A crew member from the Royal Malaysian Air Force looks through the window of a Malaysian Air Force CN235 aircraft during a Search and Rescue (SAR) operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in the Straits of Malacca in this March 13, 2014 file photo.
Photo by Samsul Said/Reuters

Missing MH370: Search zone will double if jet is not found

The search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will be doubled if the wreckage of the missing jet is not found by the end of next month, nations leading the search said Thursday.

The extended search zone — covering 46,000 square miles, an area the size of Pennsylvania — could take a year to cover because of the upcoming winter weather, officials from Australia, Malaysia and China said.

The underwater search of a 23,000 square mile patch of the southern Indian Ocean, which experts believe is the plane’s most likely resting place, will likely be finished next month but there is still no sign of the Boeing 777.

“Should the aircraft not be found within the current search area, ministers agreed to extend the search by an additional 60,000 square kilometers to bring the search area to 120,000 square kilometers and thereby cover the entire highest probability area identified by expert analysis,” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang announced in a joint statement.

“Ministers recognize the additional search area may take up to a year to complete given the adverse weather conditions in the upcoming winter months. Upon completion of the additional 60,000 square kilometers, all high probability search areas would have been covered.”

The aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014 with 239 passengers and crew en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Not a single piece of the jet has been found.

“Ministers remain committed to bring closure and some peace to the families and loved ones of those on board,” the statement added.

This story originally appeared on NBC News

Malaysia Airlines

Missing MH370: Search zone will double if jet is not found