Australian,Chinese Planes Spot Objects In Search For Missing Plane

Chinese and Australian planes have spotted several objects in an area of the southern Indian Ocean identified by multiple satellite images as containing possible debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the crew on board an Australian P3 Orion located two objects - the first grey or green and circular, the second orange and rectangular.

An Australian navy supply ship is on the scene trying to locate and recover the objects, and Malaysia's defense minister says it could reach them within a few hours.

Meanwhile, the Xinhua (shin-wah) News Agency reports the Chinese crew saw two large objects and several smaller ones spread across several square miles. China's foreign ministry says a white, square-shaped object was captured on a camera aboard the plane.

U.S. Pacific command is sending a black box locator to the area. It can hear the black box "pinger" down to a depth of about 20,000 feet.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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An air search in the southern Indian Ocean for possible objects from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane described as the "best lead" so far ended for the day without success Thursday but will resume in the morning, Australian rescue officials said.

The four planes were checking to see if two large objects spotted in satellite imagery bobbing in the remote ocean were debris from Fight 370 that disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board.

One of the objects was 24 meters (almost 80 feet) in length and the other was 5 meters (15 feet). There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from Australia's southwestern coast, said John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division.

"This is a lead, it's probably the best lead we have right now," Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a shipping route where containers can fall off cargo vessels, although the larger object is longer than a container.

A statement from the authority said the four planes searched an area of 23,000 square kilometers (8,800 square miles) about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth on Thursday without success. The area is about halfway between Australia and desolate islands off the Antarctic.

"The search will continue on Friday," it said. It earlier said the search had been hampered by low visibility caused by clouds and rain.

News that possible plane parts had been found marked a new phase in the emotional roller coaster for distraught relatives of the passengers, who have criticized Malaysia harshly for not releasing timely information about the plane. While they still hope their loved ones will somehow be found, they acknowledged that news of the debris could mean the plane plunged into the ocean.

"If it turns out that it is truly MH370 then we will accept that fate," said Selamat Bin Omar, the father of a Malaysian passenger on the jet, which carried mostly Chinese and Malaysian nationals.

But he cautioned that relatives still "do not yet know for sure whether this is indeed MH370 or something else. Therefore we are still waiting for further notice from the Australian government."

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference Thursday that "for all the families around the world, the one piece of information that they want most is the information we just don't have — the location of MH370."

Malaysian officials held a meeting Thursday night with the relatives in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, but journalists were kept away.

After the meeting, groups of people left looking distraught.

Hamid Amran, who had a child on Flight 370, said questions asked at the meeting made it "apparent that Malaysia's military is incapable of protecting its own airspace."

He said he "believes that my child and all the other passengers are still alive. I will not give up hope."

A man who would only give his surname, Lau, said he was there to support a Chinese couple who had lost their only son.

"It appears some families are slowing accepting the worst outcome," he said.

A group of Malaysian government and airline officials also flew to Beijing on Thursday night to meet families there.

Young said the depth of the ocean in the latest area, which is south from where the search had been focused since Monday, is several thousand meters (yards).

He said it may be difficult to spot the objects as they "are relatively indistinct on the imagery ... but those who are experts indicate they are credible sightings. The indication to me is of objects that are a reasonable size and probably awash with water, moving up and down over the surface."

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority released two images of the whitish objects. They were taken March 16, but Australian Air Commodore John McGarry said it took time to analyze them.

"The task of analyzing imagery is quite difficult, it requires drawing down frames and going through frame by frame," he said.

An Australian C-130 Hercules plane dropped marker buoys in the area to aid in the search.

But some analysts said the debris is most likely not pieces of Flight 370. "The chances of it being debris from the airplane are probably small, and the chances of it being debris from other shipping are probably large," said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The hunt for the Boeing 777 has been punctuated by several false leads since it disappeared above the Gulf of Thailand. Oil slicks that were spotted did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be a piece of sea trash. Chinese satellite images showed possible plane debris, but nothing was found.

But this is the first time that possible objects have been spotted since the search area was massively expanded into two corridors, one stretching from northern Thailand into Central Asia and the other from the Strait of Malacca down to southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.

Hishammuddin made clear that although international search efforts are continuing both on land and in sea in the northern and southern hemispheres, the effort is mostly concentrated south of the equator over the vast Indian Ocean.

Out of a total of 29 aircraft, 18 ships and six ship-borne helicopters deployed in the operation, only four aircraft are now scouring the north.

The Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg was rerouted and arrived at the area where the possible wreckage was spotted. It used searchlights after dark to scan the seas for any debris.

"They (the ship) have been asked to continue the search tomorrow and they will continue tomorrow morning," Ingar Skiaker from Hoegh Autoliners told a news conference in Oslo.

The Norwegian ship, which transports cars, was on its way from South Africa to Australia, he said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said another commercial ship and an Australian navy vessel were also en route to the search area.

Flight 370 disappeared on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation, but have said the evidence so far suggests the plane was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.

Malaysian authorities have said that files were deleted Feb. 3 from the home flight simulator of the missing plane's pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and Hishammuddin said he had no new information on efforts to recover those files.

The FBI has joined forces with Malaysian authorities in analyzing deleted data on the simulator. It was not clear whether investigators thought that deleting the files was unusual. They might hold hints of unusual flight paths that could help explain where the missing plane went, or the files could have been deleted simply to clear memory for other material.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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Australian officials say two large objects in the Indian Ocean that were picked up by satellite could be from the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared March 8.

But they say they won't know until they get a better look.

Four military search planes are headed to the area that's more than 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.

But maritime officials say poor visibility may hamper efforts to find those objects.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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An Australian search and rescue official says that planes have been sent to check on two objects possibly related to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight that were spotted on satellite imagery in the Indian Ocean about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth.

But John Young of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority cautioned Thursday against expectations that this may help solve the mystery of the plane that went missing with 239 people on board nearly two weeks ago.

Young told reporters, "We have been in this business of doing search and rescue and using sat images before and they do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our views on that until they are sited close-up."

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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The mystery surrounding the fate of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 only deepens with each new bit of information that emerges.

Authorities say the final words from the cockpit came after one of the plane's communications systems had been disabled, but gave no indication anything was wrong. Now investigators are trying to determine who spoke those words, whether one or both pilots were involved in the plane's disappearance and, if so, whether they acted under duress.

About 14 minutes after the first communications system was disabled, the transponder, which identifies the plane to commercial radar systems, was also shut down.

But the first system, which transmits information about the plane's engines and other parts to the airline, continued to send faint hourly pulses that were recorded by a satellite. The last "ping" was sent seven hours and 31 minutes after the plane took off. That greatly expands the territory searchers have to cover.

Malaysian officials are asking other governments to share sensitive radar data. They say without it, locating the plane might be impossible.

Investigators are looking into the background of all 239 people on the flight and the ground crew that serviced the plane. They're also examining a flight simulator taken from the home of one of the pilots.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Malaysia's prime minister says missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was deliberately diverted and continued flying for more than six hours after losing contact with the ground.

Prime Minister Najib Razak's statement confirms that the plane's disappearance more than a week ago was not accidental.

It also expands an already vast search area. The plane's last communication with a satellite was in one of two possible "corridors" - a northern one from northern Thailand through to the border of the Central Asian countries Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and a southern one from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

The plane was carrying 239 people when it departed for an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing at 12:40 a.m. on March 8. Investigators are taking another look at the flight's crew and passengers. Police have visited the Kuala Lumpur homes of both the pilot and co-pilot today, according to a guard and several local reporters.

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The mystery of the Malaysia Airlines jet continues and each hour seems to bring more questions.

Investigators are not ruling out any possible cause for the disappearance of the plane with 239 people aboard.

A U.S. official briefed on the search says the Boeing 777 sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the jet went missing. That's an indication that it was still flying.

Authorities are now expanding their search westward toward India.

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Satellite images on a Chinese government website show suspected debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner floating off the southern tip of Vietnam, near the plane's original flight path, China's Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.

The revelation could provide searchers with a focus that has eluded them since the plane disappeared with 239 people aboard early Saturday.

The Xinhua report said the images from around 11 a.m. on Sunday appear to show "three suspected floating objects" of varying sizes, the largest about 24 meters (79 feet) by 22 meters (72 feet).

The report includes coordinates of a location in the sea off the southern tip of Vietnam and east of Malaysia. The images originally were posted on a national defense technology website.

No other governments have confirmed the Xinhua report, which did not say when Chinese officials became aware of the images and associated them with the missing plane.

With the passage of time since the satellite images were taken, it is far from certain that whatever they show would be in the same location now.

The search for the plane, which left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing before disappearing early Saturday, has encompassed 35,800 square miles of Southeast Asia and on Wednesday expanded toward India.

