Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Signals heard in Indian Ocean could be missing aircraft's black box

Chinese ships have picked up intermittent pings that are consistent with the airliner's recorder

Hopes were raised last night that the missing Air Malaysia flight MH370 may have been found after a Chinese naval ship searching the Indian Ocean for trace of the passenger jet had picked up intermittent ultrasonic signals. Chinese state media reported that pulses at the right frequency for a plane's black box recorder had been detected for 90 seconds yesterday and for 15 minutes on Friday, but stressed they had not been linked conclusively to the airliner. White debris was also seen on the surface of the sea about 90km away.

The news was relayed by China to the Malaysian government, it was reported. Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), which is running the search operation, said it had been told the signals were "consistent with the aircraft black box".

However, it could not say whether or not they came from the plane, and some relatives of those on board were sceptical. Jack Song, whose sister was on the plane, told CNN: "I don't believe it. There's no piece of debris, so how can you find the black box? So you can just wait for more news tomorrow. Maybe it will be another mistake."

Jiang Hui, another passenger's relative, said in a text message: "There is no confirmation, and we are all waiting patiently."

But several experts said it was possible or even probable that the signal was coming from the two black boxes. Their batteries last for about a month, so the signals are due to run out around today.

The disappearance on 8 March of the plane, which was carrying 239 people, remains a mystery. Authorities have not ruled out mechanical problems, but say the evidence suggests it was deliberately diverted and crashed in the Indian Ocean.

It is hoped that the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder will contain enough information to establish what happened. Sound is recorded on microphones on the pilots' and engineer's headsets and another general microphone in the cockpit, although only for an hour or possibly two up to the point of impact. Some flight data recorders even have details about whether or not passenger seatbelts are fastened.

Phil Giles, an air safety investigator who previously worked for the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, said the discovery of the signals was promising. "That's not going to be a whale or a porpoise or a squid or anything like that. It's got to be a mechanical device," he said.

"If that [report] is kosher, then it's probably coming from a pinger on a black box. I would think that it's very unlikely that somebody has dumped another black box down there less than a month ago in the Indian Ocean. The chances are pretty good that it's from MH370."

Mr Giles said the signal could be dropping in and out because the batteries have nearly run out or because the plane is lodged in "mountainous" underwater terrain.

Chris Yates, an aviation expert, also said that the report "sounds positive". "On the face of it, it's good news, but we have to wait and see," he said.

The crew of the Chinese ship which picked up the signals, the Haixun 01, were reportedly concerned that the signal detected on Friday may have been the result of interference from other vessels in the area and had wanted to carry out further tests.

Air chief marshal Angus Houston, the chief co-ordinator of JACC, said in a statement that he had been "advised that a series of sounds have been detected by a Chinese ship in the search area".

"The characteristics reported are consistent with the aircraft black box," he said. "A number of white objects were also sighted on the surface about 90km from the detection area. However, there is no confirmation at this stage that the signals and the objects are related to the missing aircraft."

He stressed that the agency "cannot verify any connection to the missing aircraft", adding that they were asking authorities in China for more information. "The deployment of RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] assets to the area where the Chinese ship detected the sounds is being considered," he said.

Earlier, Australian Defence Minister David Johnston had urged caution. "I have not had a chance to get to the bottom of this, but can I tell you this is not the first time we've had something that has turned out to be very disappointing. There's a huge chance of false positives here," he said.

Up to 10 military planes, three civil jets and 11 ships were involved in the search effort yesterday, including the UK's specialist detection vessel HMS Echo. The air crash investigation team includes analysts from Malaysia, the US, Britain, China and Australia. Asked about the cost of running such as large operation, Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's defence minister, said financial concerns were immaterial. "Malaysia will not stop looking for MH370," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London