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2 new pings sound 'just like' black box beacons

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- An Australian ship detected two distinct, long-lasting sounds underwater that are consistent with the pings from aircraft black boxes in a major break in the monthlong hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, the search coordinator said Monday.

Navy specialists were urgently trying to pick up the signal again so they can triangulate its position and go to the next step of sending an unmanned miniature submarine into the depths to try to identify plane wreckage.

Confirmation that the signals picked up by the Australian navy ship Ocean Shield belong to Flight 370's black boxes could take days, but the discovery offers "a most promising lead" yet, said Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency coordinating the multinational search. They were stronger and lasted longer than faint signals a Chinese ship reported hearing farther south in the search zone in the remote Indian Ocean.

"Clearly this is a most promising lead, and probably in the search so far, it's probably the best information that we have had," Houston said at a news conference. "We've got a visual indication on a screen and we've also got an audible signal - and the audible signal sounds to me just like an emergency locator beacon."

After a monthlong search for answers filled with dead ends, Monday's news brought fresh hope given that the two black boxes, which contain flight data and cockpit voice recordings, are the key to unraveling exactly what happened to Flight 370 and why.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammudin Hussein told reporters that in light of the new information, "We are cautiously hopeful that there will be a positive development in the next few days, if not hours."

Little time is left to locate the devices, which have beacons that emit "pings" so they can be more easily found. The beacons' batteries last only about a month - and Tuesday marks exactly one month since the plane disappeared during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

The Ocean Shield, which is carrying high-tech sound detectors from the U.S. Navy, picked up two separate signals late Saturday night and early Sunday morning in seas far off the west Australian coast that search crews have been crisscrossing for weeks. The first signal lasted two hours and 20 minutes before it was lost. The ship then turned around and picked up a signal again - this time recording two distinct "pinger returns" that lasted 13 minutes, Houston said.

"Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder," Houston said.

Still, Houston cautioned that it was too early to say the transmissions were coming from the missing jet.

"I would want more confirmation before we say this is it," he said. "Without wreckage, we can't say it's definitely here. We've got to go down and have a look."

The ping locator is pulled behind the ship at a depth of 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) and is designed to detect signals at a range of 1.8 kilometers (1.12 miles), meaning it would need to be almost on top of the black boxes to detect them if they were on the ocean floor, which is about 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) deep.

"It's like playing hot and cold when you're searching for something and someone's telling you you're getting warmer and warmer and warmer," U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews said. "When you're right on top of it you get a good return."

The black boxes normally emit a frequency of 37.5 kilohertz, and the signals picked up by the Ocean Shield were both 33.3 kilohertz, he said. But the manufacturer indicated the frequency of black boxes can drift in older equipment.

The Ocean Shield was slowly canvassing a small area trying to find the signal again, though that could take another day, Matthews said.

If they pick up the signal again, the crew will launch an underwater vehicle to investigate, he said. The Bluefin 21 autonomous sub can create a sonar map of the area to chart where the debris may lie on the sea floor. If it maps out a debris field, the crew will replace the sonar system with a camera unit to photograph any wreckage.

That may prove tricky because the water depth is right at the limits of the sub's capability.

"It could take some days before the information is available to establish whether these detections can be confirmed as being from MH370," Houston said. "In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast."

Geoff Dell, discipline leader of accident investigation at Central Queensland University in Australia, said it would be "coincidental in the extreme" for the sounds to have come from anything other than an aircraft's black box.

"If they have a got a legitimate signal, and it's not from one of the other vessels or something, you would have to say they are within a bull's roar," he said. "There's still a chance that it's a spurious signal that's coming from somewhere else and they are chasing a ghost, but it certainly is encouraging that they've found something to suggest they are in the right spot."

Meanwhile, the British ship HMS Echo, was using sophisticated sound-locating equipment to try to determine whether two separate sounds heard by a Chinese ship about 555 kilometers (345 miles) away from the Ocean Shield were related to the plane. The patrol vessel Haixun 01 detected a brief "pulse signal" on Friday and a second signal on Saturday.

The crew of the Chinese ship reportedly picked up the signals using a sonar device called a hydrophone dangled over the side of a small boat - something experts said was technically possible but extremely unlikely. The equipment aboard the British and Australian ships is dragged slowly behind each vessel over long distances and is considered far more sophisticated.

The search effort continued on the ocean surface Monday. Twelve planes and 14 ships searched three designated zones, one of which overlaps with the Ocean Shield's underwater search. All of the previous surface searches have found only fishing equipment or other sea trash floating in the water.


Associated Press writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Rohan Sullivan and Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.

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Larry April 07 2014 at 1:59 PM

They are showing two pings 600 km apart. That is the distance between Cleveland , Oh and Chicago, Illinois. A lot of difference for one day. If the pings are from the same source and the range of the black box signal is two miles, it could indicate the plane is floating underwater and moving with the current. I don't have the information but if air was trapped in the plane I wonder if there could have a "Poseidon" effect and the plane is partially submerged.

