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US Helps Search for Flight 370 With Planes, Equipment

The U.S. Navy has sent in several devices to search the bottom of the ocean, near where Malaysia Flight 370 might have gone down. The pinger locator and an underwater sonar vehicle are traveling aboard an Australian ship. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti spoke with a navy commander about the U.S. equipment being used for the search.

The P-8 Poseidon is one of the U.S. Navy’s most advanced surveillance planes. There are now two of them flying over the Indian Ocean.

As seen on the Navy’s YouTube Channel, Poseidons are built for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare. Their mission is to find small objects.

Commander William Marks is aboard the USS Blue Ridge, running the U.S. search effort from off the coast of Japan. He says this new search area has better weather and is closer to land.

“Our P-8 Poseidon flies about a nine hour mission and in the beginning, 3-3½ hours of that was transit time. Now, since the area is a lot closer than that, only about two hours of that is transit time,” says Marks.

But the one thing searchers need to succeed is to locate wreckage, something floating identified as belonging to MH370. Search coordinators in Australia warn the effort could last awhile.

Angus Houston of the Agency Coordinating Center says that there are virtually no leads.

“We don’t know what altitude the aircraft was traveling at. We don’t really know what speed it was going at,” said Houston.

Commander Marks says that once any plane debris is found, the mathematicians will get to work.

“Our oceanographers will work backwards. They will reverse-engineer the winds, the sea state and the currents and they will reverse plot that to get a starting point,” says Marks.

Only then can the pinger locator be lowered into the water and dragged behind a ship. It’s mission will be to detect the audio given off by the flight data recorders.

The U.S. Navy pinger locator is now aboard the Australian ship Ocean Shield, cruising toward the search area.

Also aboard is a side scan sonar device. The autonomous underwater vehicle dives into the ocean on a pre-programmed mission. It will take images of what is on the ocean floor.

But until any wreckage is found, the planes will keep flying. And the ship will wait until it’s called to an exact location.
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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.