It’s been a year since the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 and there are still far more questions than there are answers. Now a new report could explain why the plane’s in-flight recorders have not been found.
An investigation into the flight’s maintenance logs revealed that the battery for the box’s locating beacon had expired in December of 2012.
“The underwater locator beacon is actually attached to the front or the rear of the black box, and when that box hits water, a charge goes off and it starts emitting an acoustical signal that can be picked up by the military or anyone actually searching for it,” explains Anthony Brickhouse, a professor of applied aviation sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Underwater locators are designed to emit a “ping” for about 30 days, but Brickhouse says an old battery makes that possibility dubious: “What came out of the report this weekend was that the battery actually had expired about a year or so before the event took place, so that would definitely lessen the chances of that pinger actually emitting a signal if it hit the water. “
While much is known about the events on the ground leading up to and following the loss of MH 370, nothing is known about the plane’s final minutes. Brickhouse says that the in-flight recorder is the most important part of the puzzle in this investigation.
“On an aircraft like this, you’re going to have the cockpit voice recorder and also the flight data recorder, and both of these boxes have the potential to give you a wealth of information about what was happening on the aircraft in the minutes and seconds before it crashed. Finding these boxes can unlock a lot of the mysteries that could possibly be out there.”
The outdated battery was noted in the plane’s maintenance log, but it was never replaced. Now other technologies like sonar must be used to comb the ocean floor for wreckage--a time-consuming and costly endeavor because the possible crash zone is so wide.
“It’s not that we’re looking for needle in a haystack right now,” Brickhouse says. “We are actually still trying to find the haystack, and that’s what’s complicating matters.”