Shifting the MH370 Search Nearly 700 Miles May Have Just Paid Off in a Big Way

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 28 2014 10:15 AM

Shifting the MH370 Search Nearly 700 Miles May Have Just Paid Off

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A Royal Australia Air Force (RAAF) C-17 lands at RAAF Base Pearce in Bullsbrook to deliver a Australian Sea Hawk helicopter to join a Royal Australian Navy ship to leave Fremantle shortly to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

The search for Flight MH370 on Friday shifted nearly 700 miles to different section of the southern Indian Ocean after a new analysis of the available data suggested that the missing 777 jetliner was flying faster than previously thought and therefore likely ran out of fuel that much sooner.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Despite the apparent setback of shifting the search so drastically—"We are starting on a blank page," was how one Australian professor who has been following the search summed things up—there are signs that the shift may have paid almost immediate dividends, via the Washington Post:

On Friday, observers on five aircraft saw multiple objects of different colors as they searched the updated area. A New Zealand plane saw a number of objects described as “white or light.” Another Australian aircraft located the items seen by the New Zealand plane and saw two blue-gray rectangular objects. Yet another plane saw more objects in another area more than 300 miles away.
AMSA said photos were taken and would be assessed overnight. The team will likely send out ships Saturday to investigate further and try to confirm whether the debris is related to the missing plane.
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Malaysia officials—who have faced widespread criticism for how the search has played out so far—maintain that, in the words of Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, "this new search area could still be consistent with the potential objects identified by various satellite images over the past week." That, however, doesn't exactly line up with the general consensus from the other countries involved in the search. "We have moved on" from the old search area, said John Young, manager of Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division.

The good news for those doing the actual searching (assuming, of course, they're finally in the right place): The new area of focus, about 680 miles northeast of the last one, is in calmer waters than the last one and is several hundred miles closer to Perth, both of which should make things easier for the planes and ships sweeping the area looking for debris from the missing plane.

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