Ships retrieve objects in search for missing jet

A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion flies past the HMAS Success in the search for debris. Picture: Getty
A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion flies past the HMAS Success in the search for debris. Picture: Getty
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A DAY after the search for the Malaysian jetliner shifted to a new area of the Indian Ocean, ships were last night plucking objects from the sea to determine whether they were related to the missing jet.

None are as yet confirmed to be from the plane. But a Chinese military plane scanning part of the search zone – which is roughly the size of Poland – spotted several objects floating in the sea yesterday, including two bearing colours of the missing jet, which rescuers were last night attempting to collect.

It was not immediately clear whether those objects were related to the investigation into what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared on 8 March en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

Dozens of relatives of passengers on the missing plane were to fly from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur today to seek answers from Malaysia’s government.

Two-thirds of the 229 passengers aboard Flight 370 were Chinese, and their relatives have expressed deep frustration with Malaysian authorities since the plane went missing.

Ships from China and Australia yesterday scooped up items described only as “objects from the ocean,” but none were “confirmed to be related” to Flight 370, said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 plane spotted three floating objects, a day after several planes and ships combing the newly targeted area, which is closer to Australia than the previous search zone, saw several other objects.

The three objects – yet to be claimed by ships, which are en route – spotted by the Chinese plane were white, red and orange in colour. The missing Boeing 777’s exterior was red, white, blue and gray.

Investigators have been puzzled over what happened to Flight 370, with speculation ranging from equipment failure and a botched hijacking to terrorism or an act by one of the pilots.

The latter was fuelled by reports that the pilot’s home flight simulator had files deleted from it, but Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said checks, including one by the FBI, had turned up no new information.

“What I know is that there is nothing sinister from the simulators, but of course that will have to be confirmed by the chief of police,” Hussein said.

Newly analysed satellite data shifted the search zone on Friday, raising expectations that searchers may be closer to getting physical evidence that the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean.

That would also help narrow the hunt for the wreckage and the plane’s black boxes, which could contain clues to the aircraft’s fate.

The newly targeted zone is nearly 700 miles northeast of sites the searchers have crisscrossed for the past week.

The redeployment came after analysts determined that the Boeing 777 may have been travelling faster than earlier estimates and would therefore have run out of fuel sooner.

The new search area is closer to the southwestern Australian city of Perth than the previous one, with a flying time of 2∫ hours each way, allowing for five hours of search time, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. If investigators can determine that the plane went down in the newly targeted search zone – which spans about 123,000 square miles – recovery of its flight data and cockpit voice recorders could prove to be complicated.

Much of the sea floor in the area is about 6,600ft below the surface, but depths may reach a maximum of around 20,000ft.

The hunt for the plane focused first on the Gulf of Thailand, along the plane’s planned path.

But when radar data showed it had veered sharply west, the search moved to the Andaman Sea, off the western coast of Malaysia, before pivoting to the southern Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia.