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French data show possible debris from jetliner

PERTH, Australia (AP) - Rain was expected to hamper the hunt Monday for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, as a growing number of planes focus on an expanded area of the south Indian Ocean where a French satellite detected potential debris.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority's rescue coordination center said the search area was expanded from 59,000 to 68,500 square kilometers (22,800-26,400 square miles), including a new separate area because of data provided by France on Sunday.

The U.S. Pacific command said it was sending a black box locator to the region in case a debris field is located. The Towed Pinger Locator has highly sensitive listening capability so that if the wreck site is located, it can hear the black box pinger down to a depth of about 20,000 feet (6,100 meters), Cmdr. Chris Budde, a U.S. Seventh Fleet operations officer, said in a statement.

Two Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 planes joined the search from Perth, increasing the number of aircraft to 10 from eight a day earlier, AMSA said.

It said the weather in the search area, about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, was expected to deteriorate with rain likely.

Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said "nothing of note" was found Sunday, which he described as a "fruitless day."

"It's going to be a challenge, but we'll stick at it," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio before the first aircraft left Perth at dawn.

He said that the latest search area based on French radar data was 850 kilometers (530 miles) north of the previous search zone. He said it was not the same area that had been identified as the most likely place where the aircraft may have entered the sea, "but ... we've got to check out all the options."

"We're just, I guess, clutching at whatever little piece of information comes along to try and find a place where we might be able to concentrate the efforts," he added.

A cyclone bearing down on the Australian northwest coast "could stir up less favorable weather," he said.

Flight 370 vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, setting off a multinational search that has turned up no confirmed pieces and nothing conclusive on what happened to the jet.

The latest French satellite data came to light on Sunday as Australian authorities coordinating the search sent planes and a ship to try to locate a wooden pallet that appeared to be surrounded by straps of different lengths and colors.

The pallet was spotted on Saturday from a search plane, but the spotters were unable to take photos of it.

Wooden pallets are most commonly used by ships but are also used airplane cargo holds, and an official with Malaysia Airlines said Sunday night that the flight was, in fact, carrying wooden pallets. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with company policy.

AMSA said it has requested a cargo manifest from Malaysia Airlines.

In Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said in an interview with The Associated Press that the satellite radar echoes "identified some debris that could be from the Malaysian Airlines plane."

The spokesman said that these echoes "are not images with a definition like a photograph, but they do allow us to identify the nature of an object and to localize it."

"The French government has decided to increase its satellite monitoring of this zone and try to obtain precise images and locations," Nadal said.

Gathering satellite echo data involves sending a beam of energy to the Earth and then analyzing it when it bounces back, according to Joseph Bermudez Jr., chief analytics officer at AllSource Analysis, a commercial satellite intelligence firm.

Satellite radar echoes can be converted into an image that would look similar to a black-and-white photo, though not as clear, he said. "You'd have to know what you're looking at," Bermudez said.

A Malaysian official involved in the search said the French data located objects about 930 kilometers (575 miles) north of the spots where the objects in the images released by Australia and China were located.

One of the objects located was estimated to be about the same size as an object captured Tuesday by the Chinese satellite that appeared to be 22 meters (72 feet) by 13 meters (43 feet), said the official, who declined to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media. It was not possible to determine precise dimensions from the French data, the official said.

U.S. underwater wreck hunter David Mearns on Monday described the French satellite sighting of potential debris as a "positive development," although he was unaware of the full details.

Mearns was an adviser to British and French search authorities following the loss of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean during a flight from Brazil to Paris in 2009.

He warned that time was running out to find confirmed wreckage that could lead searchers back to the aircraft's black box. He told the AP that two satellite images of a large object spotted in the Indian Ocean two days apart could be the breakthrough needed to find the wreckage.

"The odds are still against the plane being found at the moment, but at least we have a glimmer of hope that we didn't have two days ago," Mearns said. "Right now, time is running out very quickly."

The southern Indian Ocean is thought to be a potential area to find the jet because Malaysian authorities have said pings sent by the Boeing 777-200 for several hours after it disappeared indicated that the plane ended up in one of two huge arcs: a northern corridor stretching from Malaysia to Central Asia, or a southern corridor that stretches toward Antarctica.

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Authorities are considering the possibilities of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.

In the U.S., Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, said on CNN: "There is no prevailing theory."

"Publicly or privately, we don't know" what happened to the plane, he said. "We're chasing down every theory."


McDonald reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Associated Press writers Todd Pitman and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Cassandra Vinograd in London, and Elaine Ganley and Oleg Cetinic in Paris contributed to this report.

MH370 Update: Satellite Images Show Possible Debris

Join the discussion

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seadog054 March 23 2014 at 6:11 PM

Give them time! It took 2 years to find the AIR FRANCE that left Brazil. But they did find it and gave closure to the families.

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1 reply
Ken seadog054 March 23 2014 at 6:26 PM

But they knew where the Air France jet down! This search will be endless....

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tllgmtxf March 23 2014 at 11:16 AM

You would think that if they were searching for something and spotted something they wanted to refind they would drop a marker with a signaling device off the plane. I'm no professional at search and recover but it seems kind of like a no brainer to me. Either that or they just like flying around.

