New satellite images suggest smaller search area for missing MH370 plane: Australia

An image from Geoscience Australia shows a computer-generated three-dimensional view of the sea floor obtained from mapping data collected during the first phase of the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
An image from Geoscience Australia shows a computer-generated three-dimensional view of the sea floor obtained from mapping data collected during the first phase of the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.PHOTO: REUTERS

CANBERRA - Australia has released satellite images from 2014 which show a number of "probably man-made" objects floating in the sea near the suspected crash site of missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, reported British news site The Guardian.

These satellite images, coupled with drift modelling analysis, suggest a potentially smaller search area for the jet - a 5,000 sq km area just north of the former search zone. Previous recommendations to extend the search to a 25,000 sq km area were rejected as being too imprecise.

The underwater search for the missing Boeing 777, which vanished on March 8, 2014, was called off in January after almost three years, but Australian agencies have continued to carry out drift modelling and satellite analysis.

On Wednesday (Aug 16), Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief Greg Hood released a statement alongside two reports from Geosciences Australia and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

"(The reports) provide analysis and findings relating to satellite imagery taken on March 23, 2014, two weeks after the disappearance of MH370, over the southern Indian Ocean," said Mr Hood.

"Geoscience Australia identified a number of objects in the satellite imagery which have been classified as probably man-made. The image resolution is not high enough to be certain whether the objects originated from MH370 or are other objects that might be found floating in oceans around the world."

The satellite images were acquired with the assistance of the French authorities.

Mr Hood, however, advised caution with these latest findings, saying: "These objects have not been definitely identified as MH370 debris."

Mr Hood said that while it was not up to Australia to decide whether a new underwater search should be commissioned, this latest data "may be useful" to any further search effort "that may be mounted in the future".

Malaysia, as the state of registry for the aircraft, retains overall authority and responsibility for any future search, the statement said.

Flight MH370 was a scheduled passenger flight bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. There were 239 passengers and crew members on board when it disappeared.