Dukane Seacom makes finding a missing airliner possible

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Staff at Dukane Seacom is busy putting together underwater locating devices.

“The purpose is to locate the cockpit recorders and flight recorders in the event of an incident,” said Jeff Densmore, Dukane-Seacom’s Director of Engineering.

Every commercial airliner is required to have a locator beacon attached to their black box and Dukane-Seacom located in Sarasota provides a large percentage of beacons to the aviation market.

“We sell to the recorder manufacturers, there is quite a number of them and then they compete for the business with Boeing and Airbus and whomever else requires the equipment.”

The missing Malaysia Airline Boeing triple 7 has a locator beacon on board.

“When they get wet they activate and once active they will emit a pulse that is once a second, just a brief pulse.”

But recovery operations have to be relatively close to the crash site to hear the pulse emitted by the beacon with underwater microphones.

“They only have a range of about two nautical miles and so to be able to hear it you have to be within pretty close proximity. The idea is to find the recorder once you know the general area that you are looking.”

And the clock is ticking because once the beacon is activated it will only last approximately 30 days.

“We test everyone of these devices so we have an idea if they will go longer than 30 days. So we can look up in our records once we know the serial number we can look up in our test records and say they can go 32 days or 34 days.”

Dukane-Seacom employees build about 100 underwater beacons a day. Every beacon is tested underwater in one of two 50-thousand gallon water tanks to ensure every beacon emits a pulse.

This is the most important part of the airplane -- the black box. All the information is located in this part. Seacom’s beacon will last for 30 days once it hits the water. By this time next year federal requirements will require that this beacon last for 90 days.