The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet has moved more than a thousand kilometres closer to the Australian mainland after credible information was received on the likely location of the aircraft.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s John Young said the search area would be refocussed on advice from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
The new search area is 1100 kilomteres north east of the existing search zone and is 850 kilometres from Perth.
Mr Young said satellites had been retasked to capture images of the new area, and weather conditions were more favourable in that location.
A spokesperson for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said the new area was the “best estimate of the area in which the aircraft is likely to have crashed into the ocean”.
Mr Young stressed that he would not use the term “debris field” in relation to the satellite objects previously identified, which “may or may not be objects”.
Because the new search zone is closer to Perth, where planes are being flown from, spotters have longer time on the scene than before, he said.
Up until now, they only had one to two hours before having to return to RAAF air base Pearce.
“We’re now doing much better than that,” Mr Young said.
Weather conditions in the new search area will also be more favourable, he said.
The new area is shallower, with water depths ranging from 2000 to 4000 metres.
But there was still a long way to go yet in the massive search area, Mr Young said.
The search area is almost as large as Malaysia itself, which has a land mass of 328,000 square km.
The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) patrol ship, Haixun 01, is already in the search area.
The Australian Navy’s HMAS Success is expected to arrive in the search area late on Saturday night.
A US-towed pinger locator and Bluefin-21 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle have arrived in Perth to assist with location and recovery of the black box.
Malaysia Airlines group chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the Australian government had given immense support to the national carrier, from co-ordinating the search to offering an exemption of the visa application process for families of passengers and crew on board MH370.
“Malaysia Airlines will be making arrangements to take family members to Perth, should physical wreckage be found,” he said.
“We are extremely grateful for such support.
“Whilst we understand that there will inevitably be speculation during this period, we do ask people to bear in mind the effect this has on the families of all those on board.
“Their anguish and distress increases with each passing day, with each fresh rumour, and with each false or misleading report.”