#MH370: “We are very close to where we need to be” Updated below

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777

We are very close to where we need to be

Monday, April 7, 2014

Good morning:

Angus Houston, the head of the joint agency coordinating the search in the southern Indian Ocean said today, “We are very close to where we need to be.”

CBS is reporting encouraging news this morning regarding signals picked up by the Ocean Shield:

The Australian navy’s Ocean Shield, which is carrying high-tech sound detectors from the U.S. Navy, picked up two separate signals within a remote patch of the Indian Ocean far off the west Australian coast that search crews have been crisscrossing for weeks. The first signal lasted two hours and 20 minutes before it was lost. The ship then turned around and picked up a signal again – this time recording two distinct “pinger returns” that lasted 13 minutes, Houston said.

“Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder,” Houston said.

He said the position of the noise needs to be further refined, and then an underwater autonomous vehicle can be sent in to investigate.

The ocean is approximately 14,800 feet deep in the area where the two distinct pinger sounds were detected. That is within the range that the remotely operated sub can function.

While urging caution, Houston said,

“We’ve got a visual indication on a screen, and we’ve also got an audible signal. And the audible signal sounds to me just like an emergency locator beacon,” he said.

“We are encouraged that we are very close to where we need to be.”

This location is 600 kilometers northeast of the location where the Haixun 01 detected signals on Friday and Saturday.

Because the two locations are so far apart, there is little likelihood that the sounds detected came from the same source. Many people believe the Ocean Shield is more likely to have detected the black boxes than the Haixun 01 because it’s towing a sensitive pinger locater that is attached to a cable that can reach a depth of 20,000 feet, whereas, the Haixun 01 is using a surface sound detector that was designed for divers to locate items of interest at depths up to 600 feet. It was not designed for the purpose that it is being used and may not be providing accurate and reliable information, according to the manufacturer.

The next step will be an attempt to verify that the signals came from the two black boxes. That will involve multiple efforts to drag the pinger locater through the area of interest in order to identify a specific location on the ocean bottom to search.

Then send the sub to take a look.

UPDATE: The LA Times is reporting:

Cmdr. William Marks of U.S. 7th Fleet, who is aboard the Ocean Shield, said the towed pinger locator was only about 985 feet deep when it began detecting the pings at one-second intervals. “We were not overly optimistic,” he told CNN by satellite phone from the ship.

But after lowering the towed pinger locator to nearly 4,600 feet, the crew was able to get hold of the signal for more than two hours.

Marks noted that if the signal was coming from a black box, the signal should get stronger and then fade as the locator passed over the site. “That’s what happened,” Marks said, describing searchers as “cautiously optimistic.”
Crews then did a course change and passed back over the area, lowering the towed pinger locator to about 9,850 feet, which Marks called the “optimal depth.” Crews were able to pick up a signal for about 15 minutes, he said.

According to Houston, the area where the signals were detected has a depth of about 14,800 feet — the maximum depth the underwater vehicle can operate in. He cautioned that “in very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast” and that it could take “some days” to establish whether this is connected with Flight 370.

Photo by Aero Icarus released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.

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14 Responses to #MH370: “We are very close to where we need to be” Updated below

  1. crazy1946 says:

    Update for this morning… Not good news, but not surprising… Our country for some unknown reason is taking a relatively low key approach to this situation. Normally we would be balls to the walls searching and scouring the area, but not this time. Hmmm, strange isn’t it?


    • gblock says:

      Considerations may be: There were few American passengers on the fight, therefore we don’t have much of a dog in the fight; This is all taking place in what is (for us) a relatively remote part of the world; The US government doesn’t want to risk antagonizing the Chinese government, for whom this is a big deal.

    • towerflower says:

      Low key? We have ships, planes, and equipment in the area. The equipment that heard the latest pings was American equipment with American personnel operating it.

      • crazy1946 says:

        In comparison to prior events, our governments involvement has been quite minor, in the past we would have had a whole fleet of ships and many air craft involved in the search along with us having a leading role in the search (and recovery)… Not saying that I think we need to do more, but just reflecting about the past and our involvement in world events….

        • towerflower says:

          At last count there were 28 countries involved with the search for the plane. Even in the Air France crash our involvement was limited as it was run by the French but we did have planes aiding in the initial search.

          But with some of the other high profile water crashes, TWA and Egyptian Air, they all went down in US waters and as a result we led the search efforts.

          It was the last phase of Air France crash, locating it, that the US had a prominent role…..that is because we are one of the few countries with the ability to search the depths of the ocean floor. It was ultimately the Woods Hole Institute (Titanic finders) that found the wreckage of the plane. The Bluefin side sonar that they are awaiting to deploy is also US owned and operated. You will find that in the end it will be something from the USA that will ultimately find this aircraft’s final resting place and most likely involved with the recovery of the black boxes.

