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Planes head home from remote Indian Ocean as MH370 search is scaled back

Published on Apr 30, 2014 12:12 PM
International and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) air crews and officials who participated in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370 pose for a photograph on the tarmac at the RAAF Base Pearce, located north of Perth, on April 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PERTH (AFP) - The intensive aerial search for surface wreckage from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 officially ended on Wednesday as the hunt was drastically scaled back, with ships also moving out of the remote Indian Ocean area where the plane is believed to have gone down.

The Australian authorities said the focus would transition "over the coming weeks" to a more intensified undersea search in the quest to find out what happened to the flight with 239 people aboard that disappeared on March 8.

Eight nations have been involved in the unprecedented hunt - Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Britain and China - with more than 300 sorties flown across a vast expanse of remote ocean looking for debris.

But with nothing to show for their efforts from scanning more than 4.5 million sq km from the air since March 18, the planes have been stood down. "Most of the aircraft will have left by the end of today," a spokesman for the Australian-led Joint Agency Coordination Centre told AFP, although an Australian P-3 Orion would remain on standby in Perth.

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