Satellite Images Called “Credible Lead” in Malaysia Airlines Plane Search

By:  Warren Mass
Satellite Images Called “Credible Lead” in Malaysia Airlines Plane Search

Two and a half weeks after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared without a trace about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8, the discovery of 122 objects floating in the southern Indian Ocean by a French satellite provides newfound hope that the missing plane’s crash site may have been located.

The images (shown) were taken from a satellite operated by French-based Airbus Defence and Space on Sunday, were passed on to the Australian Rescue and Co-ordination Centre in Perth on Tuesday, and given to the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency the same day.

However, authorities were quick to remind an anxious public that the debris has yet to be identified, so any assumption that the remains of Flight 370 have been found are premature. "It must be emphasized that we cannot tell whether the potential objects are from MH370,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s minister of defense and acting minister of transport. “Nevertheless, this is another new lead that will help direct the search operation.” Hussein said the debris field was “clearly the most credible lead that we have.”

The objects photographed by the satellite, which ranged in size from about a yard to 75 feet in length, were scattered across 154 square miles of ocean. The area is about 1,588 miles west of Perth, Australia.

Aviation safety analyst David Soucie said in a statement quoted by CNN that he was particularly intrigued by the size of the 75-foot object. “It has potential to be a wing that’s floating,” he said. “So I’m really encouraged by it, I really am.”

CNN also quoted Mark Binskin, vice chief of the Australian Defence Force, who told the network's Kate Bolduan on Tuesday, “There’s always a possibility we might not actually find something next week or the week after. I think eventually, something will come to light, but it’s going to take time.”

Time, unfortunately, is running out if search teams are to locate Flight 370. Like all commercial aircraft, it is equipped with an emergency locator transmitter, or ELT. The batteries powering Flight 370’s ELT, or “pinger,” are expected to run down within the next two weeks. Because the Indian Ocean has an average depth of about 13,000 feet, the signals from a submerged aircraft generally will not reach a satellite directly, but must be picked up by underwater listening devices.

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Photo of satellite imagery: AP Images

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