A woman ties a message card for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 at a shopping mall in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur on April 10, 2014.
Authorities hunting for the black boxes on the missing Malaysian Air (MAS) jet have gone another day without detecting their weakening signals after optimism from Australia that the search location has narrowed.
“There have been no confirmed acoustic detections over the past 24 hours,” Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre said today. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday the hunt for flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders was focused “within some kilometers” of the black boxes under the Indian Ocean.
Four signals detected between April 5 and 8 with the towed pinger locator pulled by Australia vessel Ocean Shield helped tighten the hunt for the Malaysian Airline System Bhd. plane. Hopes of a breakthrough dissipated yesterday when JACC said that an initial assessment of a fifth potential transmission, picked up by a sensor-equipped buoy dropped by a search plane, wasn’t related to an aircraft black box.
“Everybody is trying not to jump to any conclusion that may lead to any further speculation,” said Scott Gustetter, chief executive officer of airline consultant Aspirion in Sydney.
The center of today’s search areas will be 2,331 kilometers (1,448 miles) northwest of Perth, with as many as 10 aircraft and 14 ships taking part, JACC said in a statement today. Today’s visual search will span an area of 41,393 square kilometers.
Abbott today told reporters in Beijing that the difficulty of locating the black boxes shouldn’t be underestimated and the search was likely to continue “for a long time to come.”
“Yes, we have very considerably narrowed down the search area but trying to locate anything four and a half kilometers beneath the surface of the ocean, about a 1,000 kilometers from land, is a massive, massive task,” he said.
Zeroing in on the source of acoustic pulses linked to Flight 370’s black-box beacons is pivotal and will help determine when investigators will launch a robot submarine to scan the seabed. The Bluefin-21 sub aboard the Ocean Shield moves slowly and relies on sonar to spot wreckage in pitch-black waters thousands of meters deep, limiting the area it brings under surveillance.
“We are now looking at the next phase of this search, which is actually going down underwater,” Malaysia’s acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters today at Sepang outside Kuala Lumpur. The submarine wouldn’t be launched until “we are more sure that the signals are coming from those black boxes.”
Authorities are pinning their hopes on recovering the black boxes to learn why the Boeing Co. (BA) 777-200ER disappeared March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. The plane reversed course and flew into some of the world’s most-remote ocean waters with 239 passengers and crew members.
The Ocean Shield detected two signals on April 5 and two more on April 8 that authorities have linked to the beacons on Flight 370’s black-box recorders, giving authorities a boost in a search that has failed to produce any physical evidence.
The challenge is that the pingers’ batteries are already beyond their 30-day projected life at full power, leaving investigators in a race against time to detect more pulses and map the ideal launch zone for the Bluefin-21.