Specialist police search teams in Suffolk are preparing a rubbish landfill site for an intensive search in order to look for missing RAF serviceman Corrie McKeague, 23, from Fife.
The site at Milton in Cambridgeshire has to be made safe and accessible before the search work can get underway, said police.
Some 8,000 tonnes of bulk material will have to be removed first to allow safe access to the specific search area.
Corrie, who is based at RAF Honington near Bury St Edmunds, vanished after a night out with colleagues last September.
He was last seen on CCTV wandering into a dead-end alley but failed to emerge. His mobile phone signal was traced to matching the route of a bin lorry which left the alley and travelled to the landfill site.
His mother, Nicola Urquhart, from Dunfermline, previously said she believed her son’s body would either be found in the landfill or that he had “gone into the incinerator”.
Mrs Urquhart has always wanted the landfill searched. She said: “It could take the police up to two weeks to remove the barrier soil and then they have to build walkways and make it safe before they start the search.
“Although we have always been desperate for the landfill to be searched myself, Makeyan or Darroch [Corrie’s brothers] have no issue whatsoever in this delay.
“This is an incredibly difficult task and the health and safety of all concerned in the search is paramount.
“If it takes a month to prepare, we do not mind. It’s getting done now and that’s all that is important.”
Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott of Suffolk Police said: “The work to trace Corrie remains a priority and we are continuing to progress our investigation as the work around the site search is being planned.
“The logistics of building access routes and ensuring the area is safely accessible for those who will be carrying out the work mean further preparatory activity will need to be done first.
“This is a considerable task and we need to ensure everything is in place before officers begin the process of going through the waste in the landfill.”