Missing flight MH370: Royal Navy's HMS Echo joins race to verify black box 'pings' in search for missing jet in Indian Ocean

Three separate 'pings' have now been detected from deep in the Indian Ocean

As the authorities searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 race to investigate a series of potential black box 'pings' in the Indian Ocean, a senior official has reportedly claimed that the plane was "steered" around Indonesian airspace.

A senior Malaysian government source reportedly said the Boeing 777 curved north of Indonesia after it dropped of Malaysian military radar, according to further analysis of tracking data from neighbouring countries.

It apparently avoided Indonesia and its airspace altogether before turning again towards the southern Indian Ocean. The source told CNN such a route may have been taken intentionally in order to avoid radar detection.

Meanwhile, the man responsible for leading the search in Australia said that sounds detected from deep within the Indian Ocean represent an "important and encouraging lead".

Three separate signals have now been detected by ships hunting for the wreckage of the Boeing 777, two of which came from within just 2 km (1.25 miles) of each other.

The Royal Navy's HMS Echo, which carries sophisticated equipment for detecting underwater signals, was tasked with heading to the investigate the small patch of the search zone.

On Sunday, an Australian ship also equipped with a so-called "pinger locator" received a third signal in a different part of the search area around 300 nautical miles (555 km) away.

The earlier signals were reported by a Chinese patrol vessel as being at the same frequency emitted by flight data recorders aboard missing planes - 37.5 kilohertz.

"This is an important and encouraging lead, but one which I urge you to treat carefully," retired Australian Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston told reporters in Perth.

He stressed the signals had not been verified as linked to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it disappeared on 8 March with 239 people on board.

"We have an acoustic event. The job now is to determine the significance of that event. It does not confirm or deny the presence of the aircraft locator on the bottom of the ocean," Houston said, referring to each of the three transmissions.

Houston confirmed that the Chinese ship Haixun 01 detected a signal again on Saturday within 2 km (1.4 miles) of the original signal, for 90 seconds. He said that China also reported seeing white objects floating in the sea in the area. He added that HMS Echo was expected to arrive in the area within the next two days.

The Australian navy's Ocean Shield, which is carrying high-tech sound detectors from the US Navy, will also head there, but would first investigate the sound it picked up in its current region.

Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (right) addresses the media in Perth Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (right) addresses the media in Perth He said Australian air force assets were also being deployed on Sunday into the Haixun 01's area to try to confirm or discount the signals relevance to the search.

After weeks of fruitless looking, the multinational search team is racing against time to find the sound-emitting beacons and cockpit voice recorders that could help unravel the mystery of the plane. The beacons in the black boxes emit "pings" so they can be more easily found, but the batteries only last for about a month.

Investigators believe Flight 370 veered way off course and came down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, though they have not been able to explain why it did so.

The US Navy's towed pinger locator (TPL-25) sits on the deck of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield The US Navy's towed pinger locator (TPL-25) sits on the deck of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield The Chinese crew reportedly picked up the signals using a hand-held sonar device called a hydrophone dangled over the side of a small runabout — something experts said was technically possible but extremely unlikely.

The equipment aboard the Ocean Shield and the HMS Echo are dragged slowly behind each ship over long distances and are considered far more sophisticated than those the Chinese crew was using.

Read more: Signals in Indian Ocean could be aircraft's black box
AirAsia apologises over claim that 'pilots will never lose a plane'
What is a black box and how do you find one?
UK submarine joins search for missing plane
The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) ship MV Xaixun 01 during a visit to Australia in 2013. Crew members reported hearing signals from within the search area on Friday and Saturday The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) ship MV Xaixun 01 during a visit to Australia in 2013. Crew members reported hearing signals from within the search area on Friday and Saturday

Footage aired on China's state-run CCTV showed crew members in the small boat with a device shaped like a large soup can attached to a pole. It was hooked up by cords to electronic equipment in a padded suitcase as they poked the device into the water.

"If the Chinese have discovered this, they have found a new way of finding a needle in a haystack," said aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.com. "Because this is amazing. And if it proves to be correct, it's an extraordinarily lucky break."

Additional reporting by AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer / Web Designer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future