* Malaysia says new area based on exhaustive, international
* New search area closer to Perth, has better weather
* "We could be on to something" in new search area - NZ
* Nothing significant in FBI examination of simulator - U.S.
By Matt Siegel and Rujun Shen
PERTH/KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 Fresh objects
spotted by planes searching for a missing Malaysian passenger
jet in a new area of the southern Indian Ocean have again raised
hopes of unravelling the three-week old mystery.
Australian authorities coordinating the operation
dramatically moved the air and sea search 1,100 km (685 miles)
north on Friday after new analysis of radar and satellite data
concluded Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 travelled
faster and for a shorter distance after vanishing from civilian
radar screens on March 8.
Australia said late on Friday that five international
aircraft had spotted "multiple objects of various colours" in
the new search area some 1,850 km (1,150 miles) west of Perth.
Flight Lieutenant Jamin Baker was on a New Zealand Airforce
Orion which spotted several 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 said.
One Chinese navy ship was in the area and would be trying to
recover objects on Saturday, while other ships were steaming to
the area, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.
Malaysia says the Boeing 777, which vanished less
than an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was
likely diverted deliberately but investigators have turned up no
apparent motive or other red flags among the 227 passengers or
the 12 crew.
U.S. officials close to the investigation said the FBI found
nothing illuminating in data it had received from computer
equipment used by MH370's pilots, including a home-made flight
The search has involved more than two dozen countries and 60
aircraft and ships but has been bedevilled by regional rivalries
and an apparent reluctance to share potentially crucial
information due to security concerns.
Malaysian officials said the new search area was the result
of a painstaking analysis of Malaysian military radar data and
satellite readings from British company Inmarsat carried
out by U.S., Chinese, British and Malaysian investigators.
Engine performance analysis by the plane's manufacturer
Boeing helped investigators determine how long the plane could
have flown before it ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean,
"Information which had already been examined by the
investigation was re-examined in light of new evidence drawn
from the Inmarsat data analysis," Malaysia's acting Transport
Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference on Friday.
For more than a week, ships and surveillance planes had been
scouring seas 2,500 km (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, where
satellite images had shown possible debris from Flight MH370.
That search zone has now been abandoned.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said the shift
was based on analysis of radar data between the South China Sea
and the Strait of Malacca. At that time, the Boeing 777 was
making a radical diversion west from its course.
Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman,
said at Friday's news conference he was "not at liberty" to give
the exact path of the aircraft.
Officials close to the investigation told Reuters last week
that the plane may have passed close to Port Blair, the capital
of India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 550 miles (885 km)
further northwest from where Malaysia has said its military
radar last detected it.
At around 319,000 sq km (123,000 sq miles) - roughly the
size of Poland - the new search area is larger, but closer to
Perth, allowing aircraft to spend longer on site. It is also
favourable in terms of the weather as it is out of the deep sea
region known as the Roaring 40s for its huge seas and frequent
Searchers have perhaps a week to find debris, calculate the
likely crash area and find the aircraft's voice and data "black
boxes" before batteries showing their location run out.
(Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Perth, Niluksi
Koswanage in Kuala Lumpur, Mark Hosenball in Washington, Jane
Wardell and Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Dean Yates)