Unprecedented international search resumes
U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon part of effort
Australian prime minister has "increasing hope" about learning what occurred
Searchers on Saturday did not find floating object
With more planes searching than ever before, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Sunday expressed optimism the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be solved.
“We have now had a number of very credible leads, and there is increasing hope – no more than hope, no more than hope – that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft,” Abbott said.
He spoke at a press conference about objects that have been spotted by satellites about 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) off Perth.
In one of the great aviation mysteries in history, the airliner carrying 239 people disappeared March 8 after it took off from Kuala Lumpur on a flight to Beijing, CHina.
Malaysian investigators believe it was deliberately diverted by someone on board.
“Obviously, the more aircraft we have, the more ships we have, the more confident we are of recovering whatever material is down there,” Abbott said. “And obviously before we can be too specific about what it might be, we do actually need to recover some of this material.”
The international search for the missing aircraft resumed early Sunday near Perth, with a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon rejoining the effort, according to a naval spokesman.
Eight planes will search over the Indian Ocean on Sunday, compared to six planes on Saturday, said Andrea Hayward-Maher, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. She said that would be the most planes yet.
Planes from the United States, New Zealand, Australia and China will be flying. Three planes, two civilian aircraft and the P-8, were airborne by 7 a.m. Perth time (7 p.m. ET).
New Chinese satellite images “will be taken into consideration” in the search, Hayward-Maher said.
The P-8 Posideon, grounded for two days to give its crew rest, will likely refocus on an area highlighted in Chinese satellite images of a large object floating in the area. Australian-led search teams in the southern Indian Ocean found no sign of it Saturday.
The intense air and sea search – which will now employ NASA satellites – entered its third week with no new clues to give families answers about the fate of the passengers and crew.
The object the Chinese photographed is 22.5 meters long and 13 meters wide (74 feet by 43 feet), officials said.
China said the satellite images showing the “suspected floating object” were captured on March 18.
As a result of the recently reported satellite sighting approximately 1,500 miles off the coast of Perth, plans are underway to acquire imagery within the next few days, NASA said Saturday.
The space agency said it will check archives of satellite data and use space-based assets such as the Earth-Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite and the ISERV camera on the International Space Station to acquire images of possible crash sites. The resolution of these images could be used to identify objects of about 98 feet (30 meters) or larger.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said searchers will take the Chinese information into consideration as they design their search for Sunday.
The floating object was about 77 miles from where earlier satellite images spotted floating debris.
At least six search flights were involved Saturday, including two private jets. Though the two civilian jets did not have radar, their role was crucial, authorities said.
“It is more likely that a pair of eyes are going to identify something floating in the ocean,” Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said.