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1 reply
SumBreezeHuh tllgmtxf March 23 2014 at 11:42 AM

To get to the part of the ocean where the satellites spotted something is a 4+ hour trip. They are going off data from a satellite that apparently takes days to reach earth and be deciphered. By the time the ships and planes get to that location every time the satellites have spotted something, that object has most definitely moved with the current elsewhere or it has been dragged under the water.

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Buckingham's March 23 2014 at 11:13 AM

If it's at the bottom of the southern ocean, that's deeper than the TITANIC, and any bodies would be crushed into jelly and long gone due to deep-sea marine life. Plus, the wreckage would be scattered across miles of ocean bottom. They haven't even found the wreck of the USS Indianapolis from WW II yet, either. how are they going to find a plane half that size across such a vast expanse?

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3 replies
Maureen March 23 2014 at 6:35 PM

Wooden pallets are often used by ships, Barton cautioned. But he said airlines also commonly use them in cargo holds.

Doesn't anyone know for sure if there were wooden pallets on that plane???? What is wrong with these people? Did the plane have wooden pallets on board or not???

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2 replies
karen and pitts Maureen March 23 2014 at 6:48 PM

third world . what more can i say.

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mwolfe34 Maureen March 23 2014 at 7:51 PM

They are ALL just trying to drag this on until there is no possible way to find it if it did INDEED crash...then it will eventually be totally forgotten. They will then say the search has been called off and nothing more will become of it.

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hway395 March 23 2014 at 6:36 PM

My father flew for SAC, search & rescue, in Alaska many yrs ago. I thought trying to find lost people under snow/blizzard conditions was horrific I can not even imagine searching the Indian Ocean. BTW, pallets were loaded onto those planes w/designators w/important information.

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michaelat33685 March 23 2014 at 6:36 PM

In the U.S., Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, said on CNN: "There is no prevailing theory."

"Publicly or privately, we don't know" what happened to the plane, he said. "We're chasing down every theory."

I knew someone in the present US Administration had to have some form of intelligence. Let's nominate & elect him for US President.

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Michelle March 23 2014 at 6:37 PM

i am truly concerned about this horrific incident. that said, quit calling wolf. when you find it, please notify the public.

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aafricky March 23 2014 at 6:43 PM

CNN are now talking about the probability of what I've been saying for over a week now! I said, that they didn't turn back, then say "Good Night"! I said they were flying at a very high altitude, and the electric went out, couldn't produce the oxygen needed, and hypoxia set in with the passengers. The pilots tried to fix this problem by turning around (because it was closer to an airport), then flying lower to a safe level to where oxygen was stabilized (not trying to go under radar on purpose). In the mean time, the pilots become disoriented, so they set auto pilot, and then pass out. This would set the plane on a straight path out to the first location (where they ran out of fuel) where they fined debris , perhaps 40-80 more miles inland.

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2 replies
mwolfe34 aafricky March 23 2014 at 7:45 PM

That makes sense, BUT with as many hours of flying time I'm sure these pilots knew what they were doing in regards to altitude and wouldn't have got themselves into that predicament to begin with. There would be no way of this happening unintentionally unless the co-pilot with not as much experience had taken over. He was new to this particular type of plane so-to-speak, but I highly doubt the pilot would have left it all on him and so shortly after take off.

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1 reply
mwolfe34 mwolfe34 March 23 2014 at 7:47 PM

Not only that, but it was told that the skies were clear that night supposedly...unless there is some opening in the atmosphere that we don't know about that sucked them up. Who knows anymore? Everything is just guessing and speculation.

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HewMan101 aafricky March 23 2014 at 7:47 PM

Yep. Agree aafricky. No one knows much of anything really concrete - what caused the "electrical failure". It may have also involved a structural failure for some reason. Perhaps an explosion in the cargo hold or something planted in the electrical power distribution system area - power and coax RF cables, contactors etc. dysfunctional after event. Perhaps a stowaway in the cargo hold with a fire axe? Even radios WITH power can not transmit if signal can't reach the antenna, if there still was one - or some on board. Apparently the electricity was still getting to the autopilot and engine control electronics. Probably no power to the standard comms radios or transponder though, or no RF cables to antennas. Wonder if the normal flight controls were working at all or whether the pilots were flying the aircraft via the autopilot only. Lower altitude was undoubtedly to allow a chance for everyone to continue to breath O2. Sort of standard procedure with decompression. So, comms no and ATC transponder no, but autopilot yes and engine control yes, partial EFIS functionality - maybe. No distress signals from radios with no electricity or antennas. Probably no lights inside or out. What a mess - SAD.

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Your Highness March 23 2014 at 10:59 AM

There IS news here. How can it be that there has just been a request for the plane's cargo manifest?

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1 reply
totalstudentsvcs Your Highness March 23 2014 at 11:13 AM

Keep in mind if the ground crew was involved in some way that manifest is useless and or regenerated with citical information deleted ..... this stuff does happen

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mdennish March 23 2014 at 3:15 PM

Amazing that 99.9% of all AOL,s information/news comes from people who are unauthorized to speak to the media.

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1 reply
polfpilf mdennish March 23 2014 at 5:18 PM

Einstein, LOL, Do you suppose it has something to do with the fact nobody knows what happened yet? Your ignorance is overwelming! You and your thumbs up buddies should get a private room LOL.

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