TECH

Missing Plane MH370 Lacked $10 Tracking Upgrade That Could Have Helped Search

20/03/2014 09:27 GMT | Updated 21/03/2014 11:59 GMT

The missing Malaysia Airlines jet was missing a simple $10 computer upgrade that would have kept transmitting critical flight data long after other communication equipment went dark.

The same technology helped to locate the Air France jet that disappeared in 2009 - a search operation that lasted just five days.

Investigators believe the plane's transponder and ACARS system were turned off but a system called Swift would have continued to send data on the direction, speed and altitude of flight MH370.

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Satellite image of objects that may be possible debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight

The search for the missing airliner has been hampered by the huge area the plane could have flown based on fuel and the last known location.

Around 2.24 million square nautical miles have been covered.

On Thursday morning it was announced Australian satellites may have spotted two pieces of the plane far off the coast of Perth in Western Australia.

Geoffrey Thomas, the editor of website airlineratings.com, told Radio 4's Today programme that a live feed from the Australian search aircraft indicated that "there is certainly something there".

Aircraft have been deployed to the area to search for the objects.

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Satellite image made available by the AMSA on March 20, 2014

Thomas said: "The feed from search aircraft is picking up multiple returns from debris area. Signs are that this may be the wreckage."

The location of the debris would support the theory that the plane had been deliberately set course on this particular course, ran out of fuel, and plunged into the ocean, he said.

If confirmed, the area would make for an extremely difficult recovery. The ocean floor is 10,000 feet down and the approaching winter would cause swells of up to 30-40 metres in height.