By Keith Laing - 03/24/14 09:33 AM EDT
Chinese officials believe they have spotted remnants of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane that been the subject of a two-week, multinational search, The Associated Press reports.
The lead from the Chinese follows the release of satellite images from French and Australian officials that have led investigators to believe the missing plane crashed into the south Indian Ocean.
The Chinese officials said a crew of its pilots spotted a white object in the water when they were flying over the area of the ocean that was identified by the previous satellite images, according to the report.
Malaysia Airlines said in a statement on Monday that they were optimistic about the new leads about the potential whereabouts of the missing plane, but they cautioned that nothing was final until the jet is located.
“The search for MH370 has taken us halfway around the world,” the airline said in a statement. “At the moment there are new leads, but nothing conclusive. Our thoughts continue to be with the families who are still waiting for news. In the meantime, we are grateful for the on-going co-operation shown by our partners in this multinational search.”
The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines’ Flight 370 has mystified aviation experts for the better part of two weeks.
The plane, which was carrying 239 passengers, was last detected by air traffic controllers about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China on March 8.
Investigators initially believed the plane had crashed into the Gulf of Thailand, which was where it was located when its pilots last had radio contact with air traffic controllers.
Officials later came to believe the plane’s radar equipment was intentionally turned off and the jet flew several hours after backtracking from its intended flight path.
The search has focused on the Indian Ocean in recent days after investigators discovered signals that were sent from the plane’s jets and later found satellite images they believed could be related to the Malaysia Air flight’s disappearance.
The disappearance of the missing jetliner has raised fears of terrorism or a hijacking as the search has dragged on for several weeks.
Malaysia Air officials have said the jetliner, which was a Boeing 777, was in good condition and had been properly maintained.
Relatives of passengers who were known to be on board the flight, as well as Republican lawmakers in Congress, have criticized the Malaysian government for its handling of the search for the missing plane.
White House officials have been slow to criticize Malaysia for the plane search, saying that the south Asian government is “cooperating” with officials from the U.S. and other nations that are assisting with the search.
The U.S. has sent officials from agencies such as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) to help locate the missing plane.
The U.S. State Department has confirmed that at least three of the passengers who were on board the missing flight were American citizens.