We have woven some updates into this post.
Two weeks after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the first “credible lead” in the search for the Boeing 777 and the 239 people on board is still just that — a lead, not a discovery.
For a second day, search planes flew to an area of the Indian Ocean about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia. They were there because satellite images taken Sunday (March 16) showed two objects floating in the water that analysts believe might be debris from the jet.
It was Malaysia’s acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, who called those images the first credible lead in the search for the airliner.
But for a second day, searchers apparently did not see anything. Perth is 12 hours ahead of the East Coast of the U.S.
Update at 8:45 a.m. ET: The search operation has “concluded for today without any sightings,” the Australian Maritime Safety Authority just reported.
Officials have cautioned that the objects in the images could be unrelated to the missing jet. For instance, they might be containers that fell off cargo ships. They also say that in the days since the images were taken, the objects may have sunk below sea level. The waters there are about 3 miles deep.
The search operation in the area is being coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. It says three Royal Australian Air Force aircraft and one civilian jet were involved in the search Friday, along with one U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft. Update at 8:45 a.m. ET: The authority now adds that a “New Zealand P-3 Orion” participated today. Update at 1 p.m. ET: Britain is sending the HMS Echo, a coastal survey ship. It will take a few days to reach the area.
Two merchant vessels are also involved in the search, and other ships are on their way. Update at 8:45 a.m. ET: The presence of a second merchant vessel was just reported by the Maritime Safety Authority.
China is sending three warships, an icebreaker and two aircraft. More than half of those on board Flight 370 were Chinese citizens. Japan is sending two aircraft, as well.
Meanwhile, in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, Malaysian officials held their first private briefings for families of those missing. According to the BBC, officials say they’ll hold such briefings “for as long as they are wanted. Another team has now arrived in Beijing and met with family members there for 3.5 hours this morning.” Families of the passengers have been frustrated by what they feel has been a lack of information coming from the airline and authorities.
Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur just after midnight on March 8. That was midday, March 7, on the East Coast of the U.S. The plane was supposed to arrive in Beijing about 6 hours later. Instead, investigators believe it turned west sometime after 1 a.m., flew back across the Malay Peninsula and then — possibly — turned south. They don’t know for sure where the jet went because most of the communications gear on board wasn’t working. Theories about what happened vary widely — from a hijacking to a deliberate act by a member of the crew to an emergency that filled the cabin and cockpit with deadly fumes.