The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) tweeted late Monday local time that a Chinese military aircraft had spotted “objects” in the Malaysian 777 southern Indian Ocean search area which would try to be relocated on Tuesday, local time. AMSA didn’t elaborate.
China’s Xinhua news agency reported earlier that one of two Chinese Air Force military aircraft has joined the search some 2500 km (1500 miles) off the West Australian coast. The first, a Russian-built Ilyushin Il-76, departed this morning after arriving at an Australian air base on Saturday.
Air and sea searchers continued scouring two cumulative 59,000 sq.-km (35,400-sq. mi) areas that lie roughly halfway between Australia’s southwest coast and the Heard and McDonald Islands, a group of barren Antarctic landmasses only about a thousand miles due north of the continent of Antarctica itself.
Chinese and French authorities, meanwhile, released their own satellite images of potential debris from MH 370, roughly in the same area as those put forth last week by the Australian government.
China’s image potentially shows a 22.5-meter (72.9-ft) object floating within the current southern Indian Ocean search area. And the Malaysian Transport Ministry said the new French satellite images could signal potential aircraft debris “in the vicinity of the southern corridor.”
In earlier developments, one of four ultra long-range civil aircraft being chartered by AMSA to aid in the search even reported seeing a wooden pallet as well as other objects, all lying within a radius of 5 kms (3 mi). But after a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft was diverted to the region, it reported nothing but clumps of seaweed.
Air searches to the region remain inherently difficult. Just to get to the search grid, land-based aircraft must head southwest from Perth for some four hours — roughly equivalent to flying from Boston to Miami, or Seattle to San Diego. And then only the longest duration aircraft can “at most” garner four hours of search time, often under very difficult weather conditions.