AIR crews have begun searching a new area of the Indian Ocean for signs of the missing Malaysian airliner after new radar data analysis suggested the jet flew faster than originally thought.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 would have used up more fuel, which may have reduced the distance it travelled, Australia said.
Based on the new information, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said it had shifted the search area for the Boeing 777 that disappeared nearly three weeks ago to a region 680 miles to the north east of where planes and ships had been searching.
Four search planes were in the area today and six ships were heading there, said John Young, manager of Amsa’s emergency response division, adding they had moved on from the previous search area, about 1,550 miles from Perth, in Western Australia, the launching base for the search.
Amsa said the change in search areas came from new information based on continuing analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca before radar contact was lost with Flight 370 early on March 8.
The 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 into the Indian Ocean.
“This is our best estimate of the area in which the aircraft is likely to have crashed into the ocean,” said Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
The new search area is more than 600 miles north of an area in which apparently floating objects were spotted by Japanese, Thai and French satellites earlier this week. Most of the objects measured from about 3-65 feet.
Mr Young said those satellite images “may or may not actually be objects” and acknowledged that the search had moved away from that previous area.
He said it not unusual to make such changes and dismissed questions that the earlier searches had been a wasted effort.
“This is the normal business of search and rescue operations - that new information comes to light, refined analyses take you to a different place,” he said. “I don’t count the original work as a waste of time.”
The new area is 123,000 square miles and about 1,250 miles west of Perth. The sea depth in the new area ranged from 6,560-13,120 feet, Mr Young said.
Australia’s HMAS Success and five Chinese vessels were on their way, and that the Success was expected to arrive there tomorrow night local time.
Strong winds and currents have made it difficult to pinpoint objects spotted so far, and the search has yet to produce any trace of the plane.
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 about a month.
For relatives of the 239 people aboard Flight 370, the various clues and failed searches so far have just added to their agonizing waits.
Wang Zhen, whose parents were aboard the missing plane, said he was becoming exasperated.
“There is nothing I can do but to wait, and wait,” he said from Beijing. “I’m also furious, but what is the use of getting furious?”
Amsa said the change came after the updated new information, based on continuing analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca before radar contact was lost with the Boeing 777.
It said the 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 into the Indian Ocean.
The previous search area was more south west and about 1,550 miles from Perth.
“This is a credible new lead and will be thoroughly investigated today,” Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult search, and an agonising wait for family and friends of the passengers and crew. We owe it to them to follow every credible lead and to keep the public informed of significant new developments. That is what we are doing.”