TODAY   |  March 28, 2014

Flight 370 search area shifts 700 miles

Three weeks since Flight 370’s disappearance, authorities move the hunt for the plane 700 miles north. Australians say it may be the crash point. NBC’s chief global correspondent Bill Neely reports.

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>> we've got a lot of news going on this morning. our top story, once again, the search for flight 370, and it has been refocused. it was based on a new analysis which indicates the plane did not fly as far south as previously thought. we have heard in the last few moments that search planes may have spotted potential debris in this search area. let's go to bill neely in perth this morning with more. bill, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. a dramatic twist in the search, perhaps the most dramatic so far, the old search area which we can show you here has been bo abandoned. the up in one is 700 miles away and much closer to perth . and the search is on there right now. in fact, a new zealand plane has returned here reporting an object of interest.

>> day 21 and a twist no one expected. planes leaving australia on a shorter flight to a new search area. one the australians say might be the crash point, not just a debris field. the switch came after investigators looked again at the plane's radar path.

>> this continuing analysis indicates the plane was traveling faster than was previous ly estimated, resulting in increased fuel usage and reducing the possible distance it traveled south into the indian ocean .

>> so the search zone has moved from this area, 1,500 miles from perth to here just over 1,100 miles away . planes can get there faster and stay longer.

>> so we're in a different part of the ocean. we're starting all over again with a blank page .

>> search organizers say the past week wasn't a waste.

>> this is the normal business of search and rescue operations that new information comes to light, refined analyses take you to a new place.

>> reporter: authorities say the new analysis is now the most credible lead. it follows many others.

>> there is a credible lead.

>> the most credible lead.

>> very credible lead.

>> the most credible lead that we have.

>> reporter: the new search zone is not only closer, it's less treacherous to fly in. the u.s. navy p8 could have up to six hours there, not the previous three. it is still a huge area. about the size of the fifth largest u.s. state new mexico.

>> and bill, i have to ask you, if this new search area is supposed to be potentially the crash point, the point of impact, does that mean they're now searching for heavier wreckage, including, perhaps, the black box or the fuselage. something that would've immediately sunk to the bottom of the sea?

>> they're looking for anything, savannah. even small debris could be traced back via the ocean currents over 21 days to something bigger, even the plane. the black box , of course, will have sunk. and one piece of news, a black box locater is here. but the ship meant to tow it isn't here yet. and it will take nine days to reach any potential site. now, the data recorder 's batteries run out in about 11 day's time. so they're already, if you like, fading and dying, that is a bit of a setback for the investigation.

>> yeah, that's a narrow window. and let me ask you, bill, have searchers given up on the idea that some of these satellite images that captured what appeared to be very large debris of some kind were connected at all to malaysia flight 370? or was there still some possibility?

>> reporter: that's very difficult, isn't it? because we were bombarded with those hopeful signs 122 pieces there, 300 pieces here. the malaysians are saying they could still be consistent with this new field, but you know, it's a very, very long way away . and i think the australians were more keen to play down those previous satellite images and concentrate on this new field.

>> bill neely with all the latest and big developments this morning, thank you.