based centre said in a statement.

The underwater search for the airliner, which vanished March 8 with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, will be suspended for a couple months while more powerful sonar equipment is brought in to search a much wider area of 56,000 square kilometres (21,600 square miles), based on analysis of satellite data of the plane's most likely course, the centre said.

That analysis has led authorities to believe that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 diverted sharply from its flight path and flew south to the Indian Ocean. But not a single piece of the missing Boeing 777 has been found in one of aviation's most baffling mysteries.

The news comes after the U.S. Navy dismissed an American expert's reported comments that acoustic ``pings'' heard in April did not come from the jet's black boxes.

CNN reported that the Navy's civilian deputy director of ocean engineering, Michael Dean, said most countries now agreed that the sounds detected by the Navy's Towed Pinger Locator came from a man-made source unrelated to the jet.

``Mike Dean's comments today were speculative and premature, as we continue to work with our partners to more thoroughly understand the data acquired by the Towed Pinger Locator,'' U.S. Navy spokesman Chris Johnson said in a statement, referring to Australia and Malaysia.

Earlier this week, the Malaysian government released reams of raw satellite data it used to determine that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean, a step long demanded by the families of some of the passengers on board. The conclusion is based on complex calculations derived largely from brief hourly transmissions, or ``handshakes,'' between the plane and a communications satellite operated by the British company Inmarsat.

But while the 45 pages of information may help satisfy a desire for more transparency in a much criticized investigation, experts say it's unlikely to solve the mystery of Flight 370. Theories range from mechanical failure to hijacking or pilot murder-suicide.

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