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Search agency says 2 ships to start black box hunt

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AAA Apr. 4, 2014 12:05 AM ET
Search agency says 2 ships to start black box hunt

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, right, greets a Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion captain Lt. Russell Adams and his crew involved in the search for wreckage and debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 in Perth, Australia, Thursday, April 3, 2014.Najib was in Australia to meet with Australian Prime Minister Tonny Abbott to hold bilateral talks about the missing plane and to attend briefings with crew members. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, Pool)

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, right, greets a Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion captain Lt. Russell Adams and his crew involved in the search for wreckage and debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 in Perth, Australia, Thursday, April 3, 2014.Najib was in Australia to meet with Australian Prime Minister Tonny Abbott to hold bilateral talks about the missing plane and to attend briefings with crew members. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, Pool)

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, foreground left, and Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, foreground second from left, accompanied by Australian Air Force Group Commander. Craig Heap, foreground second from right, and Commodore Peter Leavy commander of joint task force 658, walk on the tarmac at Royal Australian Air Force Base Pearce in Perth, Australia, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Razak is in Australia to to have talks with Abbott about the missing Malaysia Airline plane and to attend briefings with search crew members. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, Pool)

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at a breakfast with crew members from different countries involved in the search for wreckage and debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 in Perth, Australia, Thursday, April 3, 2014. In a hastily called speech, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that an unprecedented analysis of satellite signals concluded that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 “ended†deep in the Indian Ocean, far from any possible refuge for the 239 souls aboard. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, Pool)

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak meets with crew members from a Malaysian C-130 Hercules who are involved in search of wreckage and debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 in Perth, Australia, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Najib was in Australia to meet with Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott to hold bilateral talks about the missing plane and to attend briefings with crew members. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, Pool)

A relative of Chinese passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 rests near messages of well wishes, pasted onto the wall, in a prayer room in Beijing, China, Thursday, April 3, 2014. No trace of the Boeing 777 has been found nearly a month after it vanished in the early hours of March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

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PERTH, Australia (AP) — Crews searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet launched a targeted underwater hunt on Friday for the plane’s black boxes along a stretch of remote ocean, with just days left before the devices’ batteries are expected to run out.

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 240-kilometer (150-mile) track in a desolate patch of the southern Indian Ocean, said Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency coordinating the search.

The plane’s data recorders emit a ping that can be detected by the equipment on board the ships. But the battery-powered devices stop transmitting the pings for about 30 days after a crash — meaning searchers have little time left before the batteries on Flight 370’s black boxes die out. Locating the data recorders and wreckage after that is possible, but incredibly difficult.

The area the ships are searching was chosen based on hourly satellite pings the aircraft gave off after it vanished from radar March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. That information, combined with data on the estimated speed and performance of the aircraft, led them to that particular stretch of ocean, Houston said.

“The area of highest probability as to where the aircraft might have entered the water is the area where the underwater search will commence,” Houston said. “It’s on the basis of data that only arrived very recently and it’s the best data that is available.”

Air crews and ships have been searching for weeks for the Boeing 777, but have so far found no trace of the plane.

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Eileen Ng and Gillian Wong reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, and Kristen Gelineau and Rohan Sullivan in Sydney contributed to this report.

Associated Press

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