An New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion will today search for for anything floating in the sea that may indicate where a missing Malaysian passenger plane might be.

Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short, Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, told Radio New Zealand this morning the Orion would conduct its first major search today.

The aircraft arrived at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Pearce, north of Perth, at midnight, he said.

The search area is about 2500km from Perth.


"It's going to be a five-hour transit out to that search area. They'll only be able to search for a couple of hours, maybe stretch it to three, before they return back to base.

"What they're going to do is start at the southern point, the southwestern point of the potential areas and then work there way north towards Indonesia," Air Vice Marshal Short told Radio New Zealand.

Australian, US and Chinese aircrafts would also be searching the southern corridor area.

"When we go out into the search area, we are looking for something that is floating on the surface and that goes from seats, luggage, pieces of metal that may have airpockets in it. We can only hope that something is still floating to indicate the position.

"They'll be using radar, electro-optics and visual," he said.

The Orion would be based in Pearce for about two weeks.

A review of the search would take place at the end of this week, and at the end of the following week, Air Vice-Marshal Short said.

"We hope that we've done that southern corridor by then or hopefully found something by then."

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Co-ordination Centre [RCC] said conditions in the area were expected to be moderate today.

The search area is more than 600,000 square kilometres.

Three commercial ships in the vicinity of the search area had responded to a request for help with the search, it said.

"One merchant vessel has transited the area and a further two vessels are due to undertake a search and assist."

Three Royal Australian Airforce P3 Orion were available for the search today, with a fourth expected to be available later this week, it said.