A towed pinger locator is now being used to hunt for the black box of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Two ships with locator capabilities are searching a 150 mile underwater path, in the hope of recovering the plane’s data recorder.
Up to 14 planes and nine ships were due to take part in Friday’s search.
Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It was carrying 239 people.
It is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, although no confirmed debris has been found from the plane.
The search is being co-ordinated from the city of Perth in Western Australia.
The battery-powered pingers on the plane’s black box stop transmitting about 30 days after a crash, giving the searchers now perhaps only a few days to locate it.
Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agencies Coordination Centre (JACC) leading the search, said that two ships had “commenced the sub-surface search for emissions from [the] black box pinger”.
Australia naval vessel Ocean Shield was using a towed pinger locator from the US Navy, while HMS Echo, which had similar capabilities, was also searching.
“The two ships will search a single 240km track converging on each other,” Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who is retired, said.
ACM Angus Houston said that the area had been picked on the basis of analysis of the satellite data.
It was based on work regarding “how the aircraft might have performed and how it might have been flown”, to choose the “area of highest probability as to where it might have entered the water”.
He pointed out that this data was continuing to be refined, but the current search was based on the “best data that is available”.
Given the progress in data evaluation and calculation, “there is some hope we will find the aircraft in the area we are searching”, Angus Houston added.
The two ships will be moving at reduced speeds, of around three knots, in their attempt to detect any signal from the pinger.
Commodore Peter Leavy, Commander of Joint Task Force 658, said that search operations generally preferred to use “physical evidence” and “drift modeling” to locate a plane.
However, “no hard evidence has been found to date so we have made the decision to search a sub-surface area on which the analysis has predicted MH370 is likely to have flown,” he said.
In a statement, JACC said up to 10 military planes, four civilian planes and nine ships would be deployed in Friday’s search efforts.
The focus is on a search area of about 84,000 sq miles, 1,000 miles north west of Perth.
Fair weather was forecast for Friday, with visibility of around 6 miles, JACC said.
Malaysia Airlines ex-steward Patrick Chow says the cabin crew he knew could not be responsible for the plane’s disappearance
Meeting staff involved in the search on Friday, Australian PM Tony Abbott said: “It is probably the most difficult search that’s ever been mounted.”
“A large aircraft seems like something that would be easy enough to locate – but a large aircraft that all but disappeared and disappeared into inaccessible oceans is an extraordinary, extraordinary challenge that you’re faced with.”
ACM Angus Houston said there was still a “great possibility of finding something on the surface [of the ocean]”.
“There’s lots of things in aircraft that float,” he said, citing previous searches where life jackets from planes were found.
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