The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has released details of its operation to search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777 jetliner with 239 passengers and crew on board which mysteriously vanished about an hour into a Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight on the 8th of March. Satellite data has indicated there was a possibility that MH370's last contact could be in the southern Indian Ocean in what is known as the "southern corridor". An area totalling 600,000 square kilometres (see image below provided by AMSA), or roughly the size of Ukraine - inclusive of Crimea - located 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) from Perth has been designated as the search zone. The search area was developed based on information made available to AMSA on Monday, and being will be refined in conjunction with other agencies.
Six aircraft have been allocated to the search; four Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion maritime patrol/anti-submarine aircraft, a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3K2 Orion and a United States Navy (USN) P-8 Poseidon. All six aircraft are expected to reach Perth tomorrow (19th March) and it is expected that five daylight sorties will be flown on the 19th. One AP-3C has already redeployed to RAAF Base Pearce, north of Perth from the Cocos (Keeling) Island and has already flown a search sortie today with more AP-3Cs being deployed from RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia.
Back-of-envelope calculations show that the Orions will probably take about five hours to transit to/from the search area from Western Australia, which will leave them with at least two hours of fuel available to search the area. By shutting down up to two engines (see photo above of a RAAF AP-3C flying with one engine shut down), the Orions will be able to conserve fuel and extend loiter time over the search zone.
More from Greg Waldron over at Flightglobal