Search for lost jetliner may be long drawn, says Australia

Perth, April 1 (IAMS) The ongoing search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could drag on for a long time, the chief of Australia's newly formed Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC) said Tuesday.

The search and recovery operation "is the most challenging one that I have seen", former Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who heads the newly established JACC, told reporters.

Houston said the crucial job now was to find the debris or wreckage of the missing plane, so as to narrow the search down to a smaller area and use advanced equipment to locate the plane's black box, Xinhua reported.

The Australian government officially launched the JACC Monday to coordinate the multinational search for the lost Malaysia Airlines jertliner, which carried 239 people, including 12 crew, on board.

"The purpose of the JACC is to ensure the public and other stakeholders, particularly families (of those on board the lost aircraft), are well-informed about the progress of the investigation into the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370," the JACC said in a posting on its website.

"As the search and recovery process may take some time, the Australian government is seeking to provide a single point of contact for affected parties, while also taking into account the interests of other stakeholders," it added.

According to the JACC, 10 planes and nine ships are assisting in Tuesday's search for the lost jet.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has determined a search area of about 120,000 sq km, west of Australia, around 1,850 km from Perth, the capital of Western Australia state.

Two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P3 Orions, two Malaysian C-130s, a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76, a US Navy P8 Poseidon, a Japanese Gulfstream jet, a South Korean P3 Orion, a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3, a Japanese P3 Orion have been deployed for Tuesday's search operation with a civil jet providing a communications relay.

"Nine ships have been tasked to search in four separate areas. Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield departed HMAS Stirling on Monday night, with a pinger locator," the JACC statement said.

"Weather in the search area is expected to be poor, with areas of low visibility."

According to another Xinhua report from Perth, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft will be deployed by the RAAF in the search for the lost jet.

"They are very capable aircraft which can assist us in deconflicting air space in the search area, that will be in addition to the force out there," JACC chief Houston told the media.

The E-7A Wedgetails can control the tactical battle space, providing direction for fighter aircraft, surface combatants and land based elements, as well as supporting aircraft, tankers and intelligence platforms.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur shortly after midnight March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was scheduled to land in Beijing the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

The plane lost contact along with its radar signal when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City.

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