An aircraft based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is assisting in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The U.S. Navy dispatched a Whidbey Island-based P-3C Orion patrol craft last week to assist in the search for the missing passenger jet.

The P-3 Orion maritime patrol craft, from Grey Knights of Patrol Squadron 46, based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, departed March 9 from Kadena Air Base in Japan, where it is currently deployed. The plane has searched more than 54,000 square nautical miles in the Strait of Malacca west of Malaysia and in an area west of Indonesia over the Indian Ocean, according to news reports.

P-3Cs are four-engine turboprops that date to the 1960s, according to a Navy website. They are suited to long-range searches and have additional radar and communication capabilities, according to the news release. The plane, which was built to detect submarines, can cover more than 1,500 square miles every hour. Tech crews monitor normal, infrared and close-zoom cameras, according to ABC News.

Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or pcornwell@seattletimes.com