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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,282
Registered: 12/3/04
Posted: Apr 9, 2014 4:17 PM
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From USAToday, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. See

Official: Plane may be found in 'matter of days'

Australian searchers have relocated an underwater electronic signal
that could be from the missing Malaysian jetliner in the Indian
Ocean, the search coordinator says, allowing them to narrow the focus
of their effort to find wreckage. VPC

By William M. Welch, and John Bacon

Australian searchers have relocated an underwater electronic signal
that could be from the missing Malaysian jetliner in the Indian
Ocean, the search coordinator said, allowing them to narrow the focus
of their effort to find wreckage.

Angus Houston, who is leading the joint search, said in Perth on
Wednesday that equipment aboard the Australian ship Ocean Shield
twice reacquired signals first detected last weekend that could be
coming from the black box data and voice recorders on board the
missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

He said the ship has now heard the signal, which is "not of natural
origin," a total of four times, most recently a seven-minute
transmission Tuesday night.

The new data have allowed searchers to further reduce the size of the
search area, Houston said Wednesday.

"I believe we are searching in the right area'' for the wreckage, he
said. He hopes more transmissions will be detected and, "in a matter
of days we will be able to find something on the bottom that might
confirm that this was the last resting place of MH370."

Houston cautioned that nothing can be confirmed until wreckage from
the plane is visually identified.

Searchers are in a race against time, trying to gain as much
information from the underwater signals as they can before the
batteries in the two boxes - already past their expected lifespan -
expire and the data recorder pingers go silent.

It's been 33 days since the plane was lost March 8 on a flight from
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, and Houston noted that the
expected life of the batteries on the black box pingers is 30 days.

"It is important that we gather as much information .... while the
pingers are still transmitting,'' he said.

"The last signal we got was a very weak signal,'' he said.

Before Wednesday's report by Houston, search crews had last heard the
signals early Sunday. The trouble relocating the signals had reduced
confidence that the wreckage would be located anytime soon.

Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National
Transportation Safety Board, told USA TODAY the inability to
reacquire the signal was a "setback."

"I think we could be talking about months if not years of searching,"
Goelz said.

During a press conference Tuesday in Perth, Minister of Defense David
Johnston said crews were prepared to deploy a small submersible
vessel as soon as they receive another ping transmission.

"I think they (authorities) have to continue with the pinger search
for another week or 10 days," Goelz said. "After that, they have to
reassess how they will search and who will pay for it."

The underwater vehicle, the Bluefin 21 unmanned sub, is loaded with
equipment that can create a sonar map of an area to chart any debris
on the sea floor. But it works slowly, so the search area must be
sharply trimmed first. Authorities have narrowed the search, but it
remains focused on an area nearly 30,000 square miles in size while
more clues are sought.

The cost of the effort rises each day. Estimates compiled by Reuters
show that Australia, China, the United States and Vietnam have
already spent at least $44 million on the deployment of military
ships and aircraft.

The news service said the total does not include the aid from
countries including Britain, France, New Zealand and South Korea, or
numerous other costs such as civilian aircraft, accommodation for
hundreds of personnel and expenses for intelligence analysts.

The pinger locator is designed to detect signals at a range of 1
mile, meaning it would need to be almost on top of the black boxes to
detect them if they were on the ocean floor.
SIDEBAR DEPICTIOIN OF SEARCH AREA: See map of 370 search area at the
website - scroll all the way down -- The search for the missing
jetliner's black box recorders is continuing in the Indian Ocean.
Although Australian officials have detected four "pings" within the
search area, they are in a race against time as the batteries in the
black box recorders have a lifespan of about 30 days.

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