Flight 370: ‘We’re Searching in the Right Area’ as Focus Moves to Smaller Stretch of Ocean
The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner continued in a much smaller strip of the southern Indian Ocean Wednesday after Australian authorities said that they hoped they would find the plane “in a matter of days” after new pings were recently detected.
The latest signals, which are believed to be emanating from the plane’s emergency locator beacons, were detected within an area roughly 20 miles (32.18 kilometers) long by 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) wide, approximately 1,400 miles (2,253 kilometers) northwest of Perth.
The area is known as Wharton Basin and the mostly flat region has not been mapped in 50 years.
Thursday is Day 34 of the search and time is of the essence as the batteries that power the emergency locator beacons from the flight data and voice recorders were only certified to last for 30 days after being activated by a crash. “The signals are getting weaker,” said Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the chief coordinator of Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre, which is managing the search for the missing plane. This means “we’re either moving away from the search area or the pinger batteries are dying.”
The latest signals, unlike those heard Saturday, are not believed to have come from two separate beacons. Authorities stated that it’s likely that the batteries powering one of the pingers has already died.
“It is important that we gather as much information to fix the possible location of the aircraft while the pingers are still transmitting,” said Mr. Houston.
“I believe we’re searching in the right area,” he added, “but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place.”
Thursday’s search will include 10 military planes, four civil aircraft, and 13 ships. Australia’s Ocean Shield ship is at the north end of the search area, while the HMS Echo and Chinese Haixun 01 are at the south. In addition, an Australian P-3 Orion aircraft is set to deploy dozens of sonar buoys with microphones in the area, which at a depth of 1,000 feet may be able to pick up further signals.