PERTH, Australia, March 24 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese military plane took off here early Monday to search for the suspicious debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.
A Chinese Air Force Ilyushin IL-76 plane left RAAF Base Pearce and it will make a stop at the Perth international airport to refuel before moving out to the sea, according to a Xinhua correspondent on board.
This is the first Chinese air search operation in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing plane since two Chinese military aircraft arrived in Perth on Saturday.
The search operation will last for one hour, covering an area of 400 km long and 30 km wide, where satellite imagery earlier spotted suspicious objects possibly related to the missing plane.
Currently, visibility is low in the area, with fog and waves 2-3 meters high. Weather forecast suggests there may be rain.
At the request of the Australian air force, one Australian pilot was on board the Chinese plane to join the search.
The Chinese air force welcomed the move, saying it is ready to strengthen communication with air forces of other countries in order to find the missing plane as early as possible.
According to Commander Liu Dianjun, the Chinese aircraft will make a roughly eight-hour round-trip flight during the mission, with the furthest point 2,700 km away from Perth.
The Chinese search operation is part of an international hunt involving more than two dozen countries for MH370.
The focus of the multinational search has shifted to the southern Indian Ocean after Australia said Thursday that satellite imagery identified suspicious debris that might be linked to the missing plane in waters some 2,400 km from Perth.
China and France, on Saturday and Sunday respectively, also spotted suspicious objects possibly linked to the missing plane in the southern Indian Ocean through satellite imagery.
Their findings appeared to have validated the Australian lead and raised the possibility of finally locating the missing plane more than two weeks after it mysteriously disappeared from radar en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.
A total of 239 people were on board, including 154 Chinese passengers.
Initial search efforts were once concentrated in the South China Sea where the plane last contacted with air traffic controllers.
But satellite and radar data later indicated the plane had made a turn to the west and was probably somewhere in the so-called two corridors -- the northern one stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and the southern one stretching from Indonesia to the southern India Ocean.
Even if the international search locates the plane, analysts believe it could still take months or even years to unravel the mystery why such a high-tech aircraft deviated from its planned path and landed somewhere thousands of kilometers away from its original destination.
French satellites spot possible debris from MH370, more aircraft to join search
KUALA LUMPUR/CANBERRA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Malaysia received new satellite images from French authorities showing possible debris from missing jetliner MH370, the Malaysian Transport Ministry said Sunday.
The French satellite imagery was released one day after China said its satellite spotted a 22-meter-long and 13-meter-wide floating object in southern Indian Ocean, about 120 km southwest of the objects Australia announced Thursday. Full story
New leads emerge as Malaysian airliner searchers end another fruitless day
CANBERRA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Australian search and rescue officials on Sunday ended another fruitless day searching the southern Indian Ocean for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 as new satellite photos showing objects in the water came to light.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said it was in possession of the new photos taken by a French satellite, but little other information was available. Full story