There is a reasonable chance of finding something in the Indian Ocean in the search for the missing Malaysian Airline plane MH370, Royal Australian Air Force group captain Craig Heap says.
Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said from Perth’s north on Saturday afternoon the Australian search effort had so far covered some 500,000 square kilometres.
There had been no finds of note since some large debris was defined last week, he told a large international media contingent at the RAAF Pearce air base.
Mr Truss said there had already been 15 sorties from the base, mainly Australian and New Zealand Orion aircraft.
It is a very remote area, but we intend to continue the search until we’re absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile – that day is not in sight.
US and civilian aircraft are also involved, and will be joined by two Chinese aircraft that arrive in Perth on Saturday afternoon to begin searching on Sunday.
Japanese aircraft will take part on Monday, and several vessels from around the world are en route to Western Australia to assist.
Eyes still the best weapon
HMAS Success is also expected to reach the search area later on Saturday.
“This search is an intensive operation,” Mr Truss said.
“While these aircraft are equipped with very advanced technology, much of this search is actually visual.”
Mr Truss said the search for debris would keep going as long as there was hope.
“It is a very remote area, but we intend to continue the search until we’re absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile,” he said.
“That day is not in sight.
Reasonable chance of finding something
“It is important from the perspective of those who have families, whose whereabouts are unknown … and indeed for the future of the aviation industry, that we do whatever we can to firstly confirm whether or not the sightings as a result of the satellite imagery are indeed connected in any way with the Malaysia Airlines flight.
“And then if so, what can be recovered so we can learn more about what has happened on this flight and learn any lessons that are necessary to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
He said the debris was the most promising lead so far and he was confident it could be found.
“There’s a reasonable chance of finding something,” Capt Heap said.
Capt Heap said no aircraft or vessels had been sent from Malaysia to help with the Indian Ocean search, but it had sent military personnel to Pearce to act as liaison officers.
“They have other search areas where they are concentrating their efforts, in their own waters and nearby,” Mr Truss said.
If there’s something there to be found, I’m confident that this search effort will locate it.
He said contact was being made with Malaysian authorities every few hours.
Mr Truss said two longer-range aircraft being deployed this weekend had intercontinental capability and would be able to comb the search area for five hours at a time, compared to the 2-3 hours that military aircraft had been able to achieve over the past two days.
Visibility good on Saturday
The search area had been adjusted to account for drift, he said.
Weather conditions were much improved and would be for the foreseeable future.
“If there’s something there to be found, I’m confident that this search effort will locate it,” Mr Truss said.
And Australian authorities would do its utmost to keep the public informed.
“These families …. they’re anxious for information,” Mr Truss said.