By Rob Griffith
and Gillian Wong
PERTH, AUSTRALIA: A warship with an aircraft black box detector was set to depart Australia today to search for the missing Malaysian jetliner, a day after ships plucked objects from the Indian Ocean to determine whether they were related to the missing plane. None were confirmed to be from the plane, leaving searchers with no sign of the jet three weeks after it disappeared.
Twenty-nine Chinese family members, seeking answers from Malaysia’s government as to what happened to their loved ones, arrived today in Kuala Lumpur, said Malaysia Airlines commercial director Hugh Dunleavy. Two-thirds of the 227 passengers aboard Flight 370 were Chinese, and their relatives have expressed deep frustration with Malaysian authorities since the plane went missing.
It could take days for the Australian warship, the navy support ADV Ocean Shield, to reach the search zone, which shifted northeast Friday to an area roughly the size of Poland. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which oversees the search, said the ship will depart Perth today for the zone, about 1,150 miles to the west.
The ship will be fitted with a black box detector — the U.S. Navy’s Towed Pinger Locator — and an unmanned underwater vehicle, as well as other acoustic detection equipment.
Ships from China and Australia on Saturday scooped up items described only as “objects from the ocean,” but none were “confirmed to be related” to Flight 370, AMSA said.
A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 plane spotted three floating objects, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said, a day after several planes and ships combing the newly targeted area, which is closer to Australia than the previous search zone, saw several other objects.
Meanwhile, a Chinese military plane scanning part of the search zone spotted several objects floating in the sea Saturday, including two bearing colors of the missing jet. The search shifted northeast Friday to a new part of the ocean that is roughly the size of Poland.
It was not immediately clear whether those objects were related to the investigation into what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, and officials said the second day of searching in the new area ended with no evidence found of the jet.
The three objects spotted by the Chinese plane were white, red and orange in color, the Xinhua report said. The missing Boeing 777’s exterior was red, white, blue and gray.
Investigators have been puzzled over what happened to Flight 370, with speculation ranging from equipment failure and a botched hijacking to terrorism or an act by one of the pilots.
The latter was fueled by reports that the pilot’s home flight simulator had files deleted from it, but Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said checks, including one by the FBI, had turned up no new information.