Aboard the P-8 Poseidon Plane Searching for Malaysian Jetliner

Hopes were raised aboard search plane, but they came back empty handed.

ByABC News
March 20, 2014, 7:40 AM

ABOARD THE P-8 POSEIDON March 20, 2014— -- A nine hour search of the Indian Ocean by the world's most sophisticated search plane failed to locate the objects spotted by a satellite that investigators believe could be from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, instead finding only a freighter and two pods of dolphins.

The hunt by the P-8 Poseidon airplane is an indication of how difficult it will be to find the objects spotted by a satellite or any debris in the vast expanse of the southern Indian Ocean.

The military airplane is considered so sophisticated that civilians' cameras were confiscated so photos could not be taken on board.

The search area is so remote that it took the Poseidon three hours of flying to arrive over the area part way to the South Pole and 1,300 miles west of Australia.

While en route to the area, the plane was diverted because of promising intelligence of possible debris in the water. Once on station, the plane descended through rain and clouds to skim just 300 feet above the water. Radar and powerful cameras beneath the plane scanned the ocean for 16 miles on either side of the plane. Searchers were posted at all of the plane's windows. Three other search planes were also sent to the area.

The plane worked back and forth through its search area in a lawn mowing pattern. Its radar picked up several hits, but one turned out to be a freighter. Two others were pods of dolphins.

The Poseidon had enough fuel to scan for three hours and cover 4,100 square miles before having to begin the three hour trip back to its base north of Perth, Australia. The crew was disappointed that it hadn't found anything.

Lt. Commander Adam Schantz, who is in charge of the mission, has worked for the last seven days with less than three hours of sleep a night. He said that whatever was spotted on the satellite may have drifted away, driven by currents and winds.

"Now we use the drift analysis to figure out where it was," he told ABC News.

Despite today's disappointment, Schantz's crew is not discouraged.

"We're all excited to find it... but we know we did some good today," the commander said. "We eliminated the area and we move on to the next area tomorrow and we keep trying. We keep our hopes up... More searching tomorrow."