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Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Flight MH370: Searchers follow NZ lead

Flight Lieutenant Jayson Nichols looks out of the cockpit of a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion. Photo / AP
Flight Lieutenant Jayson Nichols looks out of the cockpit of a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion. Photo / AP

Search teams were last night scouring the area where a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion made a potentially crucial breakthrough in the hunt for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.

New Zealand Joint Forces head Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short said the Kiwi searchers had been heartened after spotting 11 objects about 1600km west of Perth on Friday.

"Those objects turned out to be rectangular in shape, nothing bigger than 1 metre, some of them down to half a metre in size," Short said.

The RNZAF Orion headed back to the search zone at 8pm (NZT) yesterday. Six ships were expected to reach the search area last night but would have little, if any, daylight left.

Flight Lieutenant Jamin Baker was on a RNZAF Orion which spotted the items and dropped a marker buoy in "an area of interest".

"Obviously we don't know if these [objects] are associated with the aircraft yet but it certainly looks like we are seeing a lot more debris and just general flotsam in the water, so we could be on to something here," Baker told Reuters.

The new zone is nearly 1130km northeast of sites searchers criss-crossed over the past week. The redeployment came after analysts determined the Boeing 777 might have been travelling faster than earlier estimates and would therefore have run out of fuel sooner.

Search planes are being sent out from Perth in stages, so at least one will be over the area for most of the daylight hours. It is closer than the previous area, with a flying time of two hours each way, allowing for five hours of search time.

Eight aircraft are taking part in the search, which was again expected to be hampered by deteriorating weather conditions.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said a Chinese patrol ship would be on the scene today.

Five P-3 Orions - three from Australia and one each from Japan and New Zealand - plus a Japanese coastguard jet, a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 and one civilian jet took part in the air search yesterday.

- APNZ

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