Missing Malaysia Airlines jet: How the search has changed
In this March 20, 2014 photo provided by the Australia Defence Department, Royal Australian Air Force Loadmasters Sgt. Adam Roberts, left, and Flight Sgt. John Mancey, launch a Self Locating Data Marker Buoy from a C-130J Hercules aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the Australian Defence Force's assistance to the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. (AP / Australian Defence Department, Justin Brown)
The Associated Press
Published Friday, March 28, 2014 11:02AM EDT
Australia announced Friday that the search area for the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared March 8 has shifted to a new Indian Ocean region, 1,100 kilometres 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 travelling faster than was previously thought, resulting in increased fuel usage and reducing the possible distance it travelled south.
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 travelling.
NEW DEBRIS SIGHTINGS
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 debris 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 Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he believes both the debris 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 metres rather than 3,000 metres.