March 27, 2014 - 7:28 PM
AUSTRALIA - As he strides across the tarmac at the Australian air force base that's launching search efforts for the missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner, the Canadian flag on Capt. Mike MacSween's left arm stands out against his army-green flight suit.
The Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, on exchange with the Royal Australian Air Force for the last year and a half, is one Canuck playing a part in the massive effort to find any debris from the plane that vanished nearly three weeks ago.
"They basically have their eyes peeled, they're told to go to a certain area and search, and that's what they do," MacSween's mother Karen told The Canadian Press in an interview.
"They search in hopes of finding something for closure for the families."
Malaysian officials said earlier this week that satellite data confirmed the plane crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, but not one piece of debris has been recovered as yet.
MacSween has spent nearly two weeks leading a crew of 12 on long flights over a huge expanse of heaving grey water.
"He's just part of the bigger picture," MacSween's mother said. "To be able to help these poor families."
Flight MH370 was carrying 239 people when it left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for Beijing on March 8. It is thought to have turned away from its route soon after takeoff and flown for several hours before disappearing.
Bad weather has been hampering efforts to search for possible debris fields which have been hinted at by satellite data.
On Thursday, MacSween's P3 Orion search aircraft was thought to be the only plane from the Australian contingent which managed to make it to the search area.
"The weather wasn't very good for the search and the swell and sea state was rather high in the area as well," the 36-year-old Nova Scotia native told reporters in Australia upon his return.
MacSween's mother, who has been speaking to her son every day, said the long hours and the burning desire to find something has been placing a fair degree of pressure on the search teams.
"The crew almost feels like failures at the end of the day if they're not seeing something, because they really want to find something for the families," she said.
Nonetheless, MacSween is glad to be doing his part, his mother said.
"He's proud to be representing Canada," she said of the father of two. "We're very proud, yes we are."
MacSween, who has been with the air force since 1998, is expected to return to his family in the Australian city of Adelaide at the end of next week while a new crew continues his team's work.
If and when any bit of wreckage from Flight 370 is recovered and identified, searchers will be able to narrow their hunt for the rest of the Boeing 777 and its black boxes, which could solve the mystery of what caused the jet to fly so far off-course.
Malaysia has been criticized over its handling of one of the most perplexing mysteries in aviation history.
Much of the strongest criticism has come from relatives of the Chinese passengers, some of whom expressed outrage that Malaysia essentially declared their loved ones dead without recovering a single piece of wreckage.
Officials still don't know why Flight 370 disappeared.
Investigators have ruled out nothing — including mechanical or electrical failure, hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014