Looking for answers: ‘HMAS Success’ (foreground) after completing a replenishment at sea with Royal Malaysian Navy frigate ‘KD Lekiu’ while taking part in the search for Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. — AFP
PERTH: The Australian ship Ocean Shield is focused on reacquiring the two acoustic contacts which could be from the missing Flight MH370.
If successful and the location of MH370’s black box can be fixed, the next step would be to send an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to look for wreckage.
Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy said Ocean Shield, equipped with a Bluefin 21 AUV, is searching the Indian Ocean where the pings had been detected.
Contact was lost shortly after the pings were detected by the ship.
“If they gain another acoustic event on the Towed Pinger Locator, that will be the trigger to launch the AUV with its sonar mapping capability to get a visual of the ocean floor,” said Leavy at the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) here.
The pings, consistent with those emitted by aircraft black boxes, were detected in the northern part of a 300km search area between late Saturday and early Sunday morning.
Leavy said they were confident of reacquiring the acoustic contacts if the beacons were still operating.
JACC head coordinator Air Chief Marshal (Rtd) Angus Houston said the detections were promising and the best information so far on the missing plane.
He said the first detection was held for about two hours and 20 minutes before the ship lost contact with it.
“The second detection on the return leg was held for about 13 minutes. On this occasion two distinct pinger returns were audible.
“Significantly this would be consistent with transmissions from the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder,” he said.
However, he said, there was still a long way to go before they could confirm if the detections were related to MH370.
He said the areas where the signals were detected had a depth of about 4,500m which is the limit of the AUV’s capability.
Houston said the underwater search area was calculated by a team of experts in Kuala Lumpur.