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Australian navy ship detects new signals 'consistent' with black boxes

Published on Apr 7, 2014 12:26 PM
 

Missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 special report

PERTH - An Australian navy ship has detected new signals ‘consistent’ with aircraft black boxes, a senior official said on Monday as search teams raced against time in the hunt for missing Malaysian flight MH370. 

“The towed pinger locator deployed from the Australian defence vessel Ocean Shield has detected signals consistent with those emitted from aircraft black boxes,” said Mr Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) in Perth.

The towed pinger-locator heard a first signal for two hours and 20 minutes, and a second signal for 13 minutes.

"The towed pinger locator deployed from the Australian defence vessel Ocean Shield has detected signals consistent with those emitted from aircraft black boxes," said Mr Angus Houston. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

Mr Houston said the signals had left the search team “encouraged" that they were very close to where they need to be. “Clearly this is a most promising lead,” he told reporters.

MH370 Recovery graphic

The next step is to fix the position and attempt to locate the wreckage of the plane.

 “We have not found the aircraft yet..we need further confirmation,” said Mr Houston, adding that confirmation would take several days.

The area where the signals were detected was very deep at 4,500m, which would make it difficult to retrieve the black boxes if they are lying on the ocean floor. “In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast,” said Mr Houston.

The detection of signals is the most significant lead authorities have had since the Malaysian Airline jet carrying 239 people vanished from civilian radar on March 8, the longest time an aircraft has gone missing.

Up to nine military planes, three civil planes and 14 ships will be involved in Monday’s search for MH370. The search area is expected to be approximately 234,000 sq km, said JACC. 

The search fleet is racing against time as the data recorder of the missing plane reaches the end of its advertised battery life on Wednesday.

"The advertised time for the life of the batteries in the beacon is 30 days. Sometimes, they last for several days beyond that – say eight to 10 days beyond that – but we’re running out of time in terms of the battery life of the emergency locator beacons,'' Mr Houston said on Sunday.

The search underwater is complex because the “pings” travel differently depending on the layers of water with different temperatures. 

Mr Houston has cautioned that the search for the wreckage could take a long time. "We've a lot of difficult painstaking work ahead of us...to confirm where exactly the plane went into the water,'' he said.

But he added: "I'm more confident now than a week ago."

MH370 graphic: Object sightings in Indian Ocean

MH370 Sequence of events map

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