China has released four-day old imagery showing three large, floating objects in the South China Sea near the last known position of the missing Malaysia Airlines 777-200.
The imagery collected within 36h of the aircraft’s disappearance may provide a vital new clue in the now five-day-old search for flight 370, which disappeared on 8 March with 239 passengers and crew.
Search aircraft have previously turned up several false leads, including an oil slick and a suspected “door”, but the location and the scale of the newly-discovered objects sparked new hope for a breakthrough.
The imagery released by the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence showed three clusters of objects floating in a general region with a radius of 20km.
The size of the floating objects measured 13m by 18m, 14m by 19m and 24m by 22m.
That seems at least not inconsistent with the dimensions of the missing aircraft. It’s wing span measures 60.9m. The fuselage is 63.7m long and the tail is 18.5m off the ground.
The timing of the release of the imagery almost four days after they were collected was not explained.
The Chinese government had mobilised 11 satellites to assist with search and recovery efforts for Flight 370, which included more than 150 passengers from China.
They added to a large flotilla of naval vessels and a fleet of patrol aircraft provided by several countries.
Flight 370 disappeared from civilian air traffic control radar around 1:30am off the coast of Malaysia, on a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.
Military primary radar tracked the aircraft slightly longer, in which it appeared to change direction. The Malaysian Air Force has said it is also studying an unidentified, intermittent radar contact that flew west for 40min and finally disappeared in the Andaman Sea west of Malaysia.