Local company instrumental in helping find Flight 370

An example of the sonobuoys being used to find missing Flight 370.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Search teams may be getting closer to finding the Malaysian Airliner that went missing more than a month ago. The Australian Prime Minister said search teams have gotten four underwater signals that they’re certain came from the plane’s black box, and a company in Columbia City has been instrumental in detecting those signals.

Ultra Electronics – USSI produced the sonobuoys that the Australians have been using to pinpoint where the black box from Flight 370 may be located.  The company makes defense and commercial products. The sonobuoys are part of their defense electronics, and they’ve been supplying them to the military for 50 years.

The type of sonobuoy that the company sent to the Australians is an underwater acoustic sensor. It’s dropped from a plane into the water, and the device can float up to eight hours. The sonobuoys are normally used to hunt for anti-warfare submarines or targets, but they can also be used for search and rescue efforts like finding the black box for Flight 370.

These recent efforts have been a sense of pride for the people who make these devices. Since the equipment is normally used for high security military operations, the workers never see or hear about the product in action.

“The big key is for the people on the floor because they’re, on a day to day basis, making a product that stays behind a black curtain for the most part.” Patrick Allison, the Director of Marketing and Sales for USSI said. “Nobody really knows what it does, not supposed to know what it does, and they don’t get a lot of feedback on the application.”

USSI staff members said their sonobuoys are just one piece of the puzzle in finding the missing flight. The sonobuoys work to locate the black box, and other instruments collect and analyze data of where the box may be in the Indian Ocean.

The plane’s been missing for more than a month, and,  officials said time is running out. The batteries in the black box typically only last 30 days, and it has now been 34 since the flight went missing.

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