PERTH, Australia – As the search continued off the coast of Australia for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet on Monday, the airline announced another plane bound for India was forced to make an emergency landing after one of its tires burst on takeoff.
All 159 passengers and seven crew members arrived safely back in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, about 2 a.m. on Monday, around four hours after the plane took off for Bangalore, India. The incident brought additional drama to an airline already under immense pressure for answers from the public and the families of those missing from Flight 370, more than six weeks after it departed the same airport.
Meanwhile, a robotic submarine continued scouring a desolate patch of silt-covered seafloor in the Indian Ocean for any trace of the missing plane. The unmanned sub has spent nearly a week searching for the plane's black boxes and has covered about two-thirds of its focused search area. But it has yet to uncover any clues that could shed light on the plane's mysterious disappearance.
The U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21 has made eight trips below the surface to scan the seabed far off the coast of western Australia, journeying beyond its recommended depth of 4 1/2 kilometers (2.8 miles). Its search area forms a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius around the location of an underwater signal that was believed to have come from the aircraft's black boxes. The search coordination center said the sonar scan of the seafloor in that area was expected to be completed sometime this week.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has stressed the importance of the weekend's submarine missions, but added that even if no debris was recovered, the scope of the search may be broadened or other assets may be used.
The search for debris on the ocean surface also continued Monday, with up to 10 military aircraft and 11 ships combing a 49,500 square kilometer (19,000 square mile) area, about 1,700 kilometers (1,000 miles) northwest of Perth, the search coordination center said. A cyclone was swirling over the ocean northwest of the search area, and was expected to bring increasing rain and winds to the northern section of the search zone later Monday.
The search coordination center has said the hunt for floating debris will continue through at least Tuesday.
Radar and satellite data show the jet veered far off course on March 8 for unknown reasons and would have run out of fuel in the remote section of ocean where the search has been focused. Not one piece of debris has been recovered since the massive multinational hunt began.
There have been numerous leads, but all have turned out to be false. The most promising development came when four underwater signals were detected April 5 and 8. The sounds were consistent with pings that would have been emanating from the plane's flight data and cockpit recorders' beacons before their batteries died.
Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.
Follow Margie Mason on Twitter at twitter.com/MargieMasonAP