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Latest news reports about the missing airliner are focusing on the theory that communications systems onboard were deliberately switched off by someone who knew exactly what to do.

News reports so far have speculated on a mid air explosion with the plane disappearing into the sea. Now there is a new theory as US experts become more involved in the search.

The airliner is a Boeing 777, Malaysia Airlines flight number MH370, and local authorities have been severely embarrassed by their inability to explain the incident.

Now US technology, which may not have been shared with Malayan and Chinese authorities, has made a discovery. The pattern of transmissions sent from the aircraft after it disappeared from the radar showed intervention from someone onboard.

This theory says the communications were deliberately switched off by someone with expertise and the right technology. The result is that the aircraft could have flown on for a further five hours – completely undetected.

Suspicion has fallen on crew members and police are now searching their homes. The chief pilot has been described as an airline geek who had built his own flying simulator at home.

Calculations based on the amount of fuel onboard say the plane could have flown for another 2,500 miles, bringing Kazakhstan, India, Japan and Australia into range.

China is deeply worried about US activity in this area and the knowledge that American technology is much more advanced than their own adds to the concern.

But the new theories will bring fresh hope to relatives desperately waiting for more information. The latest thinking leads to theories of hijacking, safe landings near remote islands – and the possibility that passengers will survive. Despite the desperate searches carried out so far there has been no sign of floating debris.

But what is puzzling is the motive for this act of piracy, as it has been described. Working in the full blast of worldwide publicity, what hopes of ransom money could the hijackers have? Surely they would realise there could be military intervention at some point and no chance of escape.

Alternatively there could ideological motives with Muslim extremists involved – or Chinese militants wanting to attack Beijing.

But nothing is know for certain – or nothing that has been put into the public domain. US authorities are being close mouthed for fear of upsetting China.

So far 57 ships, 48 aircraft and not less than 19 nations have been involved in the search.