A MARINE archaeologist claims to have found the debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane more than 3,000 miles from the site of the multi-national search operation.

North Yorkshire-based National Maritime Museum researcher Tim Akers said he had been stunned when he spotted parts of a jet aeroplane on NASA satellite images taken in the South China Sea two days after flight MH370 went missing.

An extensive search operation has not found the remnants of the Boeing 777, which disappeared on March 8.

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The 56-year-old former Coldstream Guard said the high-definition images showed parts of an aeroplane’s tail and wings in the sea near an oil rig off the Vietnam coast, just 1,000 miles from where the plane took off.

By combining images from different parts of the light spectrum with software he has developed, Mr Akers is able to look up to 10,000ft under the sea.

Mr Akers, of Harrogate, a director of the Underwater Heritage Trust, said the colours visible on the debris matched the red and blue curved stripe on the Malaysian plane and that on some images plane windows are visible.

He said: “It is definitely a jet aircraft because we have matched up the parts to an aircraft construction sheet.

“You can almost see the seats underwater. There's no question it could be anything else, because aircraft parts are very distinctive.”

He said the debris was pictured near to an oil rig where workers had reported seeing a plane burning at altitude, and had been astonished there had been no detailed search of the area.

He has seen and email written by New Zealander Mike McKay, who was on the oil rig on the day the plane went went missing, reporting the sighting to the Malaysian authorities.

Mr Akers said his findings had been backed up by a former US pilot, who claims to have found other wreckage from the flight off the coast of Thailand.

He said he had reported his findings to the Government and the Air Accident Investigation Branch and published reports on merlindownscience.co.uk and australias-titanic.com

He said: 'Having seen the oil rig worker's report of the crash and NASA's satelite images of the area it would seem strange the Malaysian authorities have dismissed the area out of hand.”

Mr Akers said the most likely reason for the plane’s disappearance was that there had been a fault with the plane and that he believed the 4,000ft deep seabed near the oil rig would be littered with debris.

Australian technology firm GeoResonance this week claimed it had found plane wreckage in the Bay of Bengal, but the Joint Agency Coordination Centre managing the search for the missing plane said it believed flight MH370 came down in the southern Indian Ocean, off Australia.