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Crews looking for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet were delaying the deployment of remotely operated submarines until after a U.S. pinger locator was taken out of action, the search leader said Tuesday.
“If we go down there now and do the visual search it will take many, many, many days because it is very slow, very painstaking work to scour the ocean floor, and of course the depths are very deep and it’s very challenging,” said retired Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston who is in charge of the search.
Instead, searchers were hoping the pinger locator would receive more transmissions and narrow the area being looked at. On Sunday, an Australian crew recorded a series of pings consistent with transmissions from airplane black boxes that might have been linked to Flight 370. These have not been heard again.
Searchers would likely tow the pinger locator for several more days, he said, adding that device's battery life was usually around 30 days, while the jet went missing 32 days ago. Sometimes power lasted longer, Houston added.
If searchers do find the recorders, they will then do a flyover with sonar to determine the extent of the wreckage field, said Roy Truman, who conducted deep water operations for the U.S. Navy and who now directs marine operations at salvage company Odyssey Marine Exploration.
“Once they’ve recovered them they’ll then do a quick flyover with a sonar to determine the extent of the wreckage field,” he said. “Once they’ve done that the [remotely operated submersible vehicle] will follow track lines across this grid and video document every piece of equipment.”
A team of experts will examine this and determine what they want to recover, he added.