Pilots scour rough seas after objects spotted
As Australian, New Zealand and US military pilots scoured rough seas in one of the most isolated corners of the globe yesterday for two floating objects captured in satellite pictures, experts warned that it could take days to establish whether they are wreckage from the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
Hopes of a breakthrough in the multi-national search for the plane, which vanished off radar screens nearly a fortnight ago, were raised by the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who told Parliament that the images represented "new and credible information".
The indistinct objects – one about 24m (71ft) long, the other 5m – were photographed in the southern Indian Ocean, about 2,500km south-west of Perth. That was on March 16, since when they could have drifted hundreds of kilometres – making the hunt for them a "logistical nightmare", according to the Australian Defence Minister David Johnston.
The first planes sent to the area yesterday encountered high winds, thick cloud cover and rain, which severely limited their visibility.
Other aircraft and ships, dispatched by New Zealand, the US, Malaysia and Britain, were on their way to the spot roughly halfway between Australia and Antarctica, where the ocean reaches depths of 5,000m (16,400ft).
The operation was hampered by the remote location, four hours' flying time from the Australian coast – giving Royal Australian Air Force aircraft such as the AP-3C Orion just two hours to search before they had to turn back to refuel.
"We are in a most isolated part of the world. In fact, it probably doesn't get more isolated," Mr Johnston told Sky News Australia.