Nightly News   |  March 28, 2014

Five Airplanes Spot Debris In New Search Zone

Ships are now headed to the area where air crews have spotted a varying range of shapes and objects.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, it was three weeks ago tonight when we came on the air and reported the controllers had lost contact with a jumbo jet . three weeks, still no contact and there is no proof of where it is. but today five different planes spotted at least something. and tonight, there is a whole new search area. it is sharply to the north. that makes it closer to australia. and it is based on the belief that the plane flew faster on its way down than first believed and used its fuel faster and went down at a different point. it is where we begin tonight with nbc's tom costello in our d.c. bureau, good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian, a week after searching in an area 1600 miles off perth, now this new refined zone is elsewhere. the crew thought they spotted something that could be debris of various sizes and colors, the photos are now being analyzed. from an australian p-3 search zone today, a closer look after the flight 370 disappeared. at a low pass, the crew members thought they spotted something. now ships are heading that way.

>> in total, this is what we've come across. a varying range of shapes, sizes, objects that were sitting on the surface of the ocean, some just below.

>> reporter: this photo of possible debris confirmed by nbc news, was spotted by a crew also operating in the new zealand zone, nearly 700 miles northeast of the previous search zone.

>> this is our best estimate of the area in which the aircraft is likely to have crashed into the ocean.

>> reporter: with the help of u.s. investigators, engineers took the plane's last known altitude of 35,000 feet and projected the fuel burn, then they recalculated the possible flight paths. if the plane was flying at 539 or 546 miles per hour it likely would have taken this path. but if it was 360 miles per hour, the flight could have ended much more east and closer to perth. experts say the ocean there is not as rough.

>> it is very different in terms of conditions, the wave conditions are much, much calmer, less than half of what it was in the southern ocean .

>> reporter: if the black boxes are found, the malaysians could ask for help from the ntsb lab in washington where investigators are experienced in removing salt water that could have leaked into the memory compartment.

>> we make sure we wash the board several times and get all the salt particles out of it because it does have the ability to corrode some of the other parts on the memory board.

>> reporter: the goal, to upload hundreds of pieces of recorded flight data and lay out the plane's final moments. meanwhile, they will listen to what was said in the cockpit just before the final crash.

>> i would think this could be emotionally taxing to listen to this type of conversation.

>> i always relate it to what trauma surgeons must go through. you're there trying to get the job done.

>> reporter: the ntsb says it goes through 175 black boxes a year, a third of them are from foreign governments. also the pentagon is confirming they are trying to find imagery to help in the search, although they are not more specific than that.