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The crucial data preserved in the so-called black boxes of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 should survive for two years or longer, even if they are submerged in the corrosive salt water of the Indian Ocean.
If the black boxes — a cockpit voice recorder that captures the last two hours of the flight, and a data recorder that captures 25 hours — are recovered, technicians can put them in desalinated water to clean out the memory boards, then vacuum-dry them.
The recorders can survive salt water immersion up to 20,000 feet, Joe Kolly, director of research and engineering for the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters Friday. The deepest waters of the new search zone for Flight 370 are about 13,000 feet.
The black boxes from Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009, were recovered almost two years later, with most of the data intact.
If the Malaysian plane did crash into the ocean, crews first have to find the black boxes. They emit sonic pings for roughly 30 days and after that would be much harder to find. Flight 370 disappeared three weeks ago.
It has not been determined which government would analyze the black boxes from Flight 370, Kolly said. His lab does a third of its work for foreign governments, he said.