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Chinese plane spots objects in Indian Ocean

PERTH, Australia (AP) - A Chinese plane on Monday spotted two white, square-shaped objects in an area identified by satellite imagery as containing possible debris from the missing Malaysian airliner, while the United States separately prepared to send a specialized device that can locate black boxes.

The crew aboard an IL-76 plane sighted the object in the southern Indian Ocean and reported the coordinates to the Australian command center, which is coordinating the multinational search, as well as the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon, which is en route to the area, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.

The spotters saw two larger floating objects and some smaller, white debris scattered over several square kilometers (miles), the report said. It gave no other details.

Satellite images released by Australia and China had earlier identified possible debris in the area that may be linked to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 8 with 239 people aboard.

The U.S. Pacific command said it was sending a black box locator in case a debris field is located. The Towed Pinger Locator, which is pulled behind a vessel at slow speeds, 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.

"This movement is simply a prudent effort to preposition equipment and trained personnel closer to the search area so that if debris is found we will be able to respond as quickly as possible since the battery life of the black box's pinger is limited," Budde said.

The ocean depth in the search area ranges between 1,150 meters (3,770 feet) and 7,000 meters (23,000 feet).

An Australian defense official said an Australian navy support vessel, the Ocean Shield, was also moving into the search zone and would arrive in three or four days. The ship is equipped with acoustic detection equipment that can search for the missing plane's black box.

There was no sign the moves was linked to any breakthrough in the mystery of the plane, but rather as a preparation.

"The time for the battery life (of the pinger) is potentially only a month," said Jason Middleton, aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. "If debris was found, it would be terrible not have anything on site and waste time" getting a ping detector to the region. "I think they're planning ahead and getting it ready."

The Chinese plane was one of two Ilyushins that joined the search Monday from Perth, increasing the number of aircraft to 10 from eight a day earlier.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the objects spotted Monday were "within today's search area and attempts will be made to relocate them."

Bad weather was threatening the search efforts in the area, about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology reported increased winds, low cloud and a reduction in visibility. On Tuesday, a cold front was expected to move through the search area from the west, bringing showers, more low cloud and less visibility. Tropical Cyclone Gillian, which is further to the north, will not impact the area.

The search was given added momentum when a French satellite detected potential debris on Sunday, after Australia and China earlier released satellite images identifying suspect objects.

Australian authorities had sent planes and a ship to try to locate a wooden pallet that 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 in 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.

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."

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.

Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said the French radar data located the objects about 850 kilometers (520 miles) north of the current search area, and that "we need to check that out as well."

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.

Malaysia's police chief, Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar reiterated at a news conference Monday that all the passengers had been cleared of suspicion.

But he said that the pilots and crew were still being investigated. He would not comment on whether investigators had recovered the files that were deleted a month earlier from the home flight simulator of the chief pilot.

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," he said. "We're chasing down every theory."

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
dal March 24 2014 at 5:44 AM

good luck

Flag Reply +3 rate up
alfredschrader March 24 2014 at 7:13 AM

When a jet fighter pilot goes down in the ocean, he has an automatic flourescent dye pack that deploys creating a large highly visible flourescent "signature". It is possible to install a bigger version of this on jetliners. Of course, it wont help on this one but could help in the future.

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2 replies
Greg alfredschrader March 24 2014 at 7:23 AM

They are on every slide/raft on the aircraft. Required equipment.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
grlsrm200 alfredschrader March 24 2014 at 8:17 AM

You are right and ther should have been other equipment on the planes but the one thing I learned which scares me a little is that it only takes about 2 seconds to brake into the cockpit. There are door which are NOT being installed on the planes we fly everyday from our own country. Oh we hve equipment ot find a plane but what good does this do the p[assengers who are at risk from a take over?????
Of course our military has the best equipment we don't want anyone to find it but us as the technology is the important thing we wish to protect.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
vjones3563 March 24 2014 at 6:46 AM

It has now been 16 days since this aircraft went missing. I can't begin to imagine how family members of the people on board can manage to cope with the thought that they may never see their loved ones again. And at the same time, with all of the technology in the world, how some sort of electronic equipment has not been discovered. Whether we follow a conspiracy theory, hijacking or crashing, it is very scary. I have read the posts from others and many make a definite point to the theory. I pray for the passengers and loved ones so there may be some form of closure.

