Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane: Possible Debris Located in Search for Jet

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard.

ByABC News
March 24, 2014, 12:40 AM

March 24, 2014— -- An Australian plane spotted "two objects" -- described as "circular" and "rectangular" -- in the south Indian Ocean while searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 -- with Malaysian officials prepared to make an announcement today on exactly what, if anything, has been found.

The potential plane debris -- spotted in the search area southwest of the Australian city of Perth -- were described by Malaysian officials as grey or green and circular, while the second was orange and rectangular.

Authorities said the Australian navy supply ship, the HMAS Success, was attempting to locate the objects as soon as "the next few hours" to see if they are related to missing plane.

"It's possible that HMAS Success could pick up the objects within the next few hours or by tomorrow morning at the latest. It is currently the only vessel in the search area," Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said during a news conference, adding that they are working to "narrow the search area."

He said some 18,500-square nautical miles had been searched yesterday, while another 20,000 were scoured today.

"There are new leads, but nothing conclusive," Hussein said in describing the possible debris spotted by the Australians.

The announcement came only hours after other "suspicious objects" had been spotted by a Chinese aircraft within the search area while searching for missing jetliner, but could not subsequently be located by the U.S. Navy, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

The crew aboard an IL-76 plane spotted the two relatively big floating objects with many white smaller ones scattered over several square miles within the search area, according to China's Xinhua News Agency. The U.S. Navy's P-8 Poseidon was unable to subsequently locate the objects.

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The coordinates of the potential plane's debris were reported to the to the Australian command center, which is coordinating the multinational search.

The P-8 Poseidon was tasked to investigate the reported object sightings by the Chinese aircraft at 33,000 feet, but that the American military plane was unable to relocate the objects, AMSA tweeted.

The Chinese plane was one of two Ilyushins that joined the search today from Perth, increasing the number of aircraft to 10. The U.S. Navy has also moved a black box locator into the region to aid in the search. The Towed Pinger Locator is dragged behind a vessel and can hear the beeps from black boxes all way down to a depth of 20,000 feet.

Satellite images from Australia, China and France had earlier identified possible debris in the area, but searchers in the air have yet to find these objects and confirm they are connected to missing Flight MH370. What was believed to be a wooden pallet that could have come from the jet was seen by one plane Saturday, but another search plane sent to photograph it could not locate the pallet.

Hussein said the missing Boeing 777-200 -- which vanished March 8 after it departed Kuala Lampur and headed for Beijing -- was carrying wooden pallets, but there's no confirmation whether they are linked to pallets found in the water.

Malaysian authorities also said they had also interviewed over 100 people as part of the investigation, including the families of the pilot and co-pilot, but offered no other details.

Malaysia's police chief, Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar, said all the passengers had been cleared of suspicion.

Malaysian authorities are considering the possibilities of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots.