S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Malaysian Flight #370…What Next?

This is the 38th day of the search Malaysia Flight 370.  Yesterday, eleven aircraft and “about” as many ships were searching in an area about 24,000 square-miles: In an area located about 1,400 miles northwest of Perth.  (The search area seems to change almost daily.)  Here’s the update: the searchers have not heard any pings from the Flight 370’s black box for six days.  They’ve concluded that the black box’s battery is dead.  Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, head of the search effort, noted that acoustic searching is terminated, and that because they have no visual clues he’ll terminate visual search efforts in the next few days.

Yesterday, sailors on the Australian ship Ocean Shield launched the US Navy’s Bluefin-21, an underwater towed autonomous vehicle that maps the ocean floor.   It takes twenty-four hours to complete a Bluefin-21 mission: two hours to descend to the Ocean’s floor, sixteen hours to map, and two hours to ascend; then it takes four hours to download the information, and I cannot estimate how long it takes to interpret and plot the data.

About six hours into its first mission, controllers maneuvered the Bluefin-21 to exceed its maximum safe depth, about 14.800-feet deep (2.8 miles), and they terminated the mission.  (How about telling us why.)   The Bluefin-21 was returned to the surface.  As of this afternoon, there is no information regarding the next Bluefin-21 operation—if any.   What’s next?

I did find an article in which Houston noted that HMS Echo has equipment that can help map the seafloor and is in route to the search area,   He did not give an estimated time of arrival or what is the operations plan.

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