WDAY: The News Leader

Published March 30, 2014, 11:28 AM

Only days left before Malaysia airlines flight 370's black box dies

Australia - Time is running out to find the data recorder from Malaysia airlines flight 370.

Australia - Time is running out to find the data recorder from Malaysia airlines flight 370.

The black box has just days of battery life left.

It could be the key to not only to finding wreckage, but also to learning about how the jet was lost.

An Australian ship is being fitted with a special high-tech device to help find it.

The ocean shield is at the ready and just hours from sailing off to a search zone that has so far yielded no trace of flight 370.

The Australian ship will be the lynchpin of the investigation, but only if and when air wreckage is found.

Vice Admiral Ray Griggs/ Royal Australian Navy: "This is a very complex and challenging job and the first real step here is to find some debris so that we can back-cast and pinpoint an impact point to give us an initial search area"

Being fitted on board, a US Navy tow pinger locator that will try and isolate the signal from the cockpit and flight data recorders and the Bluefin 21, an underwater vehicle that will comb the ocean floor looking for wreckage.

No matter how specialized or sophisticated this equipment is, it won't do any good unless that search zone can be narrowed.

Commander Mark Matthews/ U.S. Navy: "We need better point of impact estimation than we have right now."

U.S. navy commander Mark Matthews is leading the team that will deploy the locator equipment and it needs to come within about a mile of the pinger.

Matthews: "I can search approximately 50 square miles a day so really if we're searching for a beacon and we're living on borrowed time I need something that is only less than a 1000 square miles"

Reporter: And right now we're dealing with more than 100,000 square miles. Yes?

Matthews: "Yes."

Reporter: As you said challenging?

Matthews: "It's very low probability of detection if that is our search area."

And that's a sobering thought for the families of those missing.

As we board ocean shield, those working to deploy her are mindful that every minute counts.

The pingers' signal will last little more than a week more and any wreckage has been dragged by wind and currents for weeks now.