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China ship hears `signal'; unclear if jet-related

Ship Hears 'Signal'; Unclear If Jet-Related


By NICK PERRY and EILEEN NG

PERTH, Australia (AP) - A Chinese ship involved in the hunt for the missing Malaysian jetliner reported hearing a "pulse signal" Saturday in southern Indian Ocean waters with the same frequency emitted by the plane's data recorders, as Malaysia vowed not to give up the search for the jet.

The Australian government agency coordinating the search for the missing plane said early Sunday that the electronic pulse signals reportedly detected by the Chinese ship are consistent with those of an aircraft black box. But retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the head of the search coordination agency, said they "cannot verify any connection" at this stage between the electronic signals and the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Military and civilian planes, ships with deep-sea searching equipment and a British nuclear submarine scoured a remote patch of the southern Indian Ocean off Australia's west coast, in an increasingly urgent hunt for debris and the "black box" recorders that hold vital information about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's last hours.

After weeks of fruitless looking, officials face the daunting prospect that sound-emitting beacons in the flight and voice recorders will soon fall silent as their batteries die after sounding electronic "pings" for a month.

A Chinese ship that is part of the search effort detected a "pulse signal" in southern Indian Ocean waters, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. Xinhua, however, said it had not yet been determined whether the signal was related to the missing plane, citing the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center.

Xinhua said a black box detector deployed by the ship, Haixun 01, picked up a signal at 37.5 kilohertz (cycles per second), the same frequency emitted by flight data recorders.

Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, confirmed that the frequency emitted by Flight 370's black boxes were 37.5 kilohertz and said authorities were verifying the report.

Earlier Saturday, Xinhua reported that a Chinese military aircraft searching for the missing aircraft spotted "white floating objects" not far from where the electronic signals were detected.

Houston said the Australian-led Joint Agency Coordination Centre heading the search operation could not yet verify the Chinese reports and had asked China for "any further information that may be relevant." He said the Australian air force was considering deploying more aircraft to the area where the Chinese ship reportedly detected the sounds.

"I have 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," Houston said, adding that the Australian-led agency had also received reports of the white objects sighted on the ocean surface about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from where the electronic signals were detected.

"However, there is no confirmation at this stage that the signals and the objects are related to the missing aircraft," Houston said.

Still, Malaysia's defense minister and acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, was hopeful. "Another night of hope - praying hard," he tweeted in response to the latest discoveries.

There are many clicks, buzzes and other sounds in the ocean from animals, but the 37.5 kilohertz pulse was selected for underwater locator beacons on black boxes because there is nothing else in the sea that would naturally make that sound, said William Waldock, an expert on search and rescue who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.

"They picked that (frequency) so there wouldn't be false alarms from other things in the ocean," he said.

Honeywell Aerospace, which made the boxes in the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, said the Underwater Acoustic Beacons on both the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder operate at a frequency of 37.5 kilohertz plus or minus 1 kilohertz.

Waldock cautioned that "it's possible it could be an aberrant signal" from a nuclear submarine if there was one in the vicinity.

If the sounds can be verified, it would reduce the search area to about 10 square kilometers (4 square miles), Waldock said. Unmanned robot subs with sidescan sonar would then be sent into the water to try to locate the wreckage, he said.

John Goglia, a former U.S. National Transportation Safety Board member, called the report "exciting," but cautioned that "there is an awful lot of noise in the ocean."

"One ship, one ping doesn't make a success story," he said. "It will have to be explored. I guarantee you there are other resources being moved into the area to see if it can be verified."

The Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people aboard. So far, no trace of the jet has been found.

Hishammuddin, the Malaysian defense minister, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that the cost of mounting the search was immaterial compared to providing solace for the families of those on board by establishing what happened.

"I can only speak for Malaysia, and Malaysia will not stop looking for MH370," Hishammuddin said.

He said an independent investigator would be appointed to lead a team that will try to determine what happened to Flight 370. The team will include three groups: One will look at airworthiness, including maintenance, structures and systems; another will examine operations, such as flight recorders and meteorology; and a third will consider medical and human factors.