I alo pray that our worst fears are not realized and the plane is going to be used in a terrorist attack.

I don't know about others but I can not believe we have National Security after 9/11.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
observantguy March 24 2014 at 6:18 AM

If they do find debris, what is the point of using sonar to scour the ocean floor in THAT location?
Unless, by some miracle, the wreckage hasn't drifted after two weeks in a stormy ocean, they aren't going to find a plane under floating debris.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
ncdawg71 March 24 2014 at 6:13 AM

if the plane crashed in the ocean there would be tons of floating luggage , tons of pieces of floatinng plastic from the plane , and possibly floating bodies, it would look like a city dump , i dont think the plane is in the ocean

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
lemmonherk ncdawg71 March 24 2014 at 6:27 AM

You know NOTHING about commercial airliners. You seem to think that when a plane crashes into the ocean it opens up like a box of cereal and everything inside floats out, even from the cargo compartments. And after two weeks in the ocean, it wouldn't look like a city dump -- it would be spread out all over the place, like what they're finding, due to ocean currents and wind.

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1 reply
Cath's lemmonherk March 24 2014 at 7:23 AM

You know something the rest of us don't? Just exactly what ARE they finding? Gyre is commonplace in all oceans, especially after storms. The Chinese are chasing another Pooka perhaps.

Flag +1 rate up
adetunji ojo March 24 2014 at 12:21 PM

To fly a drone, you need the satellite signal for remote control. That part of the world (crash area) is out of our military radar range because not many people are interested in living or hang around there. Maybe if we find crude oil or gold deposit there, then we can start killing people over there with drone and then take the loot. Sorry, We are not gonna do that now for nothing but salty water.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
swantouch March 24 2014 at 6:30 AM

I pray that they find something from the plane to give peace to the families

Flag Reply +4 rate up
hwindshadow March 24 2014 at 6:06 AM

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

I would hope the "authorities" are considering an equipment failure as a possibility. Much more likely than the rest.

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2 replies
blackhorse1nc hwindshadow March 24 2014 at 6:27 AM

What??? No aliens?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Cath's hwindshadow March 24 2014 at 8:36 AM

Equipment failure is what they have focused on! Without hard evidence to support that, the possibility of a terrorist hi jacking has to be considered.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
joeboken08 March 24 2014 at 6:01 AM

Well they're going to have to do a lot of math, and trace the currents back in time to know where to start looking. I'm sure that debris, if it is from the missing airliner, is far from the site it went down.

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silver182 March 24 2014 at 7:11 AM

If 370 crashed with G-force impact the on-board ELT would be squawking....that signal can be located (triangulated) from satellite....so either flight 370 did not crash or it crashed in the water and the ELT is squawking underwater where the signal can't be received by satellite, a scenario that has happened before!

R/F modulation doesn't penetrate water well at all. G-force impact sets off the ELT...all aircraft have an ELT. I've posted one type of ELT that is in use on many commercial aircraft, I'm sure there are other types but very similar.

Notice No news media has mentioned the missing ELT signal....wonder why?

In my view there are only two scenarios that would cause authorities not to hear / receive the ELT signals.
1. The ELT is submerged in water squawking but not being heard.
2. Or the aircraft was hijacked landed who knows where... and the ELT was not triggered by impact.

There is "NO" way for the pilots to disengage the ELT from operating as designed. The ELT should be designed to eject & triggered upon submersion in water. A long... tether line could be added to help locate the aircraft. Oh well....we are all second guessing what might have happened. God's speed to all souls on flight 370.

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2 replies
Greg silver182 March 24 2014 at 7:15 AM

Or it failed to activate, which happens in approximately 20% of the aircraft accidents, according to the NTSB.

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Stephanie silver182 March 24 2014 at 7:29 AM

Wow! This is very interesting and I hope the news or someone picks up this msg and tells us more about the ELT Signals as I would like to hear more about this. Thanks for your great info and telling us about this feature. Would love to hear more about it. R.I.P. Flight MH-370. My gut tells me they are in the ocean where searches are being done now. My heart goes out to the Families.

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