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Missing Plane: HMS Echo Update

news - HMS Echo
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4:40pm 10th April 2014
(Updated 4:40pm 10th April 2014)

HMS Echo has arrived in the area of the southern Indian Ocean where 'pings', thought to be from the flight recorder from the missing Malaysian airliner, have been detected.

Following a request by the Malaysian authorities for support from the Royal Navy, the survey ship HMS Echo was diverted from her patrol in the Indian Ocean, and the nuclear submarine HMS Tireless has also been re-tasked to help in the search.

HMS Echo will support the Royal Australian Navy's vessel Ocean Shield which has detected the black box 'pings'. The specialist equipment on board Echo, a hydrographic survey ship, can scan the seabed and has been specially adapted to listen for the sonar pings.

Commanding Officer Commander Phillip Newell said his 60 men and women were giving the search their all: "My ship's company are working 24/7 to find MH370. They are young, bright and enthusiastic and will step up to every challenge in the search for the missing aircraft. I am immensely proud of them."

HMS Echo had previously searched a vast area 1,000 miles north-west of Perth in company with Chinese vessels Haixun and Dong Hai Jiu, where sensors from one of the Chinese vessels picked up a possible signal on April 5.

The ship has so far searched an area ten times the size of Greater London - some 6,000 square miles of ocean. Her hi-tech sonar has been specially adapted so it can pick up any transmissions on the black box's frequency - this is the first time Echo's sonar has been used this way and so far it has located several possible contacts - but none from MH370's black box.

HMS Tireless is also working as part of the co-ordinated international search. Her sonar, like Echo's, is listening for the 'ping' sent out every second by the black box transponder as long as its battery lasts.

RAF personnel have also been flying in Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force maritime patrol aircraft scouring the waters from above, looking for debris and dropping listening buoys.

Engineering Officer Lieutenant Andy Thomas said his team had been working around the clock to ensure the ship reached the search area in good time - and that the equipment was ready for a mission beyond their usual remit.

"My engineers worked incredibly hard to ensure the main engines and electrical propulsion drives have been running at full power, in order to reach the search area in the shortest possible time," said the 31-year-old from Fareham.

"At the same time, we checked and maintained the survey equipment held on board to allow us the best possible chance to find the aircraft flight data recorder.

"Despite the sombre nature of our task I feel privileged to be granted the opportunity to assist in hopefully bringing some closure to the families and loved ones of those involved."

His sentiments are echoed by Petty Officer Simon Hamilton, in charge of seamanship aboard the survey ship. The 42-year-old from Coventry said: "We train hard to do what we do and sometimes it is hard to deal with what is placed in front of us."

Echo, which is a Plymouth based ship, was gathering data on her way from Oman to the Seychelles when she received orders to sail to the southern Indian Ocean to join the international search.

Apart from a 12-hour stop in the Maldives to take on supplies and change some of her crew, the survey ship has now been at sea continuously for six weeks.

As for Tireless, the Trafalgar-class submarine has been away from Plymouth Naval Base for three months.

4:40pm 10th April 2014

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