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March 12th, 2014
06:23 PM ET

Fmr. NTSB official: New satellite images 'point to aeronautical problem,' not a human one

(CNN) – A Chinese satellite looking into the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 "observed a suspected crash area at sea," a Chinese government agency said – a potentially pivotal lead into what has been a frustrating search for the Boeing 777.

Echoing several aviation experts, former National Transportation Safety Board managing director Peter Goelz said the satellite images of floating objects offer the most promising clues yet.

"It's where it's supposed to be," said Goelz, who added that investigators must get vessels and aircraft to the area quickly, and track where the possible debris has drifted.

"This opens up the door back to an aeronautical problem, and not a human problem," said Goelz.

The images were captured on March 9 – the day after the plane went missing – but weren't released until Wednesday.

"It does not surprise me that China was somewhat reluctant, or they were slow to come forward," said Goelz, who dealt with the Chinese government during his time with the NTSB. "They may not want to reveal what kind of satellite capabilities they have, and exactly what they're looking at in that region of the country."

China's State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense announced the discovery, including images of what it said were "three suspected floating objects and their sizes." The objects aren't small at 13 by 18 meters (43 by 59 feet), 14 by 19 meters, and 24 by 22 meters.

The Chinese agency gave coordinates of 105.63 east longitude, 6.7 north latitude, which would put it in waters northeast of where it took off in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and south of Vietnam.

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