Planes Sent to Check After Australia Reports Satellite Picked Up Two Objects in Southern Indian Ocean

By Patrick Goodenough | March 20, 2014 | 1:47 AM EDT

A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion surveillance aircraft. (Photo: RAAF)

( – As the search continues for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, the Australian government announced Thursday that surveillance aircraft had been deployed to check two objects detected by satellite in the southern Indian Ocean.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority general manager John Young told reporters the objects, the larger of which appeared to be around 24 meters (78 feet) in size, had been picked up by satellite about 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) south-west of Perth in Western Australia.

An Australian Orion surveillience aircraft was in the area, and would be joined by others, including a U.S. Navy P8 Poseidon and a New Zealand Air Force Orion.

Twelve days after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 and its 239 passengers and crew went missing while on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, Young cautioned against over-optimism.

“We have been in this business of doing search and rescue and using sat images before, and they do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good,” he said. “So we will hold our views on that until they are sighted close-up.”

The news was first announced by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, speaking in parliament in Canberra.

He said he had informed the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak of the news.

“The task of locating these objects will be extremely difficult, and it may turn out that they are not related to the search for flight MH 370,” Abbott said.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow