Md. Submarine Leads Search For Missing Airliner

LARGO, Md. (WJZ) — What few people know is that the unmanned submarine leading the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was developed right here in Maryland. It’s playing a critical role in the recovery mission.

Vic Carter gets rare access inside the Maryland company behind it.

Its team is determined to solve this mystery–the biggest in aviation history–and bring closure to loved ones. Where is Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

On March 8, it vanished into thin air while traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It’s now been more than two months and there’s still no answers for families and loved ones of the 227 passengers on board.

Teams from around the world immediately started searching but what few people know is that a Maryland company is at the forefront of the mission.

Phoenix International, based out of Largo, is a leader in underwater search and recovery operations.

Tim Weller is part of Phoenix’s team. He’s been out on high-profile searches like the one for Flight 370.

Many are wondering why it’s taking so long, but there is a potentially wide debris field.

“Say you drop a penny from a helicopter into the Grand Canyon, then you turn all the lights out. I’ll give you a pen light. You go find it,” said Weller, a program manager at Phoenix International.

When Flight 370 disappeared, Phoenix International got the call and immediately deployed its Bluefin-21 underwater drone. Normally kept at a warehouse in Maryland, it’s now working around the clock in the Indian Ocean.

“How many lives may be saved by being able to understand one accident and for this type of work, over a lifetime, it could mean a lot to a lot of people,” Weller said.

Phoenix International does a variety of work. Of course, they’re involved in search and recovery missions like the one for Flight 370 but they’re also the leading contractors for the United States Navy.

If the wreckage of Flight 370 is located, they’ve developed another robot that can take deep-sea pictures and can even dig through the wreckage with its robotic hands.

There’s no need to have that device out looking for the plane right now, but they hope it will be deployed one day.

“Once you actually find the wreckage, the debris, you use your camera to go out and do a visual of the entire wreck site, that’ll tell you maybe one possible location of a black box,” he said.

Until then, families and loved ones of those on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 wait, praying for answers that could take years to come.

“We are prepared for the worst but, for me, I still have a little hope that a miracle may happen until we find the wreckage or we find the plane,” said a friend of one of those on board the missing plane.

Phoenix International believes that, in time, it will find the wreckage and bring closure to one of the greatest aviation mysteries in recent years.

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