Australian Planes Spot Objects in New Search Area for Malaysian Airliner

Australian search planes have spotted objects in the Indian Ocean in the area where the search for the missing Malaysian airliner has shifted.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said an Orion surveillance aircraft spotted the objects Friday in the new search location, about 1,850 kilometers west of the Australian city of Perth.

In a statement on Twitter, the AMSA said the plane is in the process of sending back images of the objects, which will need to be confirmed. It said ships will not be able to reach the area until Saturday.

Earlier Friday, the search was shifted more than 1,000 kilometers northeast after investigators determined the missing jetliner was travelling faster and expending fuel quicker than previously estimated, reducing the distance it flew.

AMSA General Manager John Young said Friday the information, based on radar data, is the "most credible lead" so far in the search for the wreckage, but warned there is "a long way to go yet."

"This is the normal business of search and rescue operations -- that new information comes to light, refined analysis take you to a different place. I don't count the original work a waste of time."

Ground crew prepare to unload a Sea Hawk helicopter from a Royal Australia Air Force C-17 after it landed at RAAF Base Pearce to help with the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia on March 28, 2014. /AP Ground crew prepare to unload a Sea Hawk helicopter from a Royal Australia Air Force C-17 after it landed at RAAF Base Pearce to help with the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Perth, Australia on March 28, 2014. /AP

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said given ocean drift, the new location could still be consistent with possible debris spotted in satellite photos over the past week near the old search location.

Hishammuddin also said Malaysia has received fresh satellite images from Thai and Japanese authorities showing more possible objects in the old search location. He did not specify when the photos were taken.

The extremely remote search location and bad weather at sea have kept authorities from reaching the possible debris from the Malaysian airliner, which disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board.

Weather conditions have improved since Thursday, when search planes were forced to fly back to Australia. Australian authorities say 10 aircraft are involved in Friday's mission. Six boats are also relocating to the area.

Once wreckage is found, the search effort will then focus on finding the plane's flight data recorder, or black box, which should provide clues about what went wrong.

Malaysian officials believe, based on a complex analysis of satellite data, that the Boeing 777 almost certainly crashed into the sea, far from any land.

VOA News / Mar. 29, 2014 08:40 KST