Malaysia Airlines Debris Hunt Called Off Without Finding Anything, Search Resumes Friday

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may have crashed into the Indian Ocean about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia if the possible debris shown on Australian satellite imagery are actually the remains of the missing Boeing 777-200. But as search vessels steamed toward the site pinpointed on the satellite photos, “extremely” bad weather and darkness brought the hunt for answers to a halt.

The search will resume Friday morning, local time. Perth is 12 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Daylight Time, so new reports could start coming in Thursday evening in the United States.

But while the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the search, says that the satellite images are “probably the best lead we have right now,” AMSA Spokesperson John Young cautioned that previous satellite reports of possible Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 debris have turned out to be nothing. These latest images may be no different.

An Australian Air Force jet flew over the site where the possible Malaysia Airlines debris were spotted, but couldn’t see anything through the thick clouds and rain.

“The weather conditions were such that we were unable to see for very much of the flight today,” said RAAF flyer Chris Birrer. “But the other aircraft that are searching, they may have better conditions.”

But a U.S. Navy jet also flew over the area and saw nothing.

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the satellite images, ‘the first tangible break-through in what up until now has been an utterly baffling mystery.” But Abbott, too, warned that the isolated, distant location where the possible Malaysia Airlines wreckage appears on the photos makes finding whatever might be there extremely difficult.

A Norwegian cargo ship carrying a shipment of automobiles to Melbourne turned off its course to join the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 search at the Australian government’s request, and was the first vessel to arrive at the remote site. But so far, the ship has not seen the approximately 80-foot long “blob” — as it being described — in the water that was captured by the satellite.

“Our mission is to be the eyes and ears in the area and to look for things in the water,” Olva Sollie, a vice president of shipping company Höegh Autoliners said. “We are doing this from the ship with our crews using binoculars and radars. This is coordinated with the Australian authorities and aircraft in the area.”

A second piece of possible Malaysia Airlines debris appears to be between 15 and 20 feet long.

Experts warn that even if the satellite images are found to show the actual remains of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, it could be months or even years before a full picture of what happened to the mysteriously vanished aircraft emerges.

“Thinking back to Air France 447, where they had debris within days, it still took them two years to locate the wreckage,” Paul Hayes, a London-based aviation consultant told Bloomberg News. “Here, in the open ocean, where it may even be deeper, it’s going to be a horrendous task.”

Malaysia Airlines debris

If the images do pan out, the site of the wreckage would provide proof that for some reason, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 turned thousands of miles away from its planned route. The site is at the outer reaches of one of two South Pole-directed flight paths investigators believe the diverted Malaysia Airlines plane would have taken.

[Top Image: Bing / Second Image: Australian Maritime Safety Authority / Third Image: Hoegh Autoliners / Fourth Image: Australia Department of Defense]