Doing their part: Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lieutenant Neville Dawson (left) discussing the search area with Flight Officer Brittany Sharpe aboard the Royal Australian Airforce AP-3C Orion, some 2,500km southwest of Perth. — EPA
PERTH: Spotter planes spent a second day scouring a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean for wreckage from Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, coming home with nothing to show.
Australia’s acting prime minister, Warren Truss, tamped down expectations as Prime Minister Tony Abbott had to defend himself against accusation that he had jumped the gun.
“Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating – it may have slipped to the bottom,” he said.
“It’s also certain that any debris or other material would have moved a significant distance over that time, potentially hundreds of kilometres.”
The debris had been spotted by satellite on March 16.
Abbott, who first revealed the satellite images in Parliament, said he was right in telling parliament about the debris.
“We owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones ... to give them information as soon as it’s to hand,” he said in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
Australian and US military aircraft usually used for anti-submarine operations criss-crossed the isolated search area 2,500km southwest of Perth, looking for two floating objects that had shown up on the grainy satellite photos.
Although the images were too indistinct to confirm as debris from Flight MH370, Australian and Malaysian officials said they represented the most “credible” leads to date in the hunt for the plane and its 239 passengers and crew.
Yesterday’s search concluded “without any sightings”, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said in a statement.
The planes flew low under the cloud cover rather than rely on radar, after poor weather the day before hampered the search.
“We replanned the search to be visual, so aircraft flying relatively low, with very highly skilled observers looking out of the windows,” said Amsa official John Young in a video update posted on Amsa’s YouTube channel.
Amsa emergency response division general manager John Young said they would move along the search area according to where the waters had moved overnight.
He added that they would employ the same methods today.
“This means aircraft operating more closely together and we will need more aircraft for this task.”
The aerial contingent yesterday comprised three Australian air force P-3 Orions, a US Navy P-8 Poseidon and a civil Bombardier Global Express jet.
The distance from the west coast of Australia allows the planes only about two hours of actual search time before they must turn around with enough fuel to get back to Perth.
Two merchant ships were helping with the search, but Australia’s HMAS Success, which is capable of retrieving any wreckage, was still days away. — Agencies