Race against time if debris is part of plane

If objects positively identified, search will intensify to find rest of aircraft, expert says

Journalists look at a TV screen broadcasting a news conference Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, inside the hotel where are relatives of the passengers of the missing Boeing 777-200ER are staying. Photograph: Samsul Said/Reuters

Journalists look at a TV screen broadcasting a news conference Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, inside the hotel where are relatives of the passengers of the missing Boeing 777-200ER are staying. Photograph: Samsul Said/Reuters

Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 10:27

Time will be against authorities investigating debris spotted in the Indian Ocean if it is confirmed to be part of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an aviation expert has said.

Four military search planes have been dispatched to try to determine whether the two large objects bobbing in the sea are part of the Boeing 777.

David Gleave, an aviation safety researcher at Loughborough University, said if the objects are positively identified then the search will intensify in a bid to find the rest of the aircraft.

He said this is because, as each day passes, ocean currents will widen the possible search area by many miles.

The battery life in the black box is also more likely to run out, making locating the plane under the surface extremely difficult.

“Working on the big assumption that it is part of the plane then they need to establish the exact location, which they have done,” he said.

“They may then place a buoy with it so they can continue to track it and there will be a navy ship diverted to the search area.

“If it is then identified as part of a plane, they would secure the wreckage so it does not sink with flotation attachments, and the search area around it would be intensified.”

Mr Gleave said experts would then be brought in to start mapping the ocean floor and establish how far it could have drifted.

“Each day you could be adding a lot of sea area to the search, because of the ocean currents. And the longer it takes the battery life on the black box is less likely to last,” he said.

“Oceanographers will be brought in to estimate how far they expect it to have drifted and a guided search for the plane would begin.

“In searches like that you look for clues on the surface and under the sea you listen for anything that the black box is pinging; however, that may have been disabled.

“If the plane is found, say 12,000ft (3,658m) down, then you need remotely controlled submarines with cameras on board to go to the bottom of the ocean.

“The key will be whether there is any data on the flight recorders. Once they have them on the surface they have to be taken to the relevant organisation to read the data.

“Once it’s taken to be read you then have to dry the boxes out, which takes just over a day, and then you can start to access the information.”

PA