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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid