18 Mar 2014

NZ Orion joins search in Indian Ocean

2:37 pm on 18 March 2014

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion is searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 airliner in the southern Indian Ocean on Tuesday.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says Malaysian authorities asked the P3 Orion to relocate to Australia's RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia.

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Photo: AFP

Dr Coleman says it will join Australian, American and Chinese aircraft in combing the southern Indian Ocean for the missing plane.

A spokesperson for the minister says there is no time limit on how long the Orion will remain involved in the search, which is now into its second week.

Flight MH370 with 239 people on board vanished about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing early on 8 March.

Satellite data suggests that the jet could be anywhere in either of two vast arcs: one stretching from northern Thailand to the borders of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, or a southern arc from Indonesia into the Indian Ocean west of Australia. The number of countries searching has nearly doubled from 14 to 26.

An unprecedented search has failed to find any trace of the Boeing 777, which investigators believe was diverted by someone with deep knowledge of the plane and commercial navigation.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid have become a primary focus of the investigation into the fate of the missing plane.