TODAY   |  March 24, 2014

Chinese, Australian planes spot possible jet debris

Search planes spotted large pieces of debris in the Indian Ocean overnight that could be connected to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, while a U.S. ship carrying sophisticated sonar heads to the region. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> hunt for malaysia air flight 370. several objects discovered in that search area overnight could be potential debris from the plane. tom costello is on the story for us this morning. good morning.

>> hi, savannah, good morning. couple of sightings to tell you about. the chinese think they spotted something, but it was outside of the search zone. nonetheless, they're sending a chinese ice breaker in to investigate. and then the australian air crews think they spotted something inside the search zone itself. something green or gray, something that's orange, something rectangular, something circular. and so they're now also trying to send in a naval ship to investigate. but there is no guarantee that any of this is in any way related to flight 370.

>> this morning, another day of searching is coming to an end and late news that australian air crews may have spotted something in the waters more than 1,000 miles off the coast of perth.

>> a few minutes ago, the prime minister received a call from the prime minister of australia who informed him that australian search aircraft located two objects in the search area. one circular, and one rectangular.

>> reporter: an australian naval vessel on the way to investigate.

>> we're actively trying to find vessels in the area. very few and far between.

>> while commanders have shrunk the priority search zone from 102,000 miles down to 32,000 square miles , that's roughly the size of west virginia . crews are looking for something spotted in a satellite photo about as long as a tennis court and one of the roughest oceans in the world. a former coast guard analyst calls this one of the most complex searches in naval history .

>> the complexity in terms of the ambiguity associated with what happened and the complexity associated with the number of countries and private sector firms involved.

>> malaysian authorities contradicted information provided by u.s. authorities last week who said the plane's u-turn had been pre-programmed into the flight computer suggesting the diversion was premeditated. malaysian authorities now say the last burst of acar's flight data at 1:07 a.m . showed a normal flight path to beijing with no u-turn preprogrammed. to some, that could reopen theorys that the plane suffered a mechanical failure rather than something criminal. meanwhile, the international search armada continues to grow in the south indian ocean .

>> the search will continue. we'll continue as long as there's hope. and hope that we'll find the time soon. and when we're able to conclusively say one way or the other this plane may be well located.

>> there's been an awful lot of talk about the satellite photo . this is the image the chinese took a couple of days ago. this is the image from about six days ago coming from the australians. this one is supposed to be about 79 feet and the other about 72 feet. the trouble is, they still haven't found these pieces of debris spotted on satellite. and that's the challenge. and they haven't found that wooden pallet you may recall was spotted over the weekend by air crews. that's interesting because sometimes airplanes carry wooden pallets.