Five aircraft reported sighting objects possibly related to the missing Malaysia Airlines jet after searchers moved the search zone closer to Australia on Friday.
In a statement released early on Saturday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said photographic imagery of the objects was captured and would be assessed.
“The objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they are relocated and
recovered by ships,” the statement said.
“A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion reported sighting a number of objects white or light in colour and a fishing buoy.”
A total of 256,000 square kilometres was searched.
AMSA tweeted on Friday that the RNZAF Orion would supply pictures of the objects as soon as it landed at RAAF Base Pearce, north of Perth.
The sighting will need to be confirmed by ship, which is not expected to reach the area until Saturday.
RNZAF Orion spotted objects in #MH370 search area, identity to be established. Soon to land @ RAAF Pearce. AMSA awaiting imagery. 1/2
— AMSA News (@AMSA_News) March 28, 2014
New radar data analysis prompted authorities to re-focus the six-nation search 1100km to the northeast of its original location, and some 1850km west of Perth, following updated advice from the international investigation team in Malaysia.
The previous focus was in an area 2500km southwest of the West Australian capital.
“Continuing analysis indicates that the plane was travelling faster than was previously estimated, resulting in increased fuel usage, reducing the possible distance it travelled south into the Indian Ocean,” Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Martin Dolan said on Friday.
“This is our best estimate of the area in which the aircraft is likely to have crashed into the ocean.”
He said the search area could change again as new information emerged.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority emergency response manager John Young said all search planes and ships had been moved to the new zone, which was “now our best place to go”.
“We have moved on from those search areas to the newest credible lead,” Mr Young said, adding however, that the decision to shift focus was not based on a new theory but a refining of the original analysis used to plot the location of the aircraft’s possible resting place.
“The analysis is in fact the same form as we started with,” he said.
“I don’t count the original work a waste of time.”
Mr Young also stressed, however, that he would not use the term “debris field” in relation to various objects spotted by satellite.
New search zone more accessible
The new location will also allow search planes to spend more time on the scene. Previously, they only had one to two hours before having to return to RAAF Base Pearce.
Mr Young said weather conditions in the new search area were also more favourable.
The new area is shallower, with water depths ranging from 2000 to 4000 metres.
Any wreckage found would be handed over to Malaysian authorities.
The new “credible lead” on a possible crash site, almost three weeks to the day since the plane carrying 239 people disappeared on March 8, also came with a warning from Malaysia Airlines of the effect on the families of rumours and speculation about the flight’s fate.
“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,” the airline’s group chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said.
“Their anguish and distress increases with each passing day, with each fresh rumour, and with each false or misleading report.”
Mr Yahya said preparations were underway for family members of passengers and crew to be taken to Perth, should physical wreckage be found.