Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370: New Zealand Joins in Search Operations

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | March 11, 2014 12:32 PM EST

New Zealand has joined into the fray of search and rescue operations for the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that went missing on Saturday early morning.

The Kiwi government deployed on Monday a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion plane to scout the waters off Vietnam. New Zealand is the eighth country to join the search for the missing aircraft, which remains elusive four days since the tragic incident.

A map of a flight plan is seen
A map of a flight plan is seen on a computer screen during a meeting before a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, at Phu Quoc Airport on Phu Quoc Island March 10, 2014. The disappearance of the Boeing 777-200ER jetliner is an "unprecedented mystery", the country's civil aviation chief said on Monday, as a massive air and sea search now in its third day failed to find any trace of the plane or 239 people on board. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Prime Minister John Key said that along with two Australian P3 planes, the New Zealand aircraft will be based at the Butterworth air base in Penang and will most likely assist Malaysian authorities by searching the sea areas North of Malaysia.

Read: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wife of Kiwi Passenger Prays for Miracle, Air New Zealand Still Believes in Safety Features of Boeing 777s

"Much remains unclear about what has happened to the flight. New Zealand wants to do its part in the search and rescue effort to locate the aircraft," Mr Key said.

"While we are aware the hope for positive news is fading, our thoughts remain with the family members of those who were on the flight, particularly the families of New Zealanders Paul Weeks and Ximin Wang.''

Equipped with six long-range P-3K2 Orions, the Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion plane is used for maritime surveillance. It is likewise frequently called in to help in maritime searches.

On Monday, the US Navy also sent a second ship, naval destroyer USS Kidd, to help in the search at the South China Sea. It joins the USS Pinckney, another American destroyer.

Read: Malaysian Airlines MH370: Families of Passengers Claim Their Mobile Phones Continue to Ring

"We are continuing to assist the Malaysian government in search and rescue operations in conjunction with the disappearance of Flight 370," Colonel Steven Warren, Pentagon spokesman, told reporters.

Both US naval ships are equipped with MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters, which are fortified with infrared cameras for night-time search operations.

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(Photo: A map of a flight plan is seen / )
A map of a flight plan is seen on a computer screen during a meeting before a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, at Phu Quoc Airport on Phu Quoc Island March 10, 2014. The disappearance of the Boeing 777-200ER jetliner is an "unprecedented mystery", the country's civil aviation chief said on Monday, as a massive air and sea search now in its third day failed to find any trace of the plane or 239 people on board. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
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