Missing Flight MH370: Submersible To Begin Undersea Search
Teams searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane are to deploy a submersible for the first time.Search chief Angus Houston said the Bluefin-21 drone would be sent down as soon as possible to search for wreckage on the sea floor.
Teams have been using a towed pinger locator to listen for signals from the plane’s “black box” flight recorders.
But no new signals have been heard since 8 April, amid concerns the flight recorders’ batteries have expired.
Flight MH370 went missing on 8 March with 239 people on board. It was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it lost contact with air traffic controllers over the South China Sea.
Malaysian officials believe, based on satellite data, that it ended its flight in the southern Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometres off course.
An international search has focused on waters west of the Australian city of Perth.
Air Chief Marshall Houston, who heads the joint agency co-ordinating the search effort, said that given no signals had been detected in six days, it was time to go underwater.
The Bluefin-21 will search for wreckage in an area defined by four acoustic signals heard last week.
Officials believe those signals – picked up by the pinger locator towed by an Australian vessel – were consistent with flight recorders.
“Analysis of the four signals has allowed the provisional definition of a reduced and manageable search area on the ocean floor,” ACM Houston said.
“The experts have therefore determined that the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield will cease searching with the towed pinger locator later today and deploy the autonomous underwater vehicle Bluefin-21 as soon as possible.”
He warned that the submersible search would be a long, “painstaking” process that might, in the end, yield no results.