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Woods Hole Researchers Ready To Help Find Missing Malaysian Jet

WOODS HOLE (CBS) - It's been nearly three weeks since a Malaysia Airlines jet vanished with 239 people on board. Crews are searching for the aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean.

Researchers from Woods Hole helped find the wreckage of an Air France jet two years after it crashed. The team is now working to find the Malaysian jet.

The REMUS 6000 may look like a simple, yellow submarine, but inside are some of the most sophisticated electronics in use today. But can it find a missing airliner? Mark Dennettt of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute says it can travel 20,000 feet underwater. It was built by scientists at the WHOI and it found the black box from the Air France jet that crashed in the Atlantic in 2009.

"With Air France there was a lot more clues as to where the plane was," says Mark Purcell.

But scientists from Woods Hole weren't even asked to help search for the Air France remains until one year later. Still, they launched their underwater vehicle, and eight days later, found the jet, despite looking in an underwater mountain range.

"It's rugged, it's pitch black, but it's something we're used to," says David Gallo. "It's a fairly routine type of volcanic terrain that we're used to dealing with."

The REMUS 6000 uses side scan sonar to form a picture of the ocean floor even if there's a mountain range down there.

There are optimistic signs that satellites may have picked up the final ping from the Malaysian jet in a specific area over the Indian Ocean.

If the Air France search is any indication, then crews in the Indian Ocean need to narrow their search down to a 40 or 50-mile radius area before the team from Woods Hole can be called in.


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