Plane spots objects in new search area for Malaysia jet

Radar data reveals the plane was going faster than previously thought

Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 12:00

A plane had spotted objects in the new Indian Ocean search area where an international team is looking for wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 today, Australian authorities said.

The Australian Maritime and Safety Authority (AMSA) said it was awaiting images from the Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion, which was on its way back to base.

The sightings would need to be confirmed by ship, which was not expected until Saturday, AMSA said in its official twitter feed.

An international air and sea taskforce hunting for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was re-directed today to an area 1,100 km north of where they have been searching for more than a week, after Australian authorities received new radar information from Malaysia.

The dramatic shift in the search area, moving it further than the distance between London and Berlin, followed analysis of radar data that showed the missing plane had travelled faster, and so would have run out of fuel quicker, than previously thought.

“I’m not sure that we’ll get perfect weather out there, but it’s likely to be better more often than what we’ve seen in the past,” John Young, general manager of the emergency response division of Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), told reporters, adding the previous search site was being abandoned.

“We have moved on from those search areas to the newest credible lead,” he said.

The new search area is larger, but closer to the Australian west coast city of Perth, allowing aircraft to spend longer on site by shortening travel times.

It is also vastly more favourable in terms of the weather as it is out of the deep sea region known as the Roaring 40s for its huge seas and frequent storm-force winds.

For more than a week, ships and surveillance planes have been scouring seas 2,500 km southwest of Perth, where satellite images had suggested there could be debris from Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8th with 239 people aboard.

Ten aircraft searching today were immediately re-directed to the new area of 319,000 sq km . roughly the size of Poland, around 1,850 km west of Perth.

The Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation was also redirecting satellites there, AMSA said.

A flotilla of Australian and Chinese ships would take longer to shift north, however, with the Australian naval ship the HMAS Success not due to arrive until tomorrow morning.

The shift was based on analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said.

At that time, the Boeing 777 was making a radical diversion west from its course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan said radar and satellite polling data had been combined with information about the likely performance of the aircraft, speed and fuel consumption in particular, to arrive at the best assessment of the area in which the aircraft was likely to have entered the water.