The multinational team searching the Indian Ocean for flight MH370 faces a race against time, as the black boxes’ batteries begin to fade.
The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder are designed to emit a signal that can be detected by search teams, but the batteries powering these signals fade after 30 days. Monday 7 April 2014 will mark 30 days since flight MH370 went missing.
But hopes of finding the aircraft have been raised after a Chinese boat detected an underwater electronic pulse on Saturday, which investigators say could belong to the missing black boxes. Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), which is managing the search operation, said that a “series of sounds… consistent with the aircraft black box” had been picked up by the Chinese ship, Haixun 01. A number of white objects were also sighted floating on the ocean’s surface.
The JACC’s chief coordinator, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, warned however, that the signals “could not be verified”.
“There is no confirmation at this stage that the signals and the objects are related to the missing aircraft,” said Houston. “The RCC (Rescue Coordination Centre) in Australia has spoken to the RCC in China and asked for any further information that may be relevant.”
Pictures of the floating debris spotted by Chinese aircraft were published on Chinese state-run news sites over the weekend, but, like previous images released in the search for MH370, the photographs are inconclusive.
Investigators will now be hoping the black box detectors are able to find the aircraft’s data recorders before the batteries fade. Australia, China and the UK have all deployed vessels capable of detecting underwater signals, but the search area remains vast. On Sunday, the JACC search focused on three separate swathes of the Indian Ocean, covering a total area of approximately 216,000km² – more than twice the size of South Korea.
After the 30-day lifespan of the black box batteries expires, the signals will gradually fade. And once they stop completely, investigators would have to face the very real possibility that MH370 might never be found.
Malaysia hits out at conspiracy theorists
Malaysia has hit out at what it called the “unfounded allegations” that the country is hiding information about flight MH370.
The Malaysian government has come under scrutiny during the investigation into the aircraft’s disappearance, and has sometimes appeared to withhold information. But in a media briefing on Saturday (5 April 2014), Malaysia’s embattled acting minister of transport, Hishammuddin Hussein, sought to put an end to the conspiracy theories.
“These allegations include the extraordinary assertion that Malaysian authorities were somehow complicit in what happened to MH370,” said Hussein. “I should like to state, for the record, that these allegations are completely untrue.”
He added that the search for flight MH370 is “above politics”.