Finding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 May Take Years, Says U.S. Navy Official

The ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may take years due to confusion over where to look, a U.S. Navy official said Sunday. The comments came two days after the search area for the jet was shifted about 700 miles to the northeast based on "a credible lead." But time is running out if searchers want to pinpoint the plane's black box any time soon: the box is designed to emit a beacon for searchers, but that battery dies after about 30 days. The jet has been missing for 22.

Navy Captain Mark Matthews, who is in charge of the U.S. Towed Pinger Locator, compared Flight 370 to Air France Flight 447, which went down in 2009. The officer pointed out that even with good information on where that plane crashed, searchers still took two years to find its black box. For the Malaysian plane, he said, "Right now the search area is basically the size of the Indian Ocean, which would take an untenable amount of time to search." Ten ships and ten aircraft were searching for debris from the jet on Sunday, with a ship fitted with a specialized black box locater and underwater drone set to join in later in the day.

That locater is designed to be especially sensitive to the low-frequency acoustic ping emitted by airline black boxes. The deepest measured region of that part of the ocean reaches about 19,000 feet, but the beacon only has a range of about 12,000 feet. But all is not lost: according to CBS News, the locater has the "capability to do search and recovery operations down to a depth of 20,000 feet." Even if the beacon dies off, the search for the black box is expected to continue in order to find out what happened to the flight.

Even with specialty equipment and satellite technology, no debris has yet been found – and relatives of the plane's passengers are angry. Over two dozen relatives arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday to protest the government's handling of the disaster and demand an apology. The protesters, holding signs that read things like "Hand us the murderer. Tell us the truth. Give us our relatives back," chanted in Chinese, "We want evidence! We want the truth! We want our relatives!" An official gave hope on Saturday by implying that there might yet be survivors of the plane crash, although families were told previously that no one could have made it.