Race against Time to Find Flight 370 Black Boxes

MH370

Australian Defense ship Ocean Shield is docked at naval base HMAS Stirling while being fitted with an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and towed pinger locator to aid in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, Sunday, March 30, 2014. It will still take three to four days for the ship to reach the search zone — an area roughly the size of Poland about 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) to the west of Australia (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

Four weeks after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, two ships have deployed sound locators in the southern Indian Ocean in a desperate attempt to find the plane’s flight recorders before their signal beacons stop. Officials leading the multinational search said there was no specific information that led to the underwater devices being used for the first time, but that they were brought into the effort because there was nothing to lose.

The air and sea search has not turned up any wreckage from the Boeing 777 that could lead searchers to the plane and perhaps its flight data and cockpit voice recorders, or “black boxes.” The recorders could help investigators determine why the Malaysia Airlines plane, which disappeared March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard, veered so far off-course.

Beacons in the black boxes emit “pings” so they can be more easily found, but the batteries only last about a month. Two ships with sophisticated equipment that can hear the pings have made their way along a 240-kilometer (150-mile) route investigators hope may be close to the spot where officials believe Flight 370 went down.

“No hard evidence has been found to date, so we have made the decision to search a sub-surface area on which the analysis has predicted MH370 is likely to have flown,” Cmdr. Peter Leahy, the commander of military forces involved in the search, said in a statement. Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, head of the joint agency coordinating the operation, acknowledged the search area was essentially a best guess. He noted that time is running out to find the recorders. “The locator beacon will last about a month before it ceases its transmissions — so we’re now getting pretty close to the time when it might expire,” Houston said.

This report compiled with information from the Associated Press.