Time is of the Essence to Locate and Retrieve the ‘Black Boxes’ from Malaysia Flight 370

by Jamie R. Lebovitz | March 27th, 2014

The race is now on to find the flight data and cockpit voice recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 after an analysis of satellite data determined the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 “ended in the southern Indian Ocean,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Monday. Bad weather is hampering the search for the aircraft wreckage, but the U.S. has sent specialized gear to hunt for the signals that should still be emanating from the devices, which will hold the key to why the aircraft went down. The batteries that supply power to the transmitters will likely only last another week or so. So far, it’s anyone’s guess why the Boeing 777 went dark, did a U-turn, and flew seven hours before presumably going down far from any sort of landing opportunity. Using a type of analysis never used before to perform calculations on the available data, the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the satellite company Inmarsat, concluded that the airplane flew the southern route, ending in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth, and not along the northern path that was earlier considered to be equally viable. “This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites,” Razak said. “It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

Meanwhile, aircraft and ships have continued to search the southern ocean region to investigate various reports of floating debris based on satellite imagery, but so far no debris has been positively identified. On Monday, the U.S. Pacific Command said it would move a Towed Pinger Locator System into the region. The system can detect the ping from an aircraft’s data recorders down to a depth of 20,000 feet. “This movement is simply a prudent effort to pre-position equipment and trained personnel closer to the search area, so that if debris is found, we will be able to respond as quickly as possible, since the battery life of the black box’s pinger is limited,” Cmdr. Chris Budde, a Seventh Fleet operations officer, said in an email statement to The New York Times. The pinging is expected to continue for another two weeks or so.