Satellites Spot 3 Large Objects Near Malaysia Airliner Flight Path

The blurry images were taken by Chinese satellites.

ByABC News
March 12, 2014, 5:49 AM

HO CHI MINH CITY, March 12, 2014— -- Satellite images posted on a Chinese government website appear to show three unidentified floating objects in the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam near the flight path of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

The blurry images were taken by Chinese satellites on Sunday and loaded today onto the Sastind website, which is operated by China's national defense science and technology ministry. It described one of the images as "some debris in the area where the Malaysian Airlines passenger plane lost contact and was suspected to crash."

It's not clear whether the objects will turn out to be related to the doomed flight MH370 or turn into another false lead that has plagued searchers since the plane disappeared with its 239 passengers five days go.

The largest object measured 78 feet by 72 feet while the smaller objects are 45 feet by 62 feet, and 42 feet by 59 feet, according to the Chinese agency.

The objects were detected in the South China Sea about halfway between Malaysia and Vietnam and east of the original route of the flight. The plane had left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia en route to Beijing -- and was due to fly over Vietnamm -- before it simply disappeared off the radar screen.

Earlier today, Malaysian officials released the last conversation heard between the Malaysia Airlines pilot before he vanished with his plane and his words give no inkling of trouble or looming disaster.

An air traffic controller told the pilot, “We have to hand you over to Ho Chi Minh City," a Malaysian civil air department representative said today referring to air traffic control in Vietnam. The pilot responded, “All right, good night.”

Flight MH370 never made contact with air traffic control in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Malaysian authorities revealed that exchange in a briefing for Chinese media, and the Chinese press relayed that information to ABC News.

The conversation details emerged as officials announced they’re expanding the search to cover 27,000 nautical miles over two separate areas, 14,440 square nautical miles in the South China Sea along the plane's designated route as well as 12,425 square nautical miles in the Strait of Malacca, which is hundreds of miles to the west of the plane's flight path.

Authorities ran down another lead this week, but came up empty. A New Zealand man working on an oil rig emailed authorities after he said he spotted a burning object in the water east of Vietnam on Saturday morning, the day the plane disappeared. Vietnamese officials sent a plane to the area to investigate the man’s claims, but the search was fruitless, naval officer Le Minh Thanh told ABC News.

Earlier in the search, officials have checked out a pair of oil slicks and a piece of debris thought to be possibly connected to the plane, but all have been discounted.

Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a press conference today that the search now includes 42 ships and 39 aircraft.

"We will never give up hope," he said.

Malaysia is seeking to bring in more experts – officials from the plane's manufacturer Boeing, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and Rolls Royce, which built the plane's engines – to analyze civil and military data. The search now includes 12 countries, including India, Japan and Brunei

Hussein defended the rescue efforts against rising complaints of confusion, calling the search strategy "very consistent.”

“It’s only confusion if you want it to be seen as confusion,” he said.

Five days into the search, authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage or terrorism. Until wreckage or debris is found and examined, it will be very hard to say what happened.

Vietnam scaled down its search to a “less intensive” format, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ABC News.