An air search of the remote southern Indian Ocean resumed on Friday morning (local time, Thursday evening ET), seeking to confirm if hundreds of objects spotted by satellites are debris from a Malaysian jetliner presumed to have crashed almost three weeks ago with the loss of all on board.
A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 took off from Perth before dawn, heading 1,550 miles southwest into the search area where high winds and icy weather had halted flights on Thursday.
The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines jet, which vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a routine flight to Beijing on March 8, has gripped the world and baffled investigators.
Officials believe someone on board Flight MH370 may have shut off the plane's communications systems before flying it thousands of miles off course where it crashed into the ocean in one of the most isolated and foreboding regions on the planet.
Theories range from a hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the pilots, but investigators have not ruled out technical problems.
The search zone centers on the latest sightings of possible wreckage that were captured by Thai and Japanese satellites in roughly the same frigid expanse of sea as earlier images reported by France, Australia and China.
"We detected floating objects, perhaps more than 300," Anond Snidvongs, the head of Thailand's space technology development agency, told Reuters. "We have never said that the pieces are part of MH370 but have so far identified them only as floating objects."
The U.S. Navy said it was sending a second P8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to help in the search for the missing Boeing 777.
"It's critical to continue searching for debris so we can reverse-forecast the wind, current and sea state since March 8th to recreate the position where MH370 possibly went into the water," said Commander Tom Moneymaker, a U.S. 7th Fleet oceanographer.
The United States has also sent a device that can be towed behind a ship to pick up faint pings from the plane's black box voice and data recorders, but time is running out.
"We've got to get this initial position right prior to deploying the Towed Pinger Locator since the MH370's black box has a limited battery life and we can't afford to lose time searching in the wrong area," Moneymaker said.