Search for lost Malaysian jet shifts north

March 29, 2014 - 7:51:52 am

Malaysian officials show Chinese relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 the new search area, at the Metro Park Hotel in Beijing yesterday.

SYDNEY/KUALA LUMPUR:   An air and sea search for a missing Malaysian passenger jet moved 1,100kms north yesterday, after Australian authorities coordinating the operation in the remote Indian Ocean received new information from Malaysia that suggested the plane ran out of fuel earlier than thought.

The dramatic shift in the search area, moving it further than the distance between London and Berlin, followed analysis of radar and satellite data that showed the missing plane had travelled faster than had been previously calculated, and so would have burned through its fuel load quicker.

Australia said late yesterday that a New Zealand air force plane had spotted objects in the new search area. The sightings would need to be confirmed by ship, which was not expected until today, the Australian Maritime and Safety Authority (AMSA) said. We’re still waiting on imagery ourselves,” said an AMSA spokesman.

The latest twist underscores the perplexing and frustrating hunt for evidence in the near three-week search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour into a Kuala Lumpur to Beijing flight.

Malaysia says the plane was likely diverted deliberately but investigators have turned up no apparent motive or other red flags among the 227 passengers or the 12 crew. 

Malaysian officials said the new search area was the result of a painstaking analysis of Malaysian military radar data and satellite readings from British company Inmarsat carried out by US, Chinese, British and Malaysian investigators.

Engine performance analysis by the plane’s manufacturer Boeing helped investigators determine how long the plane could have flown before it ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean, they said.

“Information which had already been examined by the investigation was re-examined in light of new evidence drawn from the Inmarsat data analysis,” Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference.

For more than a week, ships and surveillance planes have been scouring seas 2,500kms southwest of Perth, where satellite images had shown possible debris from Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8.

Ten aircraft searching yesterday were immediately re-directed to the new area of 319,000sq-km, roughly the size of Poland, around 1,850kms west of Perth. The Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation was also redirecting satellites there. 

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 this morning.

The new search area is larger, but closer to 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.

“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.

Reuters

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