Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published April 12, 2014 at 8:21 AM | Page modified April 13, 2014 at 3:26 AM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Missing plane's black box batteries may have died

Following four strong underwater signals in the past week, all has gone quiet in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, meaning the batteries in the plane's all-important black boxes may finally have died.


Associated Press

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
"Australia's leader warned Saturday that the massive search would likely continue "for a long time." I guess that... MORE
Having four strong signals should be enough to almost pinpoint the location of the ULB. Assuming, of course, that all... MORE

advertising

PERTH, Australia —

Following four strong underwater signals in the past week, all has gone quiet in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, meaning the batteries in the plane's all-important black boxes may finally have died.

Despite having no new transmissions from the black boxes' locator beacons to go on, air and sea crews were continuing their search in the southern Indian Ocean on Sunday for debris and any sounds that may still be emanating. They are desperately trying to pinpoint where the Boeing 777 could be amid an enormous patch of deep ocean.

No new electronic pings have been detected since Tuesday by an Australian ship dragging a U.S. Navy device that listens for flight recorder signals. Once officials are confident that no more sounds will be heard, a robotic submersible will be sent down to slowly scour for wreckage.

"We're now into Day 37 of this tragedy," said aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas. "The battery life on the beacons is supposed to last 30 days. We're hoping it might last 40 days. However, it's been four or five days since the last strong pings. What they're hoping for is to get one more, maybe two more pings so they can do a triangulation of the sounds and try and narrow the (search) area."

Recovering the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders is essential for investigators to try to figure out what happened to Flight 370, which vanished March 8. It was carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese, while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

After analyzing satellite data, officials believe the plane flew off course for an unknown reason and went down in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia's west coast. Investigators trying to determine what happened to the plane are focusing on four areas -- hijacking, sabotage and personal or psychological problems of those on board.

Two sounds heard a week ago by the Australian ship Ocean Shield, which was towing the ping locator, were determined to be consistent with the signals emitted from the black boxes. Two more pings were detected in the same general area Tuesday, but no new ones have been picked up since then.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has expressed confidence that the pings picked up by the Ocean Shield were coming from the plane's two black boxes, but he cautioned that finding the actual aircraft could take a long time.

"There's still a lot more work to be done and I don't want anyone to think that we are certain of success, or that success, should it come, is going to happen in the next week or even month. There's a lot of difficulty and a lot of uncertainty left in this," Abbott said Saturday in Beijing, where he was wrapping up a visit to China.

Searchers want to pinpoint the exact location of the source of the sounds -- or as close as they can get -- before sending the Bluefin 21 submersible down. It will not be deployed until officials are confident that no other electronic signals will come, and that they have narrowed the search area as much as possible.

The underwater search zone is currently a 1,300-square-kilometer (500-square-mile) patch of the seabed, about the size of Los Angeles.

The sub takes six times longer to cover the same area as the ping locator, and will need about six weeks to two months to canvass the current underwater zone. The signals are also coming from 4,500 meters (15,000 feet) below the surface, which is the deepest the sub can dive.

The surface area being searched on Sunday for floating debris was 57,506 square kilometers (22,203 square miles) of ocean extending about 2,200 kilometers (1,367 miles) northwest of Perth. Up to 12 planes and 14 ships were participating in the hunt.

___

Follow Margie Mason on Twitter: twitter.com/MargieMasonAP



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►