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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.

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junky55 April 09 2014 at 3:26 PM

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

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2 replies
Lisa junky55 April 09 2014 at 3:39 PM

Stupid comment

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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
muxiruss April 09 2014 at 2:25 PM

With today's technology, why don't the black boxes on commercial aircraft constantly transmit aircraft data and voice recordings plus GPS location info to a satellite and then relayed to the flight's company headquarters? Then, there would be no question of where the plane is and what happened to cause it to crash.

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tbrad456 April 09 2014 at 12:59 PM

Heavenly Father lead those who search for the remnants of this missing flight and lead them to the black boxes and eventuallu to the remains of any of your children that can be recovered and indentified. Let your wisdom and all knowing knowledge guide the teams to finding the aircraft remains and the reccorded boxes that most questions can be answered. In the name of Jesus we ask this of You. Amen

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2 replies
hway395 tbrad456 April 09 2014 at 1:08 PM

Amen, tbrad456! Ever since the *claimed* Maldives sighting of a loud, low flying plane, I've felt these families would receive their answers. This search area sounds so promising that my heart breaks from anxiety for the families. Hats off to all the search crews who have been working their tails off to bring some healing for all concerned. AOL, thank you for keeping us updated!! Many would like answers to this mystery & for those tiring of your updates, welllll, I guess they don't have to read or they can change channels on their news stations.

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wittlief tbrad456 April 09 2014 at 2:31 PM

Really tb, is that what you are asking your imaginary friend for?
Why don't you ask jesus to magically make all the dead passengers
who have been at the bottom of the ocean for a month
all wake up in their beds tomorrow morning?

jesus said "whatsoever you ask for in my name, it shall be granted unto you!"
so whats all this nonsense about black boxes?!

where is your faith?!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
izabo April 09 2014 at 2:11 PM

I don't know about the terrorist theory. Terrorists want to get as much attention as possible and cause as much damage to 'terrorize' others. If you're a terrorist and you have a fully fueled rocket, you would crash that plane into as many people as you could, not fly silently into the abyss. I tend to believe the fire theory, that makes more sense to me. Now what caused the fire could very well have been a terrorist act. Those black boxes hold the answers. God bless the families of those missing.

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dorc792 April 09 2014 at 3:23 PM

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

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B INSANE OBOZO April 09 2014 at 1:58 PM

we'll see... and then the NTSB can get it figured out

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opt4net April 09 2014 at 3:21 PM

I hope they find this plane so all the families can have closier!

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2 replies
flyingfortresb17 opt4net April 09 2014 at 3:30 PM

I hate that word. There is no such thing as closure. Grieving pain goes away slowly and at different rates.

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1 reply
Denise flyingfortresb17 April 09 2014 at 4:53 PM

I hate the word 'closier' too! LOL!

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pawpawx2 opt4net April 09 2014 at 4:32 PM

I agree with that.

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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.

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Spok99202 April 09 2014 at 2:18 PM

There has been so much mis-information on this that I don't know what to believe. Originally, a flight pattern with several direction changes north of Maylasia was shown. Then not. Then it turned south. Then not - - instead, now it turned north and went around Indonesia. Then the "All Right, good night", and then not. The "calculated" satellite-ping track seems to get re-adjusted to fit whatever is the current best hope, then not. Was the sign-off by flight 370 before, or after, it made the initial course change? Who the hell knows? I just hope they find it.

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1 reply
badgeorgie Spok99202 April 09 2014 at 2:24 PM

I agree. The stories that have come from officials and the media have been so convoluted and all over the place, that it makes it hard to follow. Maybe that is the intention?? In the scheme of things, I found it odd that they could 'loose' a plane like that with all the sophisticated technology that we have these days.

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acm7713 April 09 2014 at 2:20 PM

All things considered, maybe they should consider back up batteries for black boxes?

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