Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: 4 reasons for Indian Ocean search change

Written by Associated Press | Updated: Mar 29 2014, 21:07pm hrs
Malaysia AirlinesMalaysia Airlines Flight MH370 search: A view of an object floating in the Indian Ocean is seen on a computer screen onboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNAF) plane. Reuters
Australia announced Friday that the search area for the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 missing plane that disappeared March 8 has shifted to a new Indian Ocean region, 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) to the northeast of where planes and ships had been trying to find it.

WHY THE SHIFT

Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said an additional analysis of radar data indicated the plane was traveling faster than was previously thought, resulting in increased fuel usage and reducing the possible distance it traveled south.

Also see: New objects spotted in hunt for crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370

Dolan said the previous analysis had a range of possible assumptions about aircraft speed, and those assumptions have now been refined. He could not say exactly how much faster the plane is believed to have been traveling.

MULTIPLE OBJECTS SIGHTED

Five out of 10 search planes spotted multiple unidentified objects in the new search zone, and a ship will attempt to confirm the sightings and identify the items on Saturday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

CONFUSION OVER IMAGERY

Several countries have announced recent satellite sightings of objects in the previous search area. In an apparent difference of views, Australian officials have been hesitant to describe the objects as possible plane debris and are focusing instead on the new search area, while Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he believes both the object sightings and the new search zone should be investigated. Some experts say the objects are most likely sea junk.

NEW SEARCH AREA:

The new search zone is both closer to western Australia _ and therefore easier for search crews to reach _ and does not have the same harsh weather conditions as the old search location.

Robin Beaman, a marine geologist and research fellow at Australia's James Cook University, said the new information means any debris that has sunk is likely to be in deeper water than previously thought, perhaps about 4,600 meters (15,100 feet) rather than 3,000 meters (9,842 feet).

UPDATE: A RNAF plane searching for the missing jetliner has spotted items floating on the water in the new search zone west of Perth. Five aircraft spotted multiple objects of various colours during Friday's search the Australian Maritime and Safety Authority (AMSA) said. The sightings would need to be confirmed by ship, which was not expected until Saturday, AMSA said in its official twitter feed.

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