Missing Malaysia Flight MH370: Spotter planes flying low over Indian Ocean fail to find any sign of jet

Satellite pictures from earlier this week showing two large objects floating in the ocean about 1,500 miles south-west of Perth

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The Independent Online

Despite clear weather and visibility of more than six miles, spotter planes flying low over a remote patch of the southern Indian Ocean failed to find any sign of the Malaysian Airlines jet missing for the past two weeks.

Satellite pictures from earlier this week showing two large objects floating in the ocean about 1,500 miles south-west of Perth had raised hopes of finding debris from Flight MH370, which vanished with 239 passengers and crew en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, creating one of the world’s biggest aviation mysteries.

The search will continue in what the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, called “about the most inaccessible spot that you could imagine on the face of the Earth”, with Chinese and Japanese aircraft set to join Australian and US planes this weekend.

However, the Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, standing in for Mr Abbott who is visiting Papua New Guinea, appeared to dampen down expectations, warning that the objects “would have moved a significant distance… potentially hundreds of kilometres” from the site where they were photographed, or even sunk.

Latest: 'China spots possible debris in southern corridor'

In the Indian Ocean, three Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orions joined a hi-tech US Navy P-8 Poseidon and a civilian Bombardier Global Express jet, flying back and forth over a lonely stretch of sea. Because the area is four hours’ flying time from Perth, they could search only for two hours before heading back to land to refuel.

Rather than using radar, which found nothing on Thursday, the search relied mainly on trained spotters scanning the ocean.

“Noting that we got no radar detections yesterday, we have re-planned the search to be visual,” said John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division.

“So, aircraft [are] flying relatively low, very highly skilled and trained observers looking out of the aircraft windows and looking to see objects.”Two Chinese aircraft are expected to arrive in Perth today, and two Japanese planes on Sunday. China has also sent a flotilla of ships which are still several days away. A Norwegian cargo vessel is already in the Indian Ocean, helping with a search which over the past fortnight has involved more than two dozen countries.

“We are doing all that we can, devoting all the resources we can, and we will not give up until all of the options have been exhausted,” said Mr Truss.

Malaysian authorities believe the Boeing 777 veered drastically off course – with its communication systems disabled – as a result of deliberate action by someone on board. The most likely scenarios, they say, were a hijacking, pilot sabotage or a sudden mid-air technical crisis.

On Friday angry and anguished relatives confronted Malaysian officials in a Beijing hotel, but emerged none the wiser.

Nan Jinyan, whose brother-in-law, Yan Ling, was a passenger on MH370, told Associated Press: “I’m psychologically prepared for the worst, and I know the chances of them coming back alive are extremely small.”

Mr Abbott said he had spoken to the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, who was “devastated”. “If there’s anything down there, we will find it,” he said. “We owe it to the families of those people to do no less.”

While the current focus is on the southern Indian Ocean, about halfway between Australia and Antarctica, aircraft and ships are also searching the Andaman Sea, between India and Thailand. A wide arc sweeping northwards from Laos to Kazakhstan is also being searched.

With every day that passes, the chances of retrieving the plane’s “black box” voice and data recorder shrink. The box will transmit an electronic signal for about 30 days before its battery dies.