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orion15stars Larry April 07 2014 at 2:38 PM

Aircraft doesn't float under water. Parts of aircraft sink underwater but don't float underwater or on the surface of the water. The sound transmission can only give an approximation of the location under the water. Black boxes emit ultra-sonic radio frequency waves for transmission. As such, they need sonar frequency to locate them under water.

There is a major difference between the design and components of a luxury ocean liner vs. any aircraft. What you described would not happen. Aircraft will float even if torn asunder on the top or the bottom. The air pocket inside the balance of an intact fuselage and flight deck will keep it afloat. As long as the balance of the plane sans the wings stay intact, that balance will float intact because of the air pocket filling the flight deck, fuselage, and tail area.

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Larry orion15stars April 07 2014 at 3:15 PM

You're right if the airplane breaks up. I see not reason to debate something that neither one of us could prove with information available but I can see a plane with a pressurized cabin staying intact upon landing in the ocean and partially filling with water. That could partially submerge the craft similar to a submarine and only sinking to a limited depth in the salt water ocean without hitting bottom. The plane that landed in the Hudson River at NY is an example of an airplane floating on the water. Those fuel tanks were full of fuel and it floated with the doors open for a long time. In any case we won't know for sure unless the plane is found.

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SumBreezeHuh Larry April 07 2014 at 7:42 PM

I think the faint couple of minutes that the Chinese heard is unlikely to be the location of the black boxes. It would be quite the coup if the Chinese has discovered the correct location, but I seriously doubt their soup can on a stick detected anything of significance. I think the Australian boat has located the correct pings, especially since they were able to follow one of them for over 2 hours.

Your theory is interesting though. There was a woman flying over the Andaman islands who claimed to see a plane partially submerged in that area. The stewardess told her to go back to sleep and the pilot brushed it off as well. This was before anyone knew that 370 was missing that day. She landed in Malaysia and went to the police to report what she saw - and was again told she was mistaken. Of course, now that the pings are being heard somewhere else, you have to wonder, but this woman was so certain that she saw a plane with the tail sticking out of the water near the Andaman islands.

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xyaumzoo April 07 2014 at 3:00 PM

What a mysterious incident! What if it is not found what would we think about this in the coming years?

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travasham April 07 2014 at 6:31 PM

why is a mystery automatically a conspiracy?... just because the malaysian government is incompetent and secretive proves nothing. just because the plane went way off course proves nothing. Why don't we wait and see if they find something that proves something. you people are letting your immaginations run away with you.

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STAN April 07 2014 at 6:24 PM

I am still wondering what or who is on that plane that somebody want's it pretty much burried forever.Personally i think it rather obvious that some body went to extreme lengths to make sure of the remotest possibilities of it ever being found.(deepest,most remote and hostile climate on earth pretty much),coincidence i think not.

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acmeme April 07 2014 at 3:40 PM

Happy hunting.

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Maria Martinez April 07 2014 at 12:52 PM

I admire the persistence of the searchers and I hope that they find the Black Box and anything else that will bring closure to the grieving families. On the ground, to people in an airport, that Boeing 777 looks like a gigantic fortress. just like the Titanic looked to the passengers on the dock. But in function, these marvels of shipbuilding and avaiation become the tiniest specks, at the mercy of human error, technological failuire and the howling elements of wind , water, ice and fire.

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2 replies
KILO ROCK BRAVO Maria Martinez April 07 2014 at 12:56 PM

I'm sorry Maria. By vote of the majority of our cretinous commenters..........your comments, make to much sense and are therefor prohibited from further submission.

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1 reply
lgvxl42 KILO ROCK BRAVO April 07 2014 at 1:04 PM

...........Hey Kilo!. I resemble er, resent that remark.

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Beautiful Maria Martinez April 07 2014 at 1:09 PM

Orange box. It's an orange bos.
Black box is insensitive to certain races. Some people find it racist.........

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2 replies
cliffy934 Beautiful April 07 2014 at 1:19 PM

Beautiful, you need to close your mouth in your picture and lighten up just a tad. Black box, black shoes, black auto, black coat, when you mention anything black, do you really think anyone would using the word black is being a racist?

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SumBreezeHuh Beautiful April 07 2014 at 2:17 PM

Shut up you troll.

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RockNHula April 07 2014 at 5:40 PM

The voice recorder is not shielded like the black box. It is significant that it might have survived the crash as that would indicate a less violent impact, like maybe a water landing.

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chetrandom April 07 2014 at 4:15 PM

I hope after this is over, and we have a definitive explanation of what transpired, that tracking of planes gets a technological upgrade (like GPS) and better regulation, plus black box technology is brought up to date. Time until failure (30 days) and range (a mile or more, depending on the receiver) "sounds" like 50 year old technology.

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donbroomall5 April 07 2014 at 5:18 PM


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airamrka April 07 2014 at 5:14 PM

They will find the aircraft and the black box and I pray that it will show the equipment was the cause of this. Whatever happens, the families of the passengers need closuer.

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