Authorities are still searching for signs of any objects seen about 2,500km off the coast of Western Australia that may be wreckage from the flight.
Two objects – one 24 metres in size, the other smaller at five metres – were identified in Australian satellite images. It shows that satellite imagery may be helpful in such a wide area searches, despite the earlier images of debris from a Chinese satellite proving to be false.
If any wreckage is found by RAAF search aircraft and confirmed to be from flight MH370, it will be a major breakthrough in the hunt for an aircraft that has been missing since it left Kuala Lumpur on Saturday 8 March on its regular flight to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.
The hunt for clues
What happens next, if the wreckage is found to have been from MH370, is that search planners will try to extrapolate its journey backwards in time.
Based on best estimates of ocean currents in the area, they will try to estimate where the wreckage might have begun to drift and possible tracks the aircraft may have flown to get to the southern Indian Ocean after radar contact was lost.
If the debris is from flight MH370, the flight recorder beacons should be transmitting, so narrowing the search to the southern Indian Ocean may improve the potential to detect one of those signals.
If the debris is found by search aircraft and closer examination proves it to be from the flight, who gets tasked with its recovery might come down to who can get assets out there in a reasonable time frame.
The responsibility for any investigation of the wreckage will still be vested in Malaysia as the country where the aircraft was registered. It is, after all, a Malaysia Airlines aircraft and their passengers and crew. I would expect other countries such as Australia will continue to provide assistance.
It will still be very difficult and time-consuming to recover the wreckage once it is located. The depth of water alone will have a significant influence on the recovery options available, the difficulty involved and the time it will take.
The search for the flight recorders will be investigators highest priority. The digital flight data recorder will provide clear evidence of what the aircraft was doing from the time it departed Kuala Lumpur.
Thousands of recorded parameters will give a very accurate picture of the flight, speeds, altitudes, headings, the configuration of hundreds of key aircraft components – a continuous image of what the aircraft actually did.