Specialist plane search equipment on way

Last updated 16:47 25/03/2014

Families mourn after news of plane crash

Satellite pings reveal fate of MH370

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The US and China are sending more resources to the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, which is now confirmed to have been lost in the Indian Ocean west of Perth.

The Pentagon says an undersea US Navy drone and a pinger  locator, which can be used to track down Flight MH370’s black box flight recorder, are on the way.

They are due to arrive in Perth later on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The sonar-equipped Bluefin ‘‘autonomous underwater vehicle’’ can scan the ocean’s depths for any sunken wreckage.

The towed pinger locator will likely be deployed to search for the missing plane’s black box recorder, which is estimated to have around 12 days of battery life left.

China is sending more vessels to join its warships and specially-equipped planes already in Western Australia to search for and potentially salvage wreckage.

China’s state news agency Xinhua reports the country’s maritime search and rescue centre is ‘‘working on solutions‘‘, with a promise to beef up search efforts.

In the US, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the  underwater vehicle and towed pinger locator had left JFK Airport in  New York.

‘‘There will be a small number of people going along with them,’’  he said.

''I think there are two on the flight with the gear itself, and  then another eight folks will be flying separately to Perth to  prepare the equipment.’’

Malaysia has taken control of the investigation under the Chicago Convention on international civil aviation.

Australia's HMAS Success left the search area today because of rough seas.

Waves up to two metres high with an associated swell of up to four metres were forecast, with strong gale force winds up to 80kmh, periods of heavy rain and low cloud with a ceiling between 200 and 500 feet, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

The conditions would make air and sea search activities hazardous. Conditions were expected to improve in the evening and over the next few days. The search was due to resume tomorrow.

Australian naval ship Success had left the search area early this morning and was headed south to wait until seas abated. Success was unable to find objects spotted in the search area by an Australian air force Orion.

Families were told this morning that flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people onboard, "ended" in the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth "far from any possible landing sites".

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the information came from new Immarsat satellite analysis.

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Najib said "pings" sent out by the plane had been pieced together to shed more light on its flight path.

According to this data, provided to UK officials by London-based satellite company Inmarsat, the plane flew for more than seven hours after it had turned back from its scheduled flight path over the South China Sea.

In a separate statement, Malaysia Airlines said its "prayers go out to all the loved ones... at this enormously painful time".

"We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain," the statement said.

The airline said it hoped the continued search would provide more answers.

New Zealand would continue its part in the southern Indian Ocean search, Prime Minister John Key said this morning.

The Inmarsat analysis will allow the massive search area in the Indian Ocean, which can be as deep as 7000 metres, to be narrowed.

Searchers will now be able to calculate how far the plane could have flown with the fuel it had on board.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his country's parliament overnight that a RAAF P-3 Orion aircraft had located two new objects at about 2.45pm local time on Monday.

Abbott said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) had advised him the Orion crew had seen a grey or green circular object as well as an orange rectangular object, both of which were separate to the objects spotted by a Chinese aircraft, in the Indian Ocean.

Abbott said he did not know if the objects were from the flight.

The objects reported by the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 to AMSA earlier yesterday were seen floating in the southern Indian Ocean as the crew returned to Perth from the search area, according to official news agency Xinhua.

However, a US Poseidon was unable to find them again.

China and France released further satellite imagery over the weekend showing objects in the same region which could be linked to the missing flight.

-Fairfax Media and agencies

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