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New search turns up potential debris: MH370

March 28, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - The search area for the lost Malaysian jetliner moved 1,100 kilometres to the northeast on Friday, as Australian officials said a new analysis of radar data suggests the plane had flown faster and therefore ran out of fuel more quickly than previously estimated.


March 31, 2014
By The Associated Press

One of nine planes searching the new area Friday found objects,
though the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said on Twitter that it
would likely be Saturday before one of the six ships on the way could
follow up and determine whether the objects were plane wreckage. The new
area is closer to land and has calmer weather than the old one, which
will make searching easier.

 

"We have moved on" from the old search area, which pilots had combed
for the week, said John Young, manager of Australian Maritime Safety
Authority emergency response division.

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AMSA said the change in search areas came from new information based on
continuing analysis of the radar data received soon after Malaysia
Airlines Flight MH370 lost communications and veered from its scheduled
path March 8. The Beijing-bound flight carrying 239 people turned around
soon after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, flew west toward the Malacca
Strait and disappeared from radar.

 

The search area has changed several times since the plane vanished as
experts analyzed a frustratingly small amount of data from the
aircraft, including the radar signals and "pings" that a satellite
picked up for several hours after radar contact was lost.

 

The latest analysis indicated the aircraft was travelling faster than
previously estimated, resulting in increased fuel use and reducing the
possible distance the aircraft could have flown before going down in the
Indian Ocean. Just as a car loses gas efficiency when driving at high
speeds, a plane will get less out of a tank of fuel when it flies
faster.

 

Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, told
reporters in Kuala Lumpur that analysts at Boeing Co. in Seattle had
helped with the analysis of the flight.

Planes and ships had spent a week searching about 2,500
kilometres southwest of Perth, Australia, the base for the search. Now
they are searching about 1,850 kilometres west of the city.

"This is our best estimate of the area in which the aircraft is
likely to have crashed into the ocean," Martin Dolan, chief commissioner
of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said at a news conference in
Canberra.

 

He said a wide range of scenarios went into the calculation. "We're
looking at the data from the so-called pinging of the satellite, the
polling of the satellites, and that gives a distance from a satellite to
the aircraft to within a reasonable approximation," he said. He said
that information was coupled with various projections of aircraft
performance and the plane's distance from the satellites at given times.

 

Dolan said the search now is for surface debris to give an indication
of "where the main aircraft wreckage is likely to be. This has a long
way to go."

 

Objects in the new search area were seen from a New Zealand air force
plane, AMSA tweeted, adding that the find needed to be confirmed by
ship.

 

Young indicated that the hundreds of floating objects detected over
the last week by satellites, previously considered possible wreckage,
weren't from the plane after all.

 

"In regards to the old areas, we have not seen any debris and I would
not wish to classify any of the satellite imagery as debris, nor would I
want to classify any of the few visual sightings that we made as
debris. That's just not justifiable from what we have seen," he said.

 

But in Malaysia, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news
conference that because of ocean drifts, "this new search area could
still be consistent with the potential objects identified by various
satellite images over the past week."

 

The new search area is about 80 per cent smaller than the old one,
but it remains large: about 319,000 square kilometres, about the size of
Poland.

 

Sea depths in the new area range from 2,000 metres to 4,000 metres,
Young said. There are trenches in the area that go even deeper,
Australia's national science agency said in a statement. That includes
the Diamantina Trench, which is up to 7,300 metres deep, but it was
unclear whether the deepest parts of the trench are in the search area.

 

If the wreckage is especially deep, that will complicate search
efforts. The U.S. Navy is sending equipment that can hear black box
pings up to about 6,100 metres deep, and an unmanned underwater vehicle
that operates at depths up to 4,500 metres.

 

Young said a change in search area is not unusual.

 

"This is the normal business of search and rescue operations — that
new information comes to light, refined analyses take you to a different
place," Young told reporters. "I don't count the original work as a
waste of time."

 

He said the new search zone, being about 700 kilometres closer to
mainland Australia, will be easier to reach. Planes used so much fuel
getting to and from the old search area that had only about two hours of
spotting time per sortie.

 

The new area also has better weather conditions than the old one,
where searches were regularly scrapped because of storms, high winds and
low visibility.

 

"The search area has moved out of the 'roaring 40s,' which creates
very adverse weather," Young said, referring to the latitude of the
previous search area. "I'm not sure that we'll get perfect weather out
there, but it's likely to be better than we saw in the past."

Hishammuddin said although the new area is more focused, it "remains
considerable," and that "search conditions, although easier than before,
remain challenging."

 

Australia's HMAS Success was expected to arrive in the area Saturday,
Young said. The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration patrol
boat Haixun 01 was also on site, and several more Chinese ships were on
their way.

 

Malaysian officials said earlier this week that satellite data confirmed the plane crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

 

Authorities are rushing to find any piece of the plane to help them
locate the so-called black boxes, or flight data and voice recorders,
that will help solve the mystery of why the jet, en route to Beijing
from Kuala Lumpur, flew so far off-course. The battery in the black box
normally lasts for at least a month.