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Most of the planes scouring the remote southern Indian Ocean for debris from missing Flight 370 only have a two-hour search window, officials said Friday.
“They only have two hours [of] search time when they get there because of the distance it takes to get to the area,” an Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokesperson told NBC News. “It’s a seven-hour round trip and a two-hour search time so they are in the air nine hours.”
The search zone is about 1,400 miles southwest of Perth, Australia, limiting the amount of time that aircraft can search the waters before returning to refuel. That distance is farther than a trip between New York and Oklahoma City.
Five planes took off from Perth on Friday, including a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon, three Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orions and “an ultra-long range” Bombardier Global Express.
A second merchant ship was expected to join the auto carrier Hoegh St. Petersburg in the isolated ocean zone later Friday.
A total of six vessels have assisted the search in the region before they were released from tasking, they added.