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Australia: Waiting for Malaysians before announcing new MH370 search area

By Pamela Boykoff and Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 9:58 AM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The new search area may not be announced as soon as Wednesday
  • "We are waiting for the Malaysians to get back to us," a senior Australian official says
  • Analysts have been re-evaluating satellite and radar data
  • The search area is expected to move farther south in the Indian Ocean

(CNN) -- Australian authorities say they're not certain when a new search area for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be announced, clarifying earlier statements suggesting it would be made public Wednesday.

Martin Dolan, the commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, or ATSB, said Tuesday that the analysis of the relevant data will be completed this week, but that "before we release, we have to talk with the Malaysians who are responsible for the overall investigation."

The ATSB, the agency leading the underwater search for the plane, had said Sunday that the new search area would be announced Wednesday.

"We are waiting for the Malaysians to get back to us on that," Dolan said Tuesday. "I suspect we will know when within the next 24 hours."

More than three months after Flight 370 disappeared over Southeast Asia, searchers have found no trace of the Boeing 777 or the 239 people aboard, making it one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history.

Dolan said he expects that the new analysis of the data from satellites, radar and other sources will shift the search area farther south in the Indian Ocean.

But he said the team of experts that has been poring over the available information isn't relying on the Malaysian military's primary radar data as a measure of changes in altitude during the passenger jet's mysterious flight on March 8.

Reports that emerged in the early stages of the investigation had suggested the plane may have made dramatic changes in altitude after it turned sharply off its scheduled path from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

CNN safety analyst David Soucie says information about altitude changes is important because it directly affects the calculation of the new search area. If the plane did not rise and fall sharply, "it changes the amount of time and the distance that the aircraft could have flown," he said. If the plane did not make sharp changes in altitude, it would have flown farther and moved farther south than the original search area.

Authorities have not been able to explain why the jet veered dramatically off course.

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