Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Searchers Come Up Empty Again

It's been another frustrating day of searching for signs of the Malaysian jetliner that's been missing for more than two weeks.

The Royal Australian Air Force says its planes were stymied by heavy clouds, and nothing was found in the remote area it's been searching in the southern Indian Ocean.

Australia sent planes and a ship in search of a wooden pallet that was spotted by a search plane yesterday, but they've had no luck.

Wooden pallets are often used by ships, but one official with Malaysia Airlines says Flight 370 was, in fact, carrying wooden pallets.

Another potential lead came from France, which provided new satellite data that could indicate possible debris. French authorities say the data consists of "radar echoes," rather than images, in the same part of the ocean where satellite images previously released by Australia and China showed what might be debris from the plane.

President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken, told CNN today that "publicly or privately, we don't know" what happened to the plane. He said, "We're chasing down every theory."

Flight 370 vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard.

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Update: The Chinese government has spotted possible debris in a satellite image of the southern search corridor and is sending ships to investigate, Malaysia’s transport minister said Saturday.

An object measuring 22 meters by 13 meters [72 feet by 42 feet] was seen by a Chinese satellite, Hishamuddin Hussein told reporters at the daily news briefing in Kuala Lumpur on the two-week-long search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Local reports in China said the satellite images showed the object about 74 miles southwest of the possible debris that was revealed by Australian authorities on Thursday. The China satellite image was taken on Tuesday, while the images from Australia were taken on Sunday.

China was sending ships to the area to investigate and would be giving more information later, Hishamuddin said.

The development was revealed in a dramatic fashion at the end of an otherwise routine media briefing, when Hishamuddin was passed a note by an official. “All I know is what is in this note,” he said, holding up the scrap of paper.

Chinese state television posted a picture on Twitter of a satellite image that it said showed the object. The image could not immediately be verified by NBC News.

Chinese online news site, PeopleNet, says the object was found south latitude 44.57 degrees, east longitude 90.13 degress, quoting the the State Science and Technology Industry Commission for National Defense which controls China's satellites.

The development came as the third day of air and sea search 1,4000 miles southwest off Perth, Australia ended without success.

Searches by more than two dozen countries have so far turned up little but frustration and fresh questions about Flight MH370.

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A fleet of planes and ships set out Saturday on the third day of what has so far been a fruitless search for two mysterious objects that might help explain what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Three Australian air force P3 Orion aircraft, a New Zealand P3 Orion and two ultra-long-range commercial jets began taking off at 9 a.m. (6 p.m. ET Friday) to continue scouring a 22,300-square-mile area in the remotest reaches of the southern Indian Ocean — a choppy and windy seascape about 1,400 miles southwest of the Australian coast.

Two merchant ships are already in the vast search area, and they'll be joined later in the day by an Australian navy ship, the HMAS Success, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said Saturday morning — all of them looking for two "indistinct" objects that were spotted in satellite imagery this week that might be related to the mysterious disappearance of the Beijing-bound jetliner two weeks ago.

The objects still haven't been found, so the area being searched was expanded Saturday. Hishamuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting transportation minister, said the goal now is rule out some regions and eventually narrow the search to something more manageable.

"This is going to be a long haul, and the focus is to reduce the area of search and possible rescue," Hishammuddin said late Friday at a news conference in Sepang.

The search has — temporarily, at least — united nations across ideological and cultural borders.

U.S. jets flew over the area Thursday and Friday, and a U.S. P-8 will resume flying after a maintenance day Saturday, the Pentagon said. When they do, they'll be flying alongside two Chinese planes that are expected to arrive in Perth on Saturday and two Japanese P-3 Orions scheduled to arrive Sunday.

Malaysia's handling of the investigation into Flight 370's disappearance has strained relations between it and China, and the differences between Washington and Beijing are widely known. Meanwhile, Japan and China are fighting a diplomatic war of words over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

The U.S. said it has already spent more than $2.5 million on its part of the search effort, and NASA said Friday that it was joining the team, telling NBC News that "plans are underway" to target NASA satellites at the Indian Ocean search area.

The cooperative effort should help lessen the extreme difficulty of the search in what Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called one of the most inhospitable locations on Earth.

Radar has been mostly useless, the Australian maritime agency said, so now the teams are relying on human spotters.

"We've got no radar detections," John Young, general manager of the agency's emergency response division, said in a video statement.

"We have re-planned the search to be visual, so aircraft are flying relatively low with very highly skilled and trained observers looking out of the aircraft windows and looking to see objects," Young said.

Ten State Emergency Service volunteers were aboard the long-range commercial jets dispatched Saturday, the agency said.

"We are doing all that we can, devoting all the resources we can, and we will not give up until all of the options have been exhausted," Warren Truss, who is acting as Australia's prime minister while Abbott is out of the country. told reporters.

Truss noted that the satellite images were five days old and said the objects could have sunk since then.

"It's also certain that any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance over that time, potentially hundreds of kilometers," he said.

The batteries of the jet's data-recording "black boxes" (which are actually orange) are expected to exhaust themselves in a little more than two weeks, but Hishamuddin, the Malaysian transportation chief, said the search would continue as long as was necessary.

"We will carry on until MH370 is found," he promised.