BANGKOK— Australian officials coordinating the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are saying it is premature to deploy a robot submersible to search the bottom of the Indian Ocean for the passenger jet
The man leading the search for the missing passenger jet, believed to have gone down in the south Indian Ocean, said crews continue to listen for underwater signals from the black box of MH370. He said they hope that detecting the signals again will allow them to narrow the search area before launching a submersible craft to look for plane wreckage on the sea floor.
The head of the multi-national joint coordination center at Perth, Angus Houston, noted on Day 32 of the search that the batteries for the flight data and cockpit voice recorders have an expected life of only one month.
“Experience with the kit from around the world is that they usually last longer than the 30 days. So, we might proceed for several days more and then if we don’t get any further transmissions we have a reasonably large such area on the bottom of the ocean to prosecute,” said Houston.
A U.S. Navy pinger locator being slowly towed by an Australian naval vessel, the Ocean Shield, detected two signals late Saturday and early Sunday that authorities declared were consistent with transmissions from an airplane's black boxes. However, search officials said, no signals have been detected since then.
Reception of pings coming from deep in the South Indian Ocean were first reported by a Chinese patrol ship in a different search location. The initial word of that came not through official channels, but via a Chinese reporter aboard the Haixun-01.
Australia’s defense minister, David Johnston, denied any issue about the level of coordination between his country, in charge of the search, and the Chinese.
“It’s a magnificent task carried out in a spirit of cooperation which I’m extraordinarily pleased and proud of. And I want to pause to say thank you to all of the countries involved here for the good work they’ve done. But that work goes on, as I say, aggressively and enthusiastically given the lead we have had in the past 24 hours,” said Johnston.
Johnston said Tuesday’s search in a wide area 2,000 kilometers northwest of Perth involves 14 ships and 14 airplanes, plus several helicopters.
The missing plane, a Boeing 777, piloted by two Malaysians, went off course March 8th after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. It was carrying 239 people. Most of the passengers were Chinese.
Malaysian authorities say their continuing criminal probe has cleared suspicions about any of the passengers or cargo.
Investigators say the most likely explanation of what happened to the plane is that it was sabotaged by a crew member or hijacked. Retrieval of the black boxes could provide vital clues.