Monday 24 November 2014

Black box detector picks up signals 'consistent with aircraft flight recorders' in search for MH370

Published 07/04/2014 | 06:41

Warrant Officer Boatswain Paul Hurst (R) from Australian Navy ship HMAS Success works with the crew onboard Royal Malaysian Navy ship KD LEKIU during a replenishment at sea evolution in the southern Indian Ocean during the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Photo: Reuters/Australian Defence Force/Handout via Reuters
Warrant Officer Boatswain Paul Hurst (R) from Australian Navy ship HMAS Success works with the crew onboard Royal Malaysian Navy ship KD LEKIU during a replenishment at sea evolution in the southern Indian Ocean during the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Photo: Reuters/Australian Defence Force/Handout via Reuters
Australian officials have said signals picked up by a black box detector attached to an Australian ship searching for MH370 were consistent with aircraft flight recorders. Confirmation of whether the signals were emitted from the plane, missing since March 8 with 239 people on board, could take several days. Photo: Reuters/Australian Defence Force/Handout via Reuters
The towed pinger locator (TPL-25) sits on the deck of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield in the southern Indian Ocean during the search for the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Chinese relatives of passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 hold LED candles as they offer prayers during a mass prayer for the missing plane, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Australian officials said today signals picked up by a black box detector attached to an Australian ship searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean were consistent with aircraft flight recorders.

Malaysian and Australian officials have described the development as the most positive so far.

Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said miracles do happen, and some survivors could still be found.

Meanwhile, Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search, said in Perth in western Australia: "Clearly, this is a most promising lead".

Houston, a retired air chief marshal, said two signals had been detected off Australia's northwest coast.

Mr Houston calls it "very encouraging".

But he said today that it may take days to confirm whether signals picked up by the ship Ocean Shield are indeed from the flight recorders on Flight 370.

He says the position of the noise needs to be further refined, and then an underwater autonomous vehicle can be sent in to investigate.

The plane vanished on March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

But he said today that it may take days to confirm whether signals picked up by the ship Ocean Shield are indeed from the flight recorders on Flight 370.

The first detection held for 2.5 hours before the ship lost contact, after turning around, the ship picked up the signal for around 13 minutes, he said.

"On this occasion two distinct pinger returns were audible," Houston said. "Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder."

Confirmation of whether the signals were emitted from the Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing bound plane, missing since March 8 with 239 people on board, could take several days, Houston said.

The black boxes, thought be to lying on the ocean floor, are equipped with locator beacons that send pings but the beacons' batteries are thought to be running out of charge by now, a month after Flight MH370 disappeared.

The U.S. Navy "pinger locator" connected to the Australian ship Ocean Shield was trawling an area some 300 nautical miles away from separate reports by Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 of a pulse signal with the same frequency of a black box.

If the signals can be narrowed further, an unmanned underwater vehicle, Bluefin 21, will be sent to attempt to locate wreckage on the sea floor to verify the signals, said Houston, who noted that the potential search area was 4,500 kms (2,800 miles) deep, the same as the Bluefin range.

"We are right on the edge of capability and we might be limited on capability if the aircraft ended up in deeper water," he said. "In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast."

He said that while Ocean Shield continued to trawl the area to try to regain contact, search teams were also investigating the reports by the Chinese ship several hundred kilometres away.

Press Association and Reuters

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