WATCH ABOVE: Military search planes flew over a remote part of the Indian Ocean on Thursday hunting for debris in “probably the best lead” so far in finding the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
- Australia sends planes to check possible objects from missing plane
- U.S. company provides Australia with satellite imagery
- Malaysia says files were recently deleted from home flight simulator of pilot aboard missing jet
- FBI analyzing flight simulator data in Malaysia
- Relatives of passengers demand answers
Military search planes flew over a remote part of the Indian Ocean well off Perth, Australia, to determine whether two large objects spotted by satellite are debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The planes searched an area about 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth on Thursday before ending for the day. Officials say the search will resume again on Friday.
Australian officials cautioned that the objects may have nothing to do with the missing flight. Poor visibility hampered search efforts for one of the search planes.
The search for objects could take time and last as long as a few weeks, not days.
Flight MH370 had 239 people on board when it disappeared March 8 while flying from Malaysia to China.
‘This is a lead, it’s probably the best lead we have right now’
John Young, manager of Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division, said that one of the objects spotted by satellite imagery had a dimension of 24 metres (almost 80 feet) in length and the other one 5 metres (15 feet).
He said there could also be other objects in waters nearby.
“This is a lead, it’s probably the best lead we have right now,” Young told a news conference in Canberra, Australia’s capital.
WATCH: Former NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker on what’s next as crews zero in on that potential debris.
Planes had been sent to the area about 2,500 kilometres southwest of Perth to check on the objects.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority released two images of the whitish objects floating on or just under the surface but warned that satellite images “do not always turn out to be related to the search even if they look good, so we will hold our views on that until they are sighted close-up.”
U.S. company provides Australia satellite imagery of possible debris
In an e-mail to Global News, DigitalGlobe said it can confirm that it gave the images to search officials in Australia.
“We have been informed by an Australian government official that it was our imagery Prime Minister Abbott referred to in his recent comments,” said the statement. “We do not have any additional information at this time, as relevant search parties follow-up on this important lead.”
WATCH: Australian search and rescue pilots discuss the search for missing Malaysian jet
DigitalGlobe said it will continue to cooperate with authorities and provide any and all information at their disposal” to assist the search.”
Just last week, the company asked the public to search for clues for the missing jet that disappeared without a trace more than a week ago and provided high-resolution images that were taken nearly 640 km (or 400 miles) above Earth.
The company made the images available on Tomnod, a website that encourages the public to sift through satellite images in order “to explore the Earth and solve real-world problems.”
FBI analyzing flight simulator data in Malaysia
In the meantime, the Malaysian government is seeking help from the FBI after some flight data was reportedly deleted from the home flight simulator of one of the pilots of the missing Malaysian plane.
The two have joined forces to analyze the deleted electronic data.
VIDEO: Malaysia calls in FBI for help
Malaysia’s defence minister said investigators are trying to restore files deleted Feb. 3 from the simulator used by the pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah and that the pilot is innocent until proven guilty.
Deleting files would not necessarily represent anything unusual, especially if it were to free up memory space, but investigators would want to check the files for any signs of unusual flight paths that could help explain where the missing plane went.
‘Not ruling out any explanations’
Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanations, but have said the evidence so far suggests the flight was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca.
They are unsure what happened next.
VIDEO: Aviation expert wonders how missing Malaysia airlines plane could have evaded radar
Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board, and have asked for background checks from abroad on all foreign passengers.
Relatives of passengers demand answers
Frustrated Chinese families of passengers said on Wednesday they will set up a “self-help” committee, urging the Malaysian government to send representatives to Beijing to brief them.
The development comes after daily meetings between the airline and relatives in Beijing have left families frustrated at the lack of new information.
“We want Malaysia to send government representatives to attend the meeting with families,” said Mr Wen, the father of one of the missing passengers.
“Only the government can answer our questions about where the plane is and where our families are,” he added.
– with files from The Associated Press