CNN aviation expert David Soucie just told Anderson Cooper that the most recent pings investigators have been hearing are “absolutely without a question” from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370′s black boxes.
I promised not to do any updates until there was actual news. I think we’re in update territory.
Basically, what’s happened is that an Australian Navy ship towing US equipment heard pinging over a two-hour period, then turned around to triangulate the location, and heard another 13 minutes of pinging. There’s been no word yet on whether that was enough data to determine the location of the source.
During the two-hour period the pinging slowly got stronger, then slowly got weaker. That is consistent with it being a point-source sitting in the water, and a ship approaching it and then moving away from it.
This happened on Sunday.
According to Soucie, there is nothing in nature, such as a whale, that could produce those sounds, once a second, over a two-hour period. The spokesman for the US pacific fleet Commander William Marks was trying to keep his optimism under check, but he seemed to admit to CNN that it was hard to come up with another good explanation for the pings, other than it being Flight 370′s black boxes.
CBS says it could take days to confirm whether the pings are from the flight’s black box.
Part of the problem in finding the black boxes, even with the pings, was raised by someone on Twitter. What happens if the black boxes are moving? How could they move, you ask? If the aircraft did a water landing, and part of it remained intact, the black boxes could be inside that part of the plane, rather than on their own. Now, what if it’s a part of the plane that’s more buoyant, such as a part containing luggage or something else containing air? That might make that piece of the wreckage not sink entirely, and thus flow with the ocean currents underwater, but above the ocean floor. Also, because signals underwater are erratic, this too makes it harder to triangulate.
Flight 370 has been missing for 32 days, but CNN’s experts are saying it’s still possible that the batteries could operate for another week. It’s also possible that the batteries wore out two weeks ago, if they weren’t stored properly (and CNN had earlier reports about improper storage of black boxes at Malaysian airports).
The Chinese also claim to have heard some pings this weekend, but the experts seem to be discounting the Chinese leads.
And while the next step would be sending in the underwater vehicles, my understanding is that those vehicles ride near the ocean floor and actually “look” sideways for the black box and the wreckage using sonar. And they only travel 6 miles per hour. The experts say there is no rush to deploy those vehicles, as the seemingly more efficient search method is to keep looking for those pings, and triangulate them before the batteries run out.
And just reiterate something I wrote about in my previous article about the unmanned vehicles used during the Air France disaster off of Brazil, debris from that crash was discovered 24 hours after the crash. That permitted researchers to then use the unmanned sonar vehicles to slowly search the bottom, and even then it took two years to find the black boxes.
It’s now been over a month since the plane presumably crashed. That means any wreckage we eventually find on the water not tell us much of anything as to where the plane went down. And without knowing where it went down, it’s not practical using the unmanned vehicles – unless we can triangulate the pings.