Tim McAlevey of the Royal New Zealand Air Force flying a P-3 Orion during a search to locate missing Malaysia Airways Flight MH370
The search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner has resumed, five weeks after the plane disappeared from radar screens.
There are fears that batteries powering signals from the black box recorder on board may have died.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned yesterday that signals picked up during the search in the remote southern Indian Ocean, believed to be “pings” from the black box recorders, were fading.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared soon after taking off on 8 March 8 from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.
Its disappearance triggered a multinational search that is now focused on the Indian Ocean.
Search officials say they are confident they know the approximate position of the black box recorder, although they have determined that the latest “ping’, picked up by searchers on Thursday, was not from the missing aircraft.
Batteries in the black box recorder are already past their normal 30-day life, making the search to find it on the murky sea bed all the more urgent.
Once they are confident they have located it, searchers then plan to deploy a small unmanned “robot” known as an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.
“Work continues in an effort to narrow the underwater search area for when the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle is deployed,” the Australian agency coordinating the search said today.
“There have been no confirmed acoustic detections over thepast 24 hours,” it said in a statement.
The black box records data from the cockpit and conversations among flight crew and may provide answers about what happened to the plane, which flew thousands of kilometres off course after taking off.
The mystery has sparked the most expensive search and rescue operation in aviation history.
Malaysia’s government has begun investigating civil aviation and military authorities to determine why opportunities to identify and track the flight were missed in the chaotic hours after it vanished.
Narrowing search area
Analysis of satellite data has led investigators to conclude the Boeing 777 crashed into the ocean somewhere west of the Australia city of Perth.
So far, four “ping” signals, which could be from the plane’s black box recorders, have been detected in the search area in recent days by a US Navy “Towed Pinger Locator”.
“We are now getting to the stage where the signal from what we are very confident is the black box is starting to fade and we are hoping to get as much information as we can before the signal finally expires,” Mr Abbott said yesterday.
The US supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez has joined the Australian-led task force to provide logistics support and replenish Australian navy ships, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Up to nine military aircraft, one civil aircraft and 14 ships are involved in the search.
The extensive search and rescue operation has so far included assets from 26 countries.
Experts say the process of teasing out the signals from the cacophony of background noise in the sea is slow and exhausting.
An unmanned submarine named Bluefin-21 is on board Australia’s Ocean Shield, which has the towed pinger locator on board, and could be deployed to look for wreckage on the seafloor some 4.5 km (2.8 miles) below the surface once a final search area has been identified.
- Abbott confident over missing plane signals
- ‘Promising lead’ in search for missing plane
- ‘Signal’ detected in search for missing plane