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More pings raise hopes missing MH370 jetliner will be found soon

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- After a navy ship heard more signals from deep in the Indian Ocean, the head of the search for the missing Malaysian jetliner said Wednesday he believes the hunt is closing in on the "final resting place" of Flight 370.

The Australian vessel Ocean Shield picked up two signals Tuesday, and an analysis of two other sounds detected Saturday showed they were consistent with a plane's flight recorders, or "black boxes," said Angus Houston, the Australian official coordinating the search for the Malaysian Airlines jet.

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

Finding the flight data and cockpit voice recorders soon is important because their locator beacons have a battery life of about a month, and Tuesday marked one month since Flight 370 vanished March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people aboard.

If the batteries fail before the recorders are located, finding them in such deep water - about 4,500 meters, or 15,000 feet - would be difficult, if not impossible.

"I believe we are searching in the right area, but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370," Houston said. "For the sake of the 239 families, this is absolutely imperative."

The hope expressed by Houston contrasted with the frustrating monthlong search for the Boeing 777, which disappeared shortly after takeoff in one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history. The plane veered off-course for an unknown reason, with officials saying that satellite data indicates it went down in the southern Indian Ocean off the coast of western Australia. The black boxes could help solve that mystery.

The signals detected 1,645 kilometers (1,020 miles) northwest of Perth by the Ocean Shield's towed ping locators are the strongest indication yet that the plane crashed and is now at the bottom of the ocean in the area where the search is now focused.

A data analysis of the signals 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 dropped buoys by parachute in a pattern near where the signals were last heard.

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 signals.

Houston acknowledged searchers were running out of time, noting the last two signals were weaker and briefer than the first pair heard Saturday, suggesting the batteries are failing. One lasted two hours and 20 minutes and the second lasted 13 minutes; those heard Tuesday lasted just 5 1/2 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 ping locator while knowing the beacons' batteries will likely fail soon, saying only that a decision to deploy an unmanned submarine in the search 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 ping locator's use is exhausted, the unmanned sub will be sent to create a sonar map of a potential debris field on the seabed. The Bluefin 21 sub takes six times longer to cover the same area as the ping 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's like 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 ping locator to zero in on a more precise location, Matthews said.

The Bluefin sub's sonar scans about to 100 meters and can "see" with lights and cameras only a few meters. Its maximum dive depth is 4,500 meters, and some areas of the search zone are deeper.

The audio search was narrowed to its current position after engineers predicted a flight path by analyzing signals between the plane and a satellite and investigators used radar data to determine the plane's speed and where it may have run out of fuel.

Houston noted that all four of the pings detected since Saturday were near the site of a final, partial "handshake" signal revealed earlier in the investigation.

He also noted the surface search for any floating debris has been adjusted and intensified based on where the four pings were heard and where ocean currents might have caused objects to drift. Fifteen planes and 14 ships searched a 75,400-square-kilometer area that extends from 2,250 kilometers northwest of Perth on Wednesday.

Despite the challenges, those involved in the hunt were buoyed by the Ocean Shield's findings.

"I'm an engineer so I don't talk emotions too much," Matthews said. "But certainly when I received word that they had another detection, you feel elated. You're hopeful that you can locate the final resting place of the aircraft and bring closure to all the families involved."


Gelineau reported from Sydney. Associated Press Writer Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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David Roberts April 09 2014 at 10:41 PM

More BS to keep you tuned in.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
dorc792 April 09 2014 at 3:23 PM

goof balls are out .....they all know the anserers.....

Flag Reply +3 rate up
junky55 April 09 2014 at 3:26 PM

The conspiracy theories posted here are amazing. People really do need to get a life.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
2 replies
Lisa junky55 April 09 2014 at 3:39 PM

Stupid comment

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
ronhalpern Lisa April 09 2014 at 4:06 PM

No, your comment is stupid.

Flag +3 rate up
nick723 junky55 April 09 2014 at 4:06 PM

Moreover, they need to get an education.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
mlwolfman April 09 2014 at 11:27 PM

Don't joke about something so tragic. If you can't say something intelligent then don't say anything. What if your mother or father or family were on board.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
quincy_maxwell April 09 2014 at 11:30 PM

Nothing like waiting until the last minute to do what they should have done 3 weeks ago.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
SumBreezeHuh April 09 2014 at 2:00 PM

This is good news. Hope they can keep zeroing in to make the sub's work easier and faster. The Aussie's Ocean Shield is one tricked out ship... a beauty.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
flyingfortresb17 April 09 2014 at 3:28 PM

Both the flight recorder and the cockpit voice recorder are in a similar area in the plane but that does not make it they will both end up in the same place. However I agree that the recorders should be placed in an area where they can be expelled away from the plane with a flotation device in case of a water landing with large green dye markers.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
1 reply
ahelgerson63 flyingfortresb17 April 09 2014 at 3:58 PM

Awesome idea.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
rothhammer1 ahelgerson63 April 09 2014 at 6:47 PM

The burger looks good..... hold the onions, please.

Flag 0 rate up
ahelgerson63 April 09 2014 at 3:55 PM

If the aircraft made a "Hudson River"-style landing and just glided down onto the ocean without breaking up, then maybe it just sank intact and there might not be a huge debris field floating anywhere. Just my theory.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
lgvxl42 ahelgerson63 April 09 2014 at 4:18 PM

...........In 30 to 40 foot sea's?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Mark April 09 2014 at 9:06 PM

I was on a US warship in 1983 when the Soviets shot down KAL 007 in the Sea of Japan. We searched for the black box for over 30 days, along with alot of other ships, and never found the box. It's not an easy thing to find, like a needle in a haystack type thing.
The technology today is far more advanced than it was then, so I keep faith that they are going to find this wreckage and bring some finality into the families of these poor victims.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
2 replies
AFD Mark April 09 2014 at 9:36 PM

8 days after the aircraft was shot down, i was on a flight from Seattle on Northwest Orient 747 to Seoul, South Korea. USARMY Charter Along with 300 other soldiers. Was the beginning of my army service and spent the next 12 years , proudly serving my country. Was a uneventful flight but always thought the USAF was on our wing, with a F-16. Thanks eveyone for there service and civilians for there support. USA E-6

Flag Reply +5 rate up
Jim and Sandy Mark April 09 2014 at 10:22 PM

LOL. So the technology today is "far more advanced" than it was in 1983 that the life of the black box batteries today is 30-45 days???

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
rothhammer1 Jim and Sandy April 10 2014 at 4:53 AM

You have an odd sense of 'humor.'

Flag 0 rate up
djuro April 10 2014 at 12:23 AM

Hope some answers come soon for the families of the missing............Fingers crossed!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
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