The investigation team will include officials and experts from several nations, including Australia - which as the nearest country to the search zone is currently heading the hunt - China, the United States, Britain and France, Hishammuddin said.

A multinational search team is desperately trying to find debris floating in the water or faint sound signals from the data recorders that could lead them to the missing plane and unravel the mystery of its fate.

Finding floating wreckage is key to narrowing the search area, as officials can then use data on currents to backtrack to where the plane hit the water, and where the flight recorders may be.

Beacons in the black boxes emit "pings" so they can be more easily found, but the batteries last for only about a month.

Officials have said the hunt for the wreckage is among the hardest ever undertaken, and will get much harder still if the beacons fall silent before they are found.

"Where we're at right now, four weeks since this plane disappeared, we're much, much closer," said aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.com. "But frustratingly, we're still miles away from finding it. We need to find some piece of debris on the water; we need to pick up the ping."

If it doesn't happen, the only hope for finding the plane may be a full survey of the Indian Ocean floor, an operation that would take years and an enormous international operation.

Hishammuddin said there were no new satellite images or data that can provide new leads for searchers. The focus now is fully on the ocean search, he said.

Two ships - the Australian navy's Ocean Shield and the British HMS Echo - carrying sophisticated equipment that can hear the recorders' pings returned Saturday to an area investigators hope is close to where the plane went down. They concede the area they have identified is a best guess.

Up to 13 military and civilian planes and nine other ships took part in the search Saturday, the Australian agency coordinating the search said.

Because the U.S. Navy's pinger locator can pick up signals to a depth of 6,100 meters (20,000 feet), it should be able to hear the plane's data recorders even if they are in the deepest part of the search zone - about 5,800 meters (19,000 feet). But that's only if the locator gets within range of the black boxes - a tough task, given the size of the search area and the fact that the pinger locator must be dragged slowly through the water at just 1 to 5 knots (1 to 6 mph).

Australia's Houston acknowledged the search area was essentially a best guess, and noted the time when the plane's locator beacons would shut down was "getting pretty close."

The overall search area is a 217,000-square-kilometer (84,000-square-mile) zone in the southern Indian Ocean, about 1,700 kilometers (1,100 miles) northwest of the western Australian city of Perth.

___

Ng reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Associated Press writers Gillian Wong in Kuala Lumpur, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, Kristen Gelineau and Rohan Sullivan in Sydney, and Joan Lowy in Washington contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
mestranger2all April 05 2014 at 10:25 PM

Why does China do everything with out the proper channels being done like letting the organizing nation know what was discovered and let them do what they feel is best I think China is playing games and this will not pan out

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daisy41507 April 06 2014 at 4:14 AM

I'm inspired by the International cooperation including between sometimes and potential enemies. I'm reminded that about 20 years ago a whale or maybe a whale and its baby or a pod of whales got trapped in ice in the Arctic, and practically every nation that had a vessel that could help free put their differences aside to help the whales.

Some of these countries were mortal enemies. It convinces me that the great Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, was correct when he said that Love and Power are a pair of opposites (not love and hate). When the whole world loves-- loved whales trapped in ice or a two year old girl at the bottom of a well in Midland, Tex (that was about 25yrs ago) or a plane full of innocent people that has been inexplicably lost, we bind together in love as the ONE people we really are. After 9/11 I heard Queen Nor (sp?) of Jordan say, "I don't identify myself as an American OR a Jordanian. I see myself as a world citizen".

I did outpatient psychotherapy for a quarter of a century, usually with individual adults or couples. At the heart of almost every painful issue was an imbalance in the opposites: Love and Power. For instance, those who had been "dumped" were the most "in love" with the ex who had ALL the power UNTIL he or she got aligned with his or her own power.

Then they weren't obsessed anymore. (In obsession the obsessed always is giving their power away.)

Power and politics are the same thing. If only we could infuse all politics, local AND international with LOVE, "what a wonderful world it would be". (Louis Armstrong)

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1 reply
wnagle53 daisy41507 April 06 2014 at 6:40 AM

I REMEMBER that !! Yes, the Japanese said those whates were good eating.