  2. It truly is a technological and international moment of great possibility.

    So who takes the black box when its found?

    If the answer is Malaysia, do you think they will create an international investigative team?

    I would think China, Australia and the US who have the most assets in the area would be an integral part.

    As far as adding real time location tech to commercial flights, many nations are against it until it can be worked in with military tracking radar protocols. A very tedious process indeed.

    • bettykath says:

      Since the plane belongs to Malaysia, I would expect they would have “ownership”. If they have any thoughts of not sharing what’s on them, the political pressure will change their minds.

    • towerflower says:

      It is all governed by international law. Since the plane was Malaysian owned, they will get the black boxes. Only a handful of groups can obtain the information contained within those boxes so it will be up to the Malaysian government to ask one of them to interpret the information.

      The Australian government is running the search efforts since it is closer to their territory.

      Actually the commercial aviation community is for the NextGen system, since it will enable them to make more direct flights and reduce separation requirements…..this equates into cost savings to the airlines. It won’t change military radar protocols…..they use primary and secondary radar information and information from the plane’s transponders will still be available to these countries. 9/11 proved the importance of still having primary radar systems kept in place. When they shut off the transponders in the planes they made them “invisible” to the high altitude centers but the military and approach controls could still track the planes with primary.

  3. towerflower says:

    Colin, The Andes plane crash happened before ELT’s were mandated on commercial planes and even then it was as military plane. Finding the plane was also made difficult due to the fact the plane was white and it was lying in snow.

    The US has been working on a new system called NextGen, which will be a realtime satellite based “radar”. It will work for separation purposes over large areas of water like oceans. Sadly this is still in development and not ready. But I’m not sure if this system would have worked on a non-transponder equipped airplane.

  4. colin black says:

    Considering it took nine decades to find an object the size of the Titanic .
    Remarkable how far we have come with tech .

    A Question given that practicaly everything micro soft samsung toshiba make from phones to lap tops to tablets have in built G P S

    Why no G P S locater placed on board Planes?

    Would seem way less hassle to find its location than dragging sonar subs about to triangulate position an way way cheaper?

    Or am I missing some thing bleeding obvious?

    Even if G P S wont work under water and I dont see why not .

    Not all Planes Crash in the Ocean remember those poor souls whom had to resort to cannibilisim when there plane xrashed high In the Andies Mountains?

  5. I believe we are in the process of witnessing a remarkable technological achievement.

    The TPL can detect pings up to 3.2 km distant.

    The search team on the Ocean Shield is attempting to fix the position of the black boxes by triangulation.

    This may take awhile, assuming the batteries do not give out.

    If they do, the process of finding the black boxes will become a lot more complicated, but at least they will know where to look with sonar and remotely operated subs.

    The sea floor is at 14,700 feet which is close to the limit of the Bluefin robot sub they have. It has a lot of high technology detection gear they will probably need to find the black boxes, especially if the batteries expire.

  6. Turns out that US personnel are operating the pinger locater on the Ocean Shield.

    In this CNN video, Commander William Marks of the US Navy explains what they’ve found and what they are doing.

    I get the impression they are pretty sure the pinger locater picked up the pings from the black boxes and now they are attempting to determine their exact position on the sea floor by making many passes back and forth over the area at 1 nautical mile per hour.

    Each time they complete a pass, they have to slowly reel in the TPL, slowly turn around to get in the right position, and then slowly reel it back out to a depth of about 1,400 meters.

    They had solid contact with the black boxes using the TPL at that depth for about 2 hours.

    The question now is whether the boxes will continue to ping long enough to enable their position to be located precisely (i.e., triangulated) enough for a robot sub to find them.

  7. This is the latest media release that was issued Monday morning.

    Note the chart below the release which has both spots where pings were detected located on the arc predicted by satellite handshake #7.

    Up to nine military planes, three civil planes and 14 ships will assist in today’s search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

    The search area is expected to be approximately 234,000 square kilometres.

    Good weather is expected throughout the day with showers in the afternoon although this is not expected to affect the search.

    ADV Ocean Shield is continuing investigations in its own area.

    HMS Echo is en route to assist the Chinese vessel Haixun 01, which detected pulse signals in the Indian Ocean.

    The Australian Transport Safety Bureau continues to refine the area where the aircraft entered the water based on continuing ground-breaking and multi-disciplinary technical analysis of satellite communication and aircraft performance, passed from the international air crash investigative team comprising analysts from Malaysia, the United States, the UK, China and Australia.

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