Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370: Australian search teams relocate pinger signals

Search team leader says discovery of jet's final resting place could only be days away

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 received a major boost today after a ship successfully managed to relocate underwater signals that could guide the authorities to the plane's final location.

Authorities said the “pings” coming from the depths of the Indian Ocean could only be made by a mechanical source, and that the news means they are “now optimistic that we will find the aircraft”.

The signals were picked up by the Australian navy vessel Ocean Shield, one of two ships in the search that boasts sophisticated “pinger locator” equipment, in a sweep of the search area carried out on Tuesday.

Today Angus Houston, the head of the joint agency coordinating the hunt for the Boeing 777, said analysis of two signals detected in the same area last week confirmed they were consistent with what would be issued by a plane's two black boxes.

“I'm now optimistic that we will find the aircraft, or what is left of the aircraft, in the not too distant future - but we haven't found it yet, because this is a very challenging business,” Mr Houston said.

“Hopefully in a matter of days, we will be able to find something on the bottom that might confirm that this is the last resting place of MH370,” the retired air force chief told reporters at the search headquarters in Perth.

Ocean Shield first detected underwater sounds on Saturday before losing them, but managed to pick up the signals again on Tuesday, Houston said. The ship is equipped with a US Navy towed pinger locator that is designed to detect signals from a plane's two black boxes — the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

A data analysis of the signals detected Saturday determined they were stable, distinct and clear sounds that pulsed consistently — indicating they were coming from a plane's black box, Houston said.

“(The analysts) therefore assess that the transmission was not of natural origin and was likely sourced from specific electronic equipment,” Houston said. “They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder.”

Despite the promising evidence, Houston warned that he could not yet conclude that searchers had pinpointed MH370's crash site.

“I think that we're looking in the right area, but I'm not prepared to say — to confirm — anything until such time as somebody lays eyes on the wreckage,” he said.“And I would just like to have that hard evidence...photograph evidence...that this is the final resting place of MH370.” Graphic showing the location of the two sets of signals and planned search area off the west coast of Australia Graphic showing the location of the two sets of signals and planned search area off the west coast of Australia
For enlarged view of graphic click here

Finding the sound again is crucial to narrowing the search area so a small submarine can be deployed to chart a potential debris field on the sea bed. If the autonomous sub was used now with the sparse data collected so far, covering all the potential places from which the pings might have come would take many days.

“The better Ocean Shield can define the area, the easier it will be for the autonomous underwater vehicle to subsequently search for aircraft wreckage,” Mr Houston said.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, carrying 239 people on board, went missing on 8 March en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, beginning one of aviation's biggest mysteries.

The search has shifted from waters off of Vietnam, to the Strait of Malacca and then finally to waters in the southern Indian Ocean as data from radar and satellites was further analysed.

The locator beacons on the black boxes have a battery life of only about a month - and yesterday marked exactly one month since the plane vanished. Once the beacons blink off, locating the black boxes in such deep water would be an immensely difficult, if not impossible, task.

In addition to the depth and remoteness of the area, search crews are also contending with layers of silt on the sea bed that can both hide any possible wreckage and distort the sounds emanating from the black boxes that may be resting there, said Royal Australian Navy commodore Peter Leavy.

Meanwhile, the search for debris on the ocean surface picked up intensity, with 15 planes and 14 ships scouring a 29,121 square mile area that extends from 1,405 miles north west of Perth.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test