Australian authorities said the search for the missing Malaysian jetliner has shifted over a thousand kilometers northeast following the emergence of a new, credible lead.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said international investigators have determined the plane was traveling faster and expending fuel quicker than previously estimated, reducing the possible distance it flew.
In a statement Friday, the authority said the new search area is about 319,000 kilometers. It is 1,850 kilometers west of the southwestern Australian city of Perth.
Authority General Manager John Young said the information is the most credible lead so far in the search for the wreckage, but warned there is a long way to go yet.
“This is the normal business of search and rescue operations – that new information comes to light, refined analysis take you to a different place. I don’t count the original work a waste of time,” said Young.
The extremely remote search location along with bad weather have hampered the search for the Boeing 777, which disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board.
The AMSA said weather conditions have improved from Thursday, when search planes were forced to fly back to Australia. It said 10 aircraft are involved in Friday’s mission. Six boats are also relocating to the area.
The planes and ships are trying to locate and identify hundreds of floating objects that have appeared in recent satellite photos.
On Thursday, the Thai space agency said one of its satellites spotted about 300 floating objects ranging from two to 15 meters in size in the remote southern Indian Ocean.
Earlier, 122 possible objects, some of them shiny and up to 23 meters long, were seen in French satellite photos near the same area.
Officials stress the objects may not be parts of the missing aircraft, but the news is the most promising lead yet in the 19-day old search for the plane.
Malaysian officials said satellite data shows the aircraft almost certainly crashed into the sea, far from any land.
The plane went missing without a distress call on March 8, hours after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.
Once wreckage is found, the search effort will then focus on finding the plane’s flight data recorder, or black box, which should provide clues about what went wrong.