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MH370 pinger locator: Underwater search for Flight MH370 Black Box pinger begins

An MH370 pinger locator has been deployed into the Indian Ocean, as search crews are faced with only a handful of days before the flight recorder’s “pinger” – a locator device that emits a signal once every second – dies out.

The U.S. Navy's "Pinger Locator," from the Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) division.

Comments CNN on April 4: “They are inaudible to humans, but they would be sweet music to searchers hoping to find clues to the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. They're the sounds believed to be emanating from the underwater locator beacons – known as pingers – that were attached to the jet's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.”

Crews are searching a wide swath of the Southern Indian Ocean – an area of over 217,000 square kms – near the coast of Western Australia. However time it ticking away, and investigators have only days – perhaps hours – until the batteries that send out the “pings” stop working.

Says CNN: “Their batteries are not guaranteed to work for more than 30 days, and Friday [April 4] marks day 28.”

Adds CBS News:

The Australian navy ship Ocean Shield, which is dragging a towed pinger locator from the U.S. Navy, and the British navy's HMS Echo, which has underwater search gear on board, will converge along a 150-mile track in a desolate patch of the southern Indian Ocean.

Despite constant news reports of “hundreds” of pieces of possible debris spotted by satellite imagery, the search for Flight 370, now in its fourth week, has yet to reveal one single piece of confirmed wreckage that belongs to the missing Malaysian aircraft.

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The pinger locator can operate at depths up to 20,000 feet, but it must be towed extremely slowly to be effective. Ships dragging the device have to stay under 5 knots, or just under 6 mph. At this crawling speed, it would take several days to search the area where Flight 370 is thought to have crashed.

Australia's air chief marshal Angus Houston remains hopeful however that the Navy pinger detector will pick up the signal, calling it a “great possibility” that the wreckage and flight data recorder – the “black box” – will be found and retrieved.

“Let me now say that this is a vast area, an area that's quite remote, and we'll continue the surface search for a good deal more time,” Houston said. “If we find a piece of wreckage on the surface, that gives us a much better datum to start the underwater search than we've currently got.”

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UPDATE April 5:

The Associated Press is now reporting that a Chinese ship "involved in the hunt for the missing Malaysian jetliner reported hearing a 'pulse signal' Saturday in Indian Ocean waters with the same frequency emitted by the plane's data recorders, as Malaysia vowed not to give up in the search for the jet."

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