Malaysia says recent satellite images have spotted 122 possible objects related to the search for the wreckage of a missing Malaysia airliner in the southern Indian Ocean. The search resumed Wednesday with 12 aircraft and naval vessels from China, Australia, the United States, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand scouring waters 2,500 kilometers west of Australia. As the search for flight MH370 goes on, aviation analysts say the investigation will likely trigger calls for reform in air security and communications.
Malaysia's Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters Wednesday the potential debris was located in French satellite photos taken on March 23.
"Some objects were a meter in length, others were up to 23 meters in length. Some of the objects appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid material. The objects were located approximately 2,557 kilometers from Perth," he said.
While stressing it is not yet confirmed the objects are parts of the missing aircraft, he said the development represents "another new lead" in the investigation.
A total of seven military and five civilian aircraft from six nations took to the skies over the Southern Indian Ocean Wednesday as weather conditions improved renewing the search for the Malaysian Boeing 777, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board.
Expanded search under way
Australia's Maritime Safety Authority said vessels from Australia and China, including the polar supply vessel Xue Long, were 2,500 kilometers west of Perth searching some 80,000 square kilometers. Australia's HMAS Success was sweeping a region where an Australian P3 Orion aircraft had sighted possible debris two days ago.
In the Australian Parliament Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, renewed a pledge to Malaysia in the efforts to locate the last position of the aircraft.
"I have pledged to Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia full Australian cooperation in the recovery and investigation operation. The crash zone is about as close to nowhere as its possible to be but it's closer to Australia than to anywhere else," said Abbott.
Abbott moved a motion of condolence to those lost, while families of four Australians onboard the ill-fated flight sat in the visitor's gallery.
"Four Australian families have an ache in their heart. Nothing we say or do can take that ache away. Still the knowledge that this nation through this parliament has paused to acknowledge that loss may be of some comfort in facing this terrible bereavement. May God bless you at this very sad time," said Abbott.
Australia is easing visa and immigration procedures to enable families, especially from China, to travel to Perth, Australia, the center of search and recovery efforts. The local Chinese community in Perth has offered to assist the visitors. Of the 227 passengers on board, some 153 were Chinese.
Oliver Lamb, managing director of Sydney-based Pacific Aviation Consulting, said he remains optimistic search efforts will succeed in locating the missing aircraft.
"There's too much, too much of an industry riding on what happened here. Everybody in whatever country absolutely puts safety first, and I'm almost certain that every effort, every human possible effort to get that black box or black boxes I should say will actually happen," said Lamb.
Reforms likely in air security, communications
So far, little is known why less than an hour after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, MH370 veered west as its flight transponder stopped transmitting.
Only communication "pings" from the plane's engines provided clues on the aircraft's direction. The Malaysian government, aided by a British satellite tracking company, has narrowed down the aircraft's final position in the southern Indian Ocean, far from land.
Lamb said the aviation industry is set to ensure aircraft can be tracked at all times.
"It seems to me odd in the 21st century that a plane can go missing for so long. The ability to track planes irrespective of what goes on in the cockpit or the like is a step that the industry is going to have to make," said Lamb.
Initial fears of a terrorist take-over of the flight came after it was revealed that at least two passengers were travelling by way of Beijing to Europe under false passports.
Hugh Ritchie, managing director with Aviation Consultants International, said issues from improved passport monitoring to security affecting communications are all set to come under the spotlight as the industry comes to grip with the issues surrounding flight MH370.
"There's a multitude of areas which need to be reviewed; we are talking about aviation security, border controls, integrated safety management systems, charging the 'black box' so it has a greater capacity to be tracked, on board capacity to turn off voice recorders, cockpit data recorders," said Ritchie.
More than 25 countries have backed the search for the missing Malaysian airlines jet backed by some of the most sophisticated satellite and search technology in the world.