Flight 370 search widens, intensifies as black box pings fizzle

Flight 370 search widens, intensifies as black box pings fizzle
Tim McAlevey of the Royal New Zealand Air Force flying a P-3 Orion during a search to locate missing Malaysia Airways Flight MH370 at sea over the Indian Ocean on April 11.

With no pings from its black boxes detected for nearly a week, search operations for missing Malaysia Airline Flight 370 broadened and intensified Sunday, with more than two dozen ships and aircraft scouring the southern Indian Ocean for signs of debris.

The search area now covers about 22,200 square miles — an area nearly 40% greater area than Saturday — about 1,400 miles northwest of Perth, Australia. Authorities showed increasing frustration with the search, already the costliest in aviation history.

“No one should underestimate the difficulties of the task still ahead of us,” said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. “I don’t want anyone to think that we are certain of success, or that success, should it come, is going to happen in the next week or even month. There’s a lot of difficulty and a lot of uncertainty left.”.

Flight 370 went missing March 8 after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 passengers and crew. The aircraft’s black box flight recorder batteries have a life of about 30 days, but no new electronic pings have been detected since Tuesday and officials said Friday that one of the last signals probably didn’t come from the Boeing 777. Officials increasingly fear the black box batteries have lost power.

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“We’re now into Day 37 of this tragedy,” aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas said. “The battery life on the beacons is supposed to last 30 days. We’re hoping it might last 40 days. What they’re hoping for is to get one more, maybe two more pings so they can do a triangulation of the sounds and try and narrow the (search) area.”.

Recovering flight data and cockpit voice recorders are essential to help determine what happened to the flight. From satellite data, officials believe the plane flew off course for hours before crashing.

If no more pings are detected, robotic submersibles will scour the ocean floor for wreckage. They were used to find missing Air France Flight 447 two years after its 2009 crash in the Atlantic Ocean. Still, searchers want to pinpoint the exact location of the source of the sounds — or as close as they can get — before sending the Bluefin 21 submersible. It will not be deployed until officials are confident that no other electronic signals will come, and that they have narrowed the search area as much as possible.

The sub takes six times longer to cover the same area as the ping locator, and will need up to two months to cover the current underwater zone. The signals are also coming from 15,000 feet below the surface, which is the deepest the sub can dive.

Contributing: Associated Press.