December 19, 2014
Search for lost Malaysian jet shifts significantly after new lead
An international air and sea taskforce hunting for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was re-directed today to an area 1,100 km (685 miles) north of where they have been searching for more than a week, after Australian authorities received new radar information from Malaysia.
The dramatic shift in the search area, moving it further than the distance between London and Berlin, followed analysis of radar data that showed the missing plane had travelled faster, and so would have run out of fuel quicker, than previously thought.
The new search area is larger, but closer to the Australian west coast city of Perth, allowing aircraft to spend longer on site by shortening travel times. It is also vastly more favorable in terms of the weather as it is out of the deep sea region known as the Roaring 40s for its huge seas and frequent storm-force winds.
"I'm not sure that we'll get perfect weather out there, but it's likely to be better more often than what we've seen in the past," John Young, general manager of the emergency response division of Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), told reporters, adding the previous search site was being abandoned.
"We have moved on from those search areas to the newest credible lead," he said.
For more than a week, ships and surveillance planes have been scouring seas 2,500 km (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, where satellite images had suggested there could be debris from Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8 with 239 people aboard.
Ten aircraft searching today were immediately re-directed to the new area of 319,000 sq km (123,000 sq miles), roughly the size of Poland, around 1,850 km (1,150 miles) west of Perth. The Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation was also redirecting satellites there, AMSA said.
A flotilla of Australian and Chinese ships would take longer to shift north, however, with the Australian naval ship the HMAS Success not due to arrive until Saturday morning.
The shift was based on analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said.
At that time, the Boeing 777 was making a radical diversion west from its course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
ATSB Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan said radar and satellite polling data had been combined with information about the likely performance of the aircraft, speed and fuel consumption in particular, to arrive at the best assessment of the area in which the aircraft was likely to have entered the water.
An international investigative team continued to analyze the data, Dolan said, which "could result in further refinement of the potential flight path of MH370".