4 Apr 2014

Underwater search for MH370: days left to find black box

Crews launch a targeted underwater hunt for the black box belonging to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – but have just a few days left before the device’s batteries are expected to run out.

Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency coordinating the search, told reporters on Friday that the Australian navy ship Ocean Shield and the British navy’s HMS Echo will converge along a 149-mile track in the southern Indian Ocean.

The plane’s data recorders emit a ping that can be detected by the equipment on board the ships.

But the battery-powered devices stop transmitting the pings about 30 days after a crash – meaning searchers have little time left before the batteries on flight MH370‘s black boxes die out.

Locating the data recorders and wreckage after that is possible, but incredibly difficult.

Ongoing search

Mr Houston also said media that the search area was refined the previous day, based on updated analysis of images and other data.

Fourteen planes and nine ships were taking part in Friday’s hunt across a 84,000 square mile expanse of ocean, about 1,100 miles north-west of Perth, the joint agency coordination centre overseeing the search said.

I think we are almost at end of the road as regards the fact that we probably cannot get any further analysis – Angus Houston

The area the ships are searching was chosen based on hourly satellite pings the aircraft gave off after it vanished from radar on 8 March on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

However authorities were unlikely to be able to further narrow the search area in the hunt for the missing plane unless a visual search uncovers new evidence, Mr Houston, said

Hr Houston added: “In terms of the search area, the data we have has been re-analysed and re-analysed, more simulations have been flown, and as a consequence, the search area has been gradually reduced…. But having said that, I think we are almost at end of the road as regards the fact that we probably cannot get any further analysis that will enable us to further narrow the search area.”

Search for black box

Mr Houston said that the visual search for the plane’s black box would continue.

“In regard to the black box, we will have to continue the visual search. The visual search may give us the wreckage that is still on the surface and that would provide an ability to further narrow the search area into a smaller area,” he said.

Houston made the remarks at a press conference for Chinese media in Perth, Australia.

Meanwhile, the girlfriend of Philip Wood, one of the passengers on the missing flight said she does not believe the plane had crashed.

“I have yet to find any expert who I have talked to that off-record has said they believed the plane has crashed. Everybody believes it has been taken.” Sarah Bajc said.