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Virginia Firm Calculating Malaysian Plane Location


There are concerns the locator signal for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will soon fall silent, making the search for the missing plane even more difficult in a vast region of the Indian Ocean. Companies that specialize in finding missing airliners in the most difficult cases may now come to the fore of the search. One such company, Metron Scientific Solutions, operates in the U.S. state of Virginia.

Ships and planes are scouring the Southern Indian Ocean, searching for Flight 370. On a screen, black lines that resemble ant tracks are real ships. Tracking this information, along with other massive amounts of data, are mathematicians at Metron Scientific Solutions.

They are trying to locate the missing plane. It's a job they've done before.

Metron Scientific Solutions and two other companies developed the technique that pinpointed Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean -- two years after it crashed.

“It was found in one of the areas we more strongly suggested they look,” said Metron's Thomas Kratzke.

Kratzke said the plane was found even though the pingers for the data recorders malfunctioned and were not heard.

The batteries for the pingers of the Malaysian flight are expected to run out in a few days. Metron has started its calculations, in case it is hired to assist.

Metron takes information from radars, satellites, past airplane crashes, ocean currents and more to build a probability map.

Then, they plot where searchers have been and have not found anything. It’s called negative search. That was the technique that helped find Air France 447.

Officials spent two years searching 13,000 square kilometers for the Air France flight. Van Gurley, Metron’s seinor manager, said the new search area for the Malaysian flight is 25 times that size.

Plus it's a remote section of ocean, without a debris field

“There’s been so much time since the plane was lost and the area is so vast, this comes down literally to the problem of time and will,” said Gurley.

Gurley estimated that in all likelihood, the time to find the plane will be measured not in days and weeks, but years.
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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.

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