Two-thirds of the passengers on the flight were Chinese, and the Chinese government has put increasing pressure on Malaysian officials to solve the mystery of the plane's disappearance.

Also, Wednesday, it was revealed that the last message from the cockpit of the missing flight was routine. "All right, good night," was the signoff transmitted to air traffic controllers five days ago.

Then the Boeing 777 vanished as it cruised over the South China Sea toward Vietnam, and nothing has been seen or heard of the jetliner since.

Those final words were picked up by controllers and relayed in Beijing to anguished relatives of some of the people aboard Flight MH370.

The new Chinese reports of the satellite images came after several days of sometimes confusing and conflicting statements from Malaysian officials.

Earlier Wednesday, the Malaysian military officially disclosed why it was searching on both sides of country: A review of military radar records showed what might have been the plane turning back and crossing westward into the Strait of Malacca.

That would conflict with the latest images on the Chinese website.

For now, authorities said the international search effort would stay focused on the South China Sea and the strait leading toward the Andaman Sea.

Chinese impatience has grown.

"There's too much information and confusion right now. It is very hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing. "We will not give it up as long as there's still a shred of hope."

"We have nothing to hide," said Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. "There is only confusion if you want to see confusion."

Flight MH370 disappeared from civilian radar screens at 1:30 a.m. Saturday at an altitude of about 35,000 feet above the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and southern Vietnam. It sent no distress signals or any indication it was experiencing problems.

The amount of time needed to find aircraft that go down over the ocean can vary widely. Planes that crash into relatively shallow areas, like the waters off Vietnam where the Malaysian jet is missing, are far easier to locate and recover than those that plunge deep into undersea canyons or mountain ranges.

By contrast, much of the Gulf of Thailand is less than 300 feet (91 meters) deep.

The Malaysian government said it had asked India to join in the search near the Andaman Sea, suggesting the jetliner might have reached those waters after crossing into the Strait of Malacca, some 400 kilometers from the flight's last-known coordinates.

Malaysian officials met in Beijing with several hundred Chinese relatives of passengers to explain the search and investigation, and to relay the last transmission that Malaysian air traffic controllers received before the plane entered Vietnamese airspace, according to a participant in the meeting.

Aviation officials in Vietnam said they never heard from the plane.

Its sudden disappearance led to initial speculation of a catastrophic incident that caused it to disintegrate. Another possibility is that it continued to fly despite a failure of its electrical systems, which could have knocked out communications, including transponders that enable the plane to be identified by commercial radar.

Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage and terrorism, and they are waiting to find any wreckage or debris to determine what went wrong.

In June 2013, Boeing issued a safety alert to Boeing 777 operators, telling them to inspect for corrosion and cracks in the crown fuselage around a satellite antenna. The alert says one airline found a 16-inch crack in one plane, then checked other 777s and found more cracking.

"Cracks in the fuselage skin that are not found and repaired can propagate to the point where the fuselage skin structure cannot sustain limit load," Boeing said. "When the fuselage skin cannot sustain limit load, this can result in possible rapid decompression and loss of structural integrity."

Two U.S. Federal Aviation Administration technical experts and a regional representative are in Kuala Lumpur as part of an NTSB team supporting the investigation. Experts in air traffic control and radar are providing technical help, the board said.

Hishammuddin described the multinational search as unprecedented. Some 43 ships and 39 aircraft from at least eight nations were scouring an area to the east and west of Peninsular Malaysia.

"It's not something that is easy. We are looking at so many vessels and aircraft, so many countries to coordinate, and a vast area for us to search," he told a news conference. "But we will never give up. This we owe to the families of those on board."

Confusion over whether the plane had been seen flying west prompted speculation that different arms of the government might have different opinions about its location, or even that authorities were holding back information.

Earlier in the week, Malaysia's head of civil aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, was asked why the Strait of Malacca was being searched and replied, "There are things I can tell you, and things I can't," suggesting that the government wasn't being completely transparent.

If all those on board are confirmed dead, it would be the deadliest commercial air accident in 10 years.

Choi Tat Sang, a 74-year-old Malaysian, said his family is still holding out hope that the plane and all on board are safe. His 45-year-old daughter-in-law, Goh Sock Lay, was the chief flight attendant. Her 14-year-old daughter, an only child, has been crying every day since the plane's disappearance.

"We are heartbroken. We are continuing to pray for her safety and for everyone on the flight," he said.


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