22 Mar 2014

On the lookout 'indefinitely' for flight MH370

We’re walked to the edge of the runway, where the pilot tells us what he and rest of the crew saw – or in today’s case what they didn’t see.

It was pretty quiet at Perth’s Pearce Air Force base today – until we heard about a new satellite photograph from the Chinese.

The sighted object was big – 22.5m by 13 m – and it was spotted 75 miles away from other debris captured by Australian satellites earlier in the week.

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All credit to the satellite analysts then because the search and rescue teams were not able to come up with much – the only things seen at sea today were a wooden pallet and some clumps of seaweed.

Flight officer Gharazeddine looks out of a RAAF AP-3C Orion as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean during the search for missing flight MH370.

Six specialist aircraft made their way the search area this morning, about 1,500 miles south-west of here, leaving a big media contingent here waiting for news.

We’ve been tucked just inside the front gate at the base – I’ll give you an idea of how things work. When those planes return back to base, we’re walked down to the edge of the runway and wait for them to come to a halt.

Afterwards the pilot tells us what he and rest of the crew saw – or in today’s case what they didn’t see.

Flight-Lieutenant Mike McSween piloted an Australian P3 Orion: “We conducted three hours of searching and we weren’t able to locate anything of significance.

“However there other aircraft continuing the search at this time and hopefully they’ll have some better luck.”

They didn’t – but fresh satellite images from the Chinese will only work to intensify the search in the south Indian ocean.

Members of this multi-national search team are busy moving dozens of ships, helicopters and planes down here – a remarkable feat when you consider that countries with simmering border disputes like China, Japan and India are now working together off the Australian coast.

The Chinese have dispatched five warships to the region – and they’ll join a flotilla of other vessels including the UK’s HMS Echo which should arrive in the search area on Tuesday.

But remember nobody’s actually got their hands on any debris from flight 370 – we haven’t seen any conclusive evidence and the build-up of personnel in the region could be a sign of desperation.

Follow John Sparks on Twitter – @c4sparks.