Australia to resume ocean search for missing Malaysia jet

SYDNEY/KUALA LUMPUR Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:42pm GMT

1 of 15. A diagram showing the search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean is seen during a briefing by John Young, general manager of the emergency response division of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), in Canberra March 20, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Sean Davey

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SYDNEY/KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Rescue authorities studied satellite data on Friday for more clues in the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, after an air and sea search in the remote Indian Ocean off Australia failed to find any trace of a suspected debris field.

Australia rushed four international aircraft to an area some 2,500 km (1,500 miles) southwest of Perth on Thursday when analysis of satellite images identified two large objects that may have come from the Boeing 777, which went missing from radar screens 13 days ago with 239 people aboard.

Investigators suspect the Malaysia Airlines flight, which took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing shortly after midnight on March 8, was deliberately diverted thousands of km (miles) and then crashed into some of the deepest, most isolated waters on the planet in a possible suicide.

Rescue authorities cautioned that the objects spotted on the satellite images, dated March 16, might not be related to the transcontinental search for the plane but said the find represented the best lead yet.

Four aircraft would resume the search of the 23,000 square km zone on Friday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said. A Norwegian merchant ship that had been diverted to the area on Thursday was still searching there. Another vessel would arrive later on Friday.

Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said Australia continued to examine satellite footage to pinpoint the location of the suspected debris, which included a piece estimated from the satellite imagery to be 24 metres long.

"Clearly, there's a lot of resources being put into that particular area. It's broadly consistent with the flight plans that were talked about ever since the satellites and their work has been added to the information bank," Truss told ABC radio.

"That work will continue, trying to get more pictures, stronger resolution so that we can be more confident about where the items are, how far they have moved and therefore what efforts should be put into the search effort."

Strong winds, cloud and rain had made searching difficult, said Kevin Short, air vice marshal at New Zealand's Defence Forces which sent a P-3K2 Orion to search the area on Thursday.

"The crew never found any object of significance," he told Radio New Zealand. "Visibility wasn't very good, which makes it harder to search the surface of the water," he said.

A nearby desolate group of French-administered sub-Antarctic islands including St. Paul and Amsterdam and Kerguelen had been asked to look for debris, but none had been spotted, said Sebastien Mourot, chief of staff for the French prefect of La Reunion.

FALSE LEADS

There have been many false leads and no confirmed wreckage found from Flight MH370 since it vanished off Malaysia's east coast, less than an hour after taking off.

There has also been criticism of the search operation and investigation, as more than two dozen countries scramble to overcome logistical and diplomatic hurdles to solve the mystery.

Investigators piecing together patchy data from military radar and satellites believe that, minutes after its identifying transponder was switched off as it crossed the Gulf of Thailand, the plane turned sharply west, re-crossing the Malay Peninsula and following an established route towards India.

What happened next is unclear, but faint electronic "pings" picked up by one commercial satellite suggest the aircraft flew on for at least six hours.

A source with direct knowledge of the situation said that information gleaned from the pings had been passed to investigators within a few days, but it took Malaysia more than a week to narrow the search area to two large arcs - one reaching south to near where the potential debris was spotted, and a second crossing to the north into China and central Asia.

PILOT FOCUS

Exhaustive background checks of the passengers and crew aboard have yielded barely anything that might hint at a motive for the flight's diversion out over the Indian Ocean.

But the staggered shutdown of the communications systems, and the plane's initial diversion west along navigational waypoints, have focused attention on the pilot and co-pilot.

The FBI is helping Malaysian authorities analyse data from a flight simulator at the pilot's home. Initial analysis showed that some simulator data logs had been deleted last month.

China's icebreaker for Antarctic research, Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, will set off from Perth to search the area, Chinese state news agency Xinhua cited maritime authorities as saying.

About two-thirds of the missing plane's passengers were Chinese nationals.

The satellite images, provided by U.S. company DigitalGlobe, were taken on March 16, meaning that the possible debris could by now have drifted far from the original site.

The relatively large size of the objects would suggest that if they do come from the missing aircraft, it was largely intact when it went into the water.

(Additional reporting by Naomi Tajitus in Wellington, A. Ananthalakshmi, Anuradha Raghu and Niluksi Koswanage in Kuala Lumpur, Neil Darby in Perth, Byron Kaye in Sydney, Mark Hosenball in Washington, Nicholas Vinocur and Paul Sandle; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by)

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Comments (4)
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
Computers can be data-linked and remotely controlled from almost anywhere.

Did MH370 (an American Boeing 777 airliner) turn into a drone (UAV) where the crew turned into powerless flight deck observers?

Mar 20, 2014 2:20pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
China in talks with Airbus on possible $20 billion aircraft deal – sources

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/19/us-airbus-group-china-idUSBREA2I06E20140319

Does China have any concerns over origins of manufacturer?

That is a massive (potential) order…

Mar 20, 2014 2:23pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
“Imagine an airline crewroom in 2030. The airline has, say, 300 aeroplanes, but only about 50 pilots. About ten of these will be on duty in the crewroom at any one time. There they have several cockpit-like interfaces that can link them electronically to any of the fleet that’s airborne at the time. They have ten engine and systems engineers to help them. On the rare occasion that something anomalous occurs on an aeroplane, an alert sounds and all the flight and systems data for that aircraft are made available on the interface in real time, together with a systems diagnostic report. They can intervene as effectively as they could have done in the aircraft.” – See more at:

http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/learmount/2013/08/how-long-to-the-pilotless-airliner/#sthash.CW2H0J4N.dpuf

Mar 20, 2014 3:35pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
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