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R2B2 April 05 2014 at 10:48 PM

As they say in mathematics, its a necessary but not sufficient condition. The signal, if actually received, could be many things, only one of which is the flight recorder. Based on the previous sightings and reports of parts of the aircraft that didn't pan out, it doesn't look favorable for this to be real.

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wizardsking April 05 2014 at 9:27 PM

I am sure they had other vessels in this same area with sonar capable of picking up a ping from what is now being said the Chinese Govt has located. There are so many things that can send off a false siginal that would not be related to a flight recorder. This is but another see........ we have better technology and can do a better job than you.
The facts are clear, There is no way IN HELL you are going to go through the trouble of evasion by disabling equiptment just so you can successfully CRASH
The mear thought, and pre-meditated actions of this pilot leads to one thing and one thing only. In concert with his Terroist Allied parteners they wanted this unflagged non-military passenger plane to be used for other purposes.
I can only speculate which countries would be involved. However, the facts do not point to a crash.
YOU DONT GET ALL DRESSED UP TO GO TO BED.

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1 reply
Cath's wizardsking April 05 2014 at 10:26 PM

As usual, I couldn't agree with you more. The facts don't point to a crash . However, I'm hesitant to even suggest that perhaps the search efforts aren't as intense as 'authorities' would like everyone to believe. Perhaps it's just a lot of postering on behalf of some involved with this mission to evade and avoid the truth as long as possible. Afterall, none of us are actually there to witness, first hand, any in depth, rescue efforts. The media runs with what they're fed.

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631207948 April 06 2014 at 4:07 AM

The comments on this are disgusting and shows the lack of respect people need to have for each other. Malaysia screwed up not CNN or the U.S. or China or any other country. Malaysia should have taken the offered help right from the start.

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dohcman April 06 2014 at 1:12 AM

You have to love the title: "China ship hears `signal'; unclear if jet-related" kinda reminds me of the scene at the end of the "Hunt For Red October" when we ask the Russians if they lost yet another submarine!!! Better Yet, perhaps we should just send in "Stingray" to find the plane: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmDjygrG3_4

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fa1thful1 April 06 2014 at 12:36 AM

Scary thought: IF the jet didn't crash? Media made a big point of advertising the timeframe till the pinger stops? U ponder if the day the pinger expires, that jet fires up on some remote landing terrorist airstrip and get loaded with something? THINK ABOUT IT, IF terrorists wanted a jet they wouldn't move it again until it stops pinging!

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1 reply
la231 fa1thful1 April 06 2014 at 1:00 AM

Another ping(3rd one) was heard about an hour and a half ago, but of course they can't confirm if related to the plane. I'm not saying it did or did not crash.

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mtaylorus April 06 2014 at 6:07 AM

Very very traumatic for the families connected to the passangers and the prayers of anyone who has ever been a passanger in a plane, I hope is with them.
At the same time this is a very difficult search to be fair to everyone. A theory could be that a catastrophic event occurred whether accident or intended that cut off oxygen to all, and, if so, their passing would have been quick and relatively painless. One theory is that the plane could have gone on in automatic pilot mode until the fuel ran out, which according to some information could have been up to 3000 miles, and then went down. Considering the Indian Ocean is so large it is about 20% of the entire Worlds Ocean space, and that it's under sea "mountains" from sea floor to the tip of the mountain (an island) that appears above the water, can be 26,000 feet in height in some places, it is understandable that this is the needle in the haystack of a challenge. To appreciate the debth to which a plane could go to, it is worth mentioning that Mount Everest, one of our mountains above sea level is 29,000. feet high. God Bless all of the familes and bring peace to them.

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Jack April 05 2014 at 10:20 PM

The depth of the signal is up to 19,000 feet!
That's 6000 feet deeper than Titanic!
Even if it's 15 - 16,000 feet, good luck with that.
Time to call Dr. Ballard if & when the signal quits.

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1 reply
mestranger2all Jack April 05 2014 at 10:26 PM

we cant even get there visually its to hostile pressure and stuff for sensitive cameras and things

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r7168 April 05 2014 at 11:57 PM

very sad...all this tech,and no one can find this plane.....

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