Search planes resume hunt for Malaysian plane off Perth – USA TODAY
Search airplanes flew out of Perth, Australia early Monday to resume the hunt for any sign of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet in an expanded area of the south Indian Ocean.
Rain and poor weather conditions were expected to again slow the search in the area where French radar reported detecting potential debris, about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the search area was expanded from 22,800 to 26,400 square miles, including a new separate area covered by data provided by France on Sunday.
Two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 planes joined the search, increasing the number of aircraft from eight on Sunday to 10, the Australian agency said.
Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said “nothing of note” was found Sunday, which he described as a “fruitless day.”
Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said it received images from French authorities “showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor.” The images are from the southern Indian Ocean, where the hunt continues for the plane, which vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard.
A Malaysian official involved in the search mission said the French data consisted of radar echoes captured Friday and converted into fuzzy images. One of the objects was estimated to be about 70 feet long and 40 feet wide.
The news of the French images came a day after China released a satellite image captured Tuesday depicting an object about the size of the one in the French data, located about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite picked up an image of two objects a week ago.
The search areas Sunday were determined by drift modeling based on the Chinese satellite imagery, AMSA said.
On Saturday, an aircraft aiding in the hunt for the missing jet found some small objects in the search area, including a wooden pallet, the safety authority said.
Mike Barton, chief of AMSA’s rescue coordination center, told reporters in Canberra, Australia, that the wooden pallet was reportedly surrounded by what appeared to be strapping belts of different colors and lengths.
“We went to some of the expert airlines, and the use of wooden pallets is quite common in the industry,” Barton said. “They’re usually packed into another container, which is loaded in the belly of the aircraft. … It’s a possible lead, but we will need to be very certain that this is a pallet because pallets are used in the shipping industry as well.”
A New Zealand Orion P3 plane tried to find it but failed, Barton said. A merchant ship also was sent to try to identify the material.
It was not immediately known whether any pallets were used on Flight 370. AMSA spokesman Sam Cardwell said a cargo manifest has been requested.
Despite the frustrating lack of answers, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott appeared positive.
“Obviously we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope — no more than hope, no more than hope — that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft,” Abbott told reporters in Papua New Guinea.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein put a message on his Twitter account Sunday asking people in churches around the country to offer a “prayer please” for the passengers and crew on Flight 370.
More than 300 Malaysian cycling enthusiasts rode their bikes to the Kuala Lumpur airport to remember the people on the jet. The cyclists decorated the bikes with small Malaysian flags and stickers that said “Pray for MH370.”
Contributing: William M. Welch in Los Angeles; Associated Press