Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
In this April 9, 2014 photo provided by the Australian Defense Force, a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion flies past Australian Defense vessel Ocean Shield on a mission to drop sonar buoys to assist in the acoustic search of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The ship searching for the missing Malaysian jet has detected two more underwater signals that may be emanating from the aircraft's black boxes, and the Australian official in charge of the search expressed hope Wednesday that the plane's wreckage will soon be found. (AP Photo/Australian Defense Force, LSIS Bradley Darvill) EDITORIAL USE ONLY
More pings raise hopes plane will be found soon
First Published Apr 09 2014 08:25 am • Last Updated Apr 09 2014 09:24 am

Perth, Australia • The frustrating monthlong search for the Malaysian jetliner received a tremendous boost when a navy ship detected two more signals that most likely emanated from the aircraft’s black boxes. The Australian official coordinating the search expressed hope Wednesday that the wreckage will soon be found.

Angus Houston, head of a joint agency coordinating the search for the missing plane in the southern Indian Ocean, said that the Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield picked up the two signals on Tuesday, and that an analysis of two sounds detected on Saturday showed they were consistent with a plane’s black boxes.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"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," Houston said at a news conference in Perth, the hub for the search operation.

The signals detected 1,645 kilometers (1,020 miles) northwest of Perth are the strongest indication yet that the plane crashed and is now lying at the bottom of the ocean in the area where the search is now focused. Still, Houston warned he could not yet conclude that searchers had pinpointed Flight 370’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.

Finding the black boxes quickly is urgent because their locator beacons have a battery life of about a month, and Tuesday marked one month since the plane vanished with 239 people on board. If the batteries fail before the black boxes are located, finding them in such deep water — about 4,500 meters, or 15,000 feet — would be immensely difficult, if not impossible.

The Ocean Shield is towing a pinger locator from a U.S. Navy 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 the ship heard Saturday determined they were distinct, man-made and pulsed consistently, Houston said.

"They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder," he said.

To assist the Ocean Shield, the Australian navy was using parachutes to drop buoys in a pattern near where the signals were last heard.


story continues below
story continues below

Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy said each buoy will dangle a hydrophone listening device about 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the surface. The hope, he said, is the buoys will help better pinpoint the location of the signals.

Houston acknowledged searchers were running out of time, noting the last two signals were weaker and briefer than the first pair, suggesting the batteries are failing. One Saturday lasted two hours and 20 minutes and the second lasted 13 minutes; those heard Tuesday lasted just 5 and a half minutes and 7 minutes.

"So we need to, as we say in Australia, ‘make hay while the sun shines,’" Houston said.

The weakening of the signals also could indicate the device was farther away, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews said. Temperature, water pressure or the saltiness of the sea could also be factors.

Leavy said thick silt on the ocean floor also could distort the sounds, and may hide wreckage from the eventual visual search.

Houston said a decision had not yet been made on how long to use the towed pinger locator while knowing the beacons’ batteries will likely fail soon, saying only that a decision to deploy an unmanned submarine was "not far away."

"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," he said.

When the pinger locator’s use is exhausted, the unmanned sub will be sent to create a sonar map of a potential debris field on the seafloor. The Bluefin 21 sub takes six times longer to cover the same area as the pinger locator.

Matthews said the detections indicate the beacon is within about a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius, equal to a 1,300-square-kilometer (500-square-mile) chunk of the ocean floor.

That amounts to trying to find a desktop computer in a city the size of Los Angeles, and would take the sub about six weeks to two months to canvass. So it makes more sense to continue using the towed pinger locator to zero in on a more precise location, Matthews said.

"It’s certainly a man-made device emitting that signal," Matthews said. "And I have no explanation for what other component could be there."

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.