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International military air search fleet returns home

Personnel involved the search for MH370 at RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia.
Personnel involved the search for MH370 at RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia.

Aircraft and crew from the seven countries that contributed to air search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 gathered at RAAF Base Pearce to say their farewells on 29 April.

The search has entered a new phase, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared on 28 April.

The focus has shifted from air search operations to searching the ocean floor over a much larger area.

At the farewell, the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, said the search had put aircraft at the edge of their operating envelopes in a vast area almost 2000 kilometres from Perth.

The aircraft conducted 344 missions across 42 days of search operations to scan over 4.5 million square kilometres of the ocean surface.

"The search has brought together a remarkable coalition of nations under the watchful eye of the world," Air Marshal Binskin said.

He thanked all the men and women involved, including uniformed, civilian, volunteers and contractors for their fantastic efforts.

"Sadly though, we have not yet been successful and have now had to refocus our efforts to the underwater search," he said.

The Officer Commanding 92 Wing, Group Captain Craig Heap, said the hand of friendship had been extended among the Chinese, Malaysian, Korean, Japanese, British, New Zealand and United States and Australian personnel.

"Contributing militaries can be assured that when misfortune next occurs in our neighbourhood, familiar faces would be there to assist," he said.

The farewell ceremony ended with the flypast of a Royal Malaysian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft that was part of the first search sortie from Kuala Lumpur on 9 March.