|Plane Search Braced for 'Long Haul' as Hunt Comes Up Empty|
|By DAN GOOD (@DGood73) , REBECCA LEE an PAUL H.B. SHIN (@paulhbshin)||Mar 21, 2014, 2:25 AM|
High tech search planes failed for a second day to find a pair of mysterious objects in the Indian Ocean that investigators believe might be connected to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane as one search official warned people today to be braced for a "long haul."
Asked during a news briefing today whether there were any strong leads or any idea what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein simply replied "No."
“This is going to be a long haul," Hishammuddin said.
A fleet of ships is headed to the remote search area more than 1,000 miles off the western coast of Australia, and additional planes were deployed the region to help hunt down evidence of the plane and the 239 people who were on board. Hishammuddin also spoke today with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel seeking the use of American hydrophones, defense officials said. The hydrophones could be dragged through the water in the hopes they could pick up the "pings" of the missing plane's black box flight recorder.
The request and the logistics it would entail is being considered, officials said.
Before those hydrophones could be used, the search areas will have to be narrowed, Hishammuddin said.
Five planes spent hours over the search area today, using their powerful cameras and radar while skimming low over the water. Since the planes were flying in relatively clear weather, the planes flew closer together than they did Thursday and relied more on a visual search, according to John Young, manager of the Australian maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division. The tactic, however, scans a smaller area, he said.
"Although this search area is much smaller than we started with, it nonetheless is a big area when you're looking out the window and trying to see something by eye," Young said. "We may have to do this a few times to be confident about the coverage of that search area."
Australian officials stressed the difficulty of the search. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the search location, about 1,400 miles southwest of Perth, is extremely remote, “about the most inaccessible spot that you could imagine on the face of the earth,” he said at a news conference today in Papua New Guinea.
“But if there is anything down there we will find it. We owe it to the families of those people to do no less," he said.
Abbott spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he described as “devastated.” Of the 239 passengers and crew on the missing flight, 154 were from China.
Flight 370 disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand en route to Beijing. The search for the plane has involved 26 countries.
Satellite images showing two objects led officials to re-focus efforts in the southern Indian Ocean. The largest object is estimated to be 78 feet long, officials said. Until the objects are recovered and studied, officials won’t be sure that they are connected to the lost plane. Abbott said the objects could simply be a container that fell off a ship.
“We just don’t know,” he said.
The probe is also looking into the plane's pilots and crew. Malaysian officials had confiscated an in-home flight simulator from the home of pilot Capt. Zaharie Shah, but has found nothing to implicate the captain. It did find that some files had been deleted in February.
The simulator's data and hard drive has been turned over to the FBI and flown to its lab in Quantico, Va. Sources told ABC News it may take several days to get results.