News / Science & Technology

Maryland Company Sends Locator to Plane Search

Maryland Company Sends Locator to Plane Searchi
X
March 28, 2014 2:24 AM
Experts say no one will really know what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 until the black box - the flight recorder - is retrieved. Time is running out because that flight recorder only emits an audible signal - a ping - for 30 days. The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its “pinger locators” to the Indian Ocean. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti reports.
Experts say no one will really know what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 until the black box - the flight recorder - is retrieved.  Time is running out because that flight recorder only emits an audible signal - a ping - for 30 days.  The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its “pinger locators” to the Indian Ocean search area. 

The sound is what it's all about.  The sound coming from the black boxes - the flight data recorders that hold the key to what happened aboard Malaysia flight 370.

The locator will be towed more than 6,000 meters behind the Australian navy ship “Seahorse Standard.”  It will be submerged two-thirds of the way to the bottom of the ocean. The locator sends sounds to an acoustic listening device and laptop aboard the ship.

“You might hear that tiny little chirp and say, ‘Did you hear something?’ And then we will listen more intently and try to fine-tune it,” said Paul Nelson, who is with Phoenix International, the company that manufacturers the pinger locators.

Fine-tuning it, means turning the boat around and repositioning the locator to pass over the area again.  That maneuver takes eight hours.  And time is ticking.  The black box’s batteries can last longer than the reported 30 days, but the sound will eventually fade.

“The advertised shelf life for the pinger when it’s in the water is 30 days," said Jim Gibson, general manager at Phoenix Internatiomal. "We have individuals that have been on operations that have heard the pinger well beyond 45 days.”

The search is now centered several thousand kilometers southwest of Perth, Australia.

Following the locator, another Phoenix device could splash into the ocean. Once debris is identified on the ocean floor, a tool with a strong manipulator arm retrieves items and puts them into a box which is then hauled to the surface.

“It operates similar to what a helicopter would do," Paul Nelson said.  "It hovers around the bottom and moves around place to place with a video camera.”

The machine, called Remora, assisted in the recovery of Air France Flight 447 - the aircraft was lost for five days but the black box was not found until two years later.  Remora brought up the engines, computers, black boxes and more.

But it all takes time, in difficult conditions, including the effect of pressure at extreme ocean depths.

And, Remora is tiny in compared to the size of a typical debris field.

"If you don’t do it in time and in the right time, you miss items," Nelson said. "So it’s very slow and meticulous.  Patience is required in this type of operation.”

As the search approaches three weeks, patience is not  in abundance.

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 awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

You May Like

Video British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Multimedia Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid