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'Promising lead' emerges in hunt for Flight MH370

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- After a month of failed hunting and finding debris that turned out to be ordinary flotsam, an Australian ship detected faint pings deep in the Indian Ocean in what an official called the "most promising lead" yet in the search for Flight 370.

Officials coordinating the multinational search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet still urged caution Monday after a weekend that also brought reports of "acoustic noise" picked up by a Chinese vessel also trying to solve the aviation mystery.

The Boeing 777 vanished March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board.

The focus of the search changed repeatedly since contact was lost with the plane between Malaysia and Vietnam. It began in the South China Sea, then shifted toward the Strait of Malacca to the west, where Malaysian officials eventually confirmed that military radar had detected the plane.

An analysis of satellite data indicated the plane veered far off course for a still-unknown reason, heading to the southern Indian Ocean, where officials say it went down at sea. They later shifted the search area closer to the west coast of Australia.

"We are cautiously hopeful that there will be a positive development in the next few days, if not hours," Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in the capital of Kuala Lumpur.

But Angus Houston, the retired Australian air chief marshal who heads the search operation, added: "We haven't found the aircraft yet."

The Ocean Shield, an Australian ship towing sophisticated U.S. Navy listening equipment, detected two distinct, long-lasting sounds underwater that are consistent with the pings from an aircraft's "black boxes" - the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, Houston said.

Navy specialists were urgently trying to pick up the signal detected Sunday by the Ocean Shield so they can triangulate its position and go to the next step of sending an unmanned miniature submarine into the depths to look for any plane wreckage.

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 flight recorder.

"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."

And in "very deep oceanic water," Houston said, "nothing happens fast."

"Clearly, this is a most promising lead," he said in Perth. "And probably in the search so far, it's probably the best information that we have had."

Houston said the signals picked up by the Ocean Shield were stronger and lasted longer than faint signals a Chinese ship reported hearing about 555 kilometers (345 miles) south in the remote search zone off Australia's west coast.

The British ship HMS Echo was using sophisticated sound-locating equipment to determine whether two separate sounds heard by the Chinese patrol vessel Haixun 01 were related to Flight 370. The Haixun detected a brief "pulse signal" on Friday and a second signal Saturday.

The Chinese reportedly were 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.

Little time is left to locate the flight recorders, whose locator beacons have a battery life of about a month. Tuesday marks exactly one month since the Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared.

China's official Xinhua News Agency reported late Saturday that the signal detected by the Haixun crew was pulsing at 37.5 kilohertz - the same frequency emitted by flight data recorders. Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, confirmed the frequency emitted by Flight 370's black boxes was 37.5 kilohertz.

The Ocean Shield picked up its signals late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

The first 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.

The frequency used by aircraft flight recorders was chosen because no other devices use it, and because nothing in the natural world mimics it, said William Waldock, a search-and-rescue expert who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.

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

But these signals are being detected by computer sweeps, and "not so much a guy with headphones on listening to pings," said U.S. Navy spokesman Chris Johnson. So until the signals are fully analyzed, it's too early to say what they are, he said.

"We'll hear lots of signals at different frequencies," he said. "Marine mammals. Our own ship systems. Scientific equipment, fishing equipment, things like that. And then of course there are lots of ships operating in the area that are all radiating certain signals into the ocean."-

The Ocean Shield is dragging a ping locator at a depth of 3 kilometers (1.9 miles). It 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 recorders 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."

While Matthews said the signals picked up by the Ocean Shield were both 33.3 kilohertz, the manufacturer indicated the frequency can drift in older equipment.

If they pick up the signal again, the crew will launch an underwater vehicle to investigate, Matthews said. The Bluefin 21 autonomous sub can create a sonar map of the area to chart any debris 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.

The water depth there is right at the limits of the sub's capability.

Meanwhile, the search effort continued on the surface.

Twelve planes and 14 ships scoured 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, something that gave Houston pause.

"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."


Breed reported from Raleigh, N.C. Associated Press writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Rohan Sullivan and Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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bajalou2u April 07 2014 at 11:49 PM

I always remember 'Bull Roar' as a nicer phrase for 'BS' ,which is most likely what we're getting yet again from the PTB!

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rodrigjose April 07 2014 at 7:16 PM

The Mir I and Mir II are battery-powered, three-person submersibles with a maximum operating depth of 6,000 m (20,000 ft). This deep-diving capability ranks the Mir vehicles among the deepest diving submersibles ever built, and gives them the capability to reach approximately 98% of the ocean floor.

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1 reply
mestranger2all rodrigjose April 07 2014 at 7:48 PM

Do they have to worry about decompression and nitrogen build up down that far even though they are in an enclosed tube. Do they have to come up at certain increments is what I am asking I guess

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1 reply
AzGrandma44 mestranger2all June 03 2014 at 3:40 PM


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kambanks April 07 2014 at 6:32 PM

So what this article is saying is it could be something or it could be nothing?

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1 reply
musomesa kambanks April 07 2014 at 7:04 PM

No. it is saying it is something but it might not be the something we are looking for.

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estimatorone April 07 2014 at 11:04 PM

Unfortunately, with every disaster like this, some good may come out of it. For one thing, maybe the aircraft manufacturers will come up with a better homing beacon then the limited range, and archaic, "ping" transmitter. Also, the failure of the Malaysian airline, and military, will have to be addressed. If the military did, in fact, track this plane, and knew it was flying off course, why did they not try to contact it? Why didn't they send up a plane to follow it, or at least, to check it out? I mean, here you got a plane, with no identification, flying over your air space, and no one checks it out? Hmm -- Again, fortunately, these incidents are fairly rare. However, learning from
the mistakes (miss-steps) now, may prevent, or reduce, these ridiculous search operation in the future.

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3 replies
bbnpl4545 April 07 2014 at 9:44 PM

After this there needs to be a upgrade to the black boxes on all planes. A back up power pack after the first one dies another would kick in giving 60+ days to find the plane.

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1 reply
bbnpl4545 bbnpl4545 April 07 2014 at 10:50 PM

This up grade could be done for as little as $5.00

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2 replies
obloodyblada bbnpl4545 April 07 2014 at 11:09 PM

It's amazing how you figured that out without any knowledge of the black boxes. AND...you know how much the imaginary upgrade will cost.

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bbnpl4545 bbnpl4545 April 07 2014 at 11:50 PM

I do have knowledge of black /orange boxes. Funny how you never know who you are talking to online. Think about that nexted time before you open your mouth.

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lntann April 08 2014 at 12:07 AM

Maybe its time for the manufactors to put a extra battery in so whenone stops the other one will take over, at least this will help them in the near future for any malfuntaion. Or make a battery that can last at least a few months, and very water resistant so water can't get in, they do it for camera's

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dohcman April 07 2014 at 10:19 PM

Its time to bring in the Captain............


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obloodyblada April 07 2014 at 8:45 PM

----New from AOL----

The same article once again with a new headline and new picture.

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thomcit April 08 2014 at 12:56 AM

I hope they find the plane soon for 2 reasons: (1) to give closure to the families and (2) to stop the endless and burgeoning stream of theories, assumptions, innuendo and uneducated guesses.

I just watched 10 minutes of CNN and received my daily update. CNN is enjoying a ratings boost due to their 24/7 coverage. I knew they would continue to repeat the latest findings (ad nauseam).

One fact we can glean from all of the experts (including their differing interpretations of the info released thus far) are the technical complications and extreme difficulty of obtaining accurate data at such depths and varied terrain (mountains, valleys, cracks and crevices). All of these guys have clearly iterated the reasoning behind their particular take on the little data that is known. At least they have viable scientific/mathematical justification to back their various interpretations. They (at least the group I happened to catch) are basing their opinions the little data collected up to this point.

They all agree, based on the data collected thus far (they are placing varying degrees of importance on "known" data)

Conversely, many of you are trying make your case based on "unknown data", which is always the basis for conspiracy theories and wild speculation. I understand the fascination because this is a mystery.

But, the comments from those who obviously have zero knowledge of the scientific method and no knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of our current technology is somewhat irritating. For example, one commenter couldn't understand how we can still track the "Voyager l" (launched in the late 70's and now outside our solar system) via an extremely faint signal....yet not find a large passenger plane here on earth. The reason is simple: we know where "Voyager I" is located and we have sophisticated computers who can remove all of the extraneous radio noise (emanating from earth, stars, etc.) and isolate the specific radio frequency from the vacuum of space (radio waves are light waves and thus, travel at the speed of light). The various interpretations from the experts should be informative enough to recognize the extreme difficulty of locating this lost passenger plane.

Knowledgeable experts also place varying degrees of importance on the theory that the plane deliberately flew around Indonesia to escape radar detection. All of those theories are (at least) logical arguments based on the limited info we know.

As for the "guesses" that his was a terrorist act, a landing in some remote area or the result of collusion among one or more nations (whatever), they are based on zilch. Some remind me of the enormous leaps of logic used by Glenn Beck to reach his absurd conclusions. In my opinion, Glenn Beck is an uneducated, experienced Dee-Jay, pandering to a demographic, ready and willing to believe anything (esp. if "conspiracies" are the topic).

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1 reply
ggfraser921 thomcit April 09 2014 at 7:56 PM

im glad you 're smart

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lntann April 08 2014 at 12:13 AM

Maybe they should also make sure that nothing can be turned off by any one flying the plane, or if so some thing will turn it back on and the tower will be on top of it ASAP , some one didn't want this plane to be found, and its not fair that he ones on board had to suffer along with their family's.

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