A Chinese military aircraft searching for the missing
Malaysia Airlines jetliner has spotted several "suspicious"
floating objects in remote seas off Australia, increasing the
likelihood that the wreckage of the plane may soon be found.
The latest sighting followed reports by an Australian crew
over the weekend of a floating wooden pallet and strapping
belts in an area of the icy southern Indian Ocean that was
identified after satellites recorded images of potential
Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than
an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with
239 people on board on March 8. No confirmed sighting of the
plane has been made since and there is no clue what went
Attention and resources in the search for the Boeing 777 have
shifted from an initial focus north of the equator to an
increasingly narrowed stretch of rough sea in the southern
Indian Ocean, thousands of miles from the plane's original
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said it had
been advised of the Chinese sighting and will use other
aircraft scheduled to search the area on Monday to relocate
The Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft spotted two "relatively
big" floating objects and several smaller white ones
dispersed over several kilometers, the Xinhua news agency
China has diverted its icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon,
toward the location where the debris was spotted, Xinhua
said. A flotilla of other Chinese ships are also steadily
making their way south. Over 150 of the passengers on board
the missing plane were Chinese.
In a further sign the search may be bearing fruit, the United
States Navy is flying in its high-tech Black Box detector to
The so-called black boxes - the cockpit voice recorder and
flight data recorder - record what happens on board planes in
flight. At crash sites, finding the black boxes soon is
crucial because the locator beacons they carry fade out after
"If debris is found we will be able to respond as quickly as
possible since the battery life of the black box's pinger is
limited," Commander Chris Budde, U.S. Seventh Fleet
Operations Officer, said in an emailed statement.
Budde stressed that bringing in the black box detector, which
is towed behind a vessel at slow speeds and can pick up
"pings" from a black box to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet,
was a precautionary measure.
The Chinese aircraft that spotted the objects was one of two
IL-76s searching early on Monday. Another eight aircraft,
from New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Japan,
were scheduled to make flights throughout the day to the
search site, some 2,500 km (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth.
WEATHER MAY DETERIORATE
Aircraft flying on Monday were focused on searching by sight,
rather than radar, which can be tricky to use because of the
high seas and wind in the area.
"It's a lot of water to look for just perhaps a tiny object,"
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told Australian
Broadcasting Corp. Radio before the Chinese report.
"Today we expect the weather to deteriorate and the forecast
ahead is not that good, so it's going to be a challenge, but
we will stick at it," he said.
Australia was also analysing French radar images showing
potential floating debris that were taken some 850 kms (530
miles) north of the current search area.
"We only recently got this information and we are still
examining it," an AMSA spokeswoman told Reuters by telephone.
Malaysia said it received the images on Sunday and passed
them on to Australia.
Australia has used a U.S. satellite image of two floating
objects to frame its search area. A Chinese satellite has
also spotted an object floating in the ocean there, estimated
at 22 metres long (74ft) and 13 metres (43ft) wide.
It could not be determined easily from the blurred images
whether the objects were the same as those detected by the
Australian and Chinese search planes, but the Chinese
photograph could depict a cluster of smaller objects, said a
senior military officer from one of the 26 nations involved
in the search.
The wing of a Boeing 777-200ER is approximately 27 metres
long and 14 metres wide at its base, according to estimates
derived from publicly available scale drawings. Its fuselage
is 63.7 metres long by 6.2 metres wide.
NASA said it would use high-resolution cameras aboard
satellites and the International Space Station to look for
possible crash sites in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. space
agency is also examining archived images collected by
instruments on its Terra and Aqua environmental satellites,
said NASA spokesman Allard Beutel.
SOMEONE ON BOARD
Investigators believe someone on the flight shut off the
plane's communications systems. Partial military radar
tracking showed it turning west and re-crossing the Malay
Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.
That has led them to focus on hijacking or sabotage, but
investigators have not ruled out technical problems. Faint
electronic "pings" detected by a commercial satellite
suggested it flew for another six hours or so, but could do
no better than place its final signal on one of two vast arcs
north and south.
The lack of solid news has meant a prolonged and harrowing
wait for families of the passengers, who have complained in
both Beijing and Kuala Lumpur about the absence of
A Malaysian statement said a "high-level" team briefed
relatives in Beijing on Sunday in a meeting that lasted more
than six hours.
While the southern arc is now the main focus of the search,
Malaysia says efforts will continue in both corridors until
confirmed debris are found.
"We still don't even know for certain if the aircraft is in
this area," Truss said earlier on Monday of the southern
Indian Ocean search.
"We're just clutching at whatever little piece of information
that comes along to try to find the place we can concentrate