‘Extraordinary riddle’ of lost jet now 2 weeks old

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Japanese Air Self-Defense Force copilot Ryutaro Hamahira scans the ocean aboard a C130 aircraft while it flies over the southern search area in the southeastern Indian Ocean, 200 to 300 kilometers (124 to 186 miles) south of Sumatra, Indonesia, Friday, March 21, 2014. Search planes scoured a remote patch of the Indian Ocean but came back empty-handed Friday after looking for any sign of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, another disappointing day in one of the world’s biggest aviation mysteries. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)

Japanese Air Self-Defense Force copilot Ryutaro Hamahira scans the ocean aboard a C130 aircraft while it flies over the southern search area in the southeastern Indian Ocean, 200 to 300 kilometers (124 to 186 miles) south of Sumatra, Indonesia, Friday, March 21, 2014. Search planes scoured a remote patch of the Indian Ocean but came back empty-handed Friday after looking for any sign of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, another disappointing day in one of the world’s biggest aviation mysteries. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)

In this photo provided by the Australia Defence Department March 20, 2014, Royal Australian Air Force Loadmasters Sgt. Adam Roberts, left, and Flight Sgt. John Mancey, launch a Self Locating Data Marker Buoy from a C-130J Hercules aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the Australian Defence Force’s assistance to the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. (AP Photo/Australian Defence Department, Justin Brown)

One of the relatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 wipes her tears as she watches a TV news program about the missing flight after a briefing meeting with Malaysian officials in a hotel ballroom in Beijing, China, Friday, March 21, 2014. Planes are flying out of Australia again to search for two objects detected by satellite that may be debris from the missing Malaysian airliner. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

FILE – In this April 4, 2001 file photo, P-3C Orion practices touch-and-go landings at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station near Oak Harbor, Wash. The similar type of the P-3 Orion, favored by the Australian and New Zealand defense forces, is used in the search for the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which went missing on March 8, 2014, off the west coast of Australia. Because the search area is so remote, it’s an eight-hour round trip, leaving the planes just two or three hours to search. (AP Photo/Stevan Morgain, File)

Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein answers questions from the media during the press conference for the missing Malaysia Airline, MH370 at a hotel in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, March 21, 2014. Search planes flying deep into the southern Indian Ocean have found nothing so far that could be from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, Australia’s acting prime minister said Friday. The planes are part of an international effort to solve the nearly 2-week-old mystery of what happened to Flight 370 with 239 people aboard. They are looking for two large floating objects detected by a satellite off the southwest coast of Australia. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

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PERTH, Australia (AP) — Aircraft and ships from China headed to the desolate southern Indian Ocean to join the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, now lost for two full weeks, and Australia promised its best efforts to resolve “an extraordinary riddle.”

A satellite spotted two large objects in the area earlier this week, raising hopes of finding the Boeing 777 that disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board. Surveillance planes scoured the region — about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth —for a second day on Friday but came back empty-handed after a 10-hour mission.

Australian officials pledged to continue the effort. even as they tried to tamp down expectations.

“It’s about the most inaccessible spot that you could imagine on the face of the Earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at a news conference in Papua New Guinea.

“We owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones of the almost 240 people on Flight MH370 to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle,” he added.

Two Chinese aircraft are expected to arrive in Perth on Saturday to join the search, and two Japanese aircraft will arrive Sunday. A small flotilla of ships from China is still several days away.

Abbott spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, describing him as “devastated.” The passengers included 154 Chinese.

In Kuala Lumpur, where the plane took off for Beijing, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein thanked the more than two dozen countries involved in the overall search that stretches from Kazakhstan in Central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean. He called the whole process “a long haul.”

The search area indicated by the satellite images in the southern Indian Ocean is a four-hour round-trip flight from western Australia, leaving planes with only enough fuel to search for about two hours. The images were taken March 16, but the search in the area did not start until Thursday because it took time to analyze them.

Five planes, including three P-3 Orions, made the trip Friday. While search conditions had improved from a day earlier, with much better visibility, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said there were no sightings of plane debris.

Searchers relied mostly on trained spotters aboard the planes rather than radar, which found nothing Thursday, Australian officials said. The search will focus more on visual sightings because civilian aircraft are being brought in. The military planes will continue to use both radar and spotters.

“Noting that we got no radar detections yesterday, we have replanned the search to be visual. So aircraft flying relatively low, very highly skilled and trained observers looking out of the aircraft windows and looking to see objects,” said John Young, manager of the maritime safety authority’s emergency response division.

Malaysia asked the U.S. for undersea surveillance

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