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Australian PM confident sounds are from Flight 370

PERTH, Australia (AP) - Australia's prime minister said Friday that authorities are confident that a series of underwater signals detected in a remote patch of the Indian Ocean are coming from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

Tony Abbott told reporters in Shanghai, China, that search crews had significantly narrowed down the area they were hunting for the source of the sounds, first detected on Saturday.

"We have very much narrowed down the search area and we are very confident that the signals that we are detecting are from the black box on MH370," Abbott said.

"Nevertheless, we're getting into the stage where the signal from what we are very confident is the black box is starting to fade," he added. "We are hoping to get as much information as we can before the signal finally expires."

The plane's black boxes, or flight data and cockpit voice recorders, could help solve the mystery of why Flight 370 veered so far off course when it vanished on March 8 on a trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. But the batteries powering their locator beacons last only about a month - and it has been more than a month since the plane disappeared.

The Australian ship Ocean Shield, which is towing a U.S. Navy device to detect signals emanating from the beacons on a plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders, first picked up two underwater sounds on Saturday that were later determined to be consistent with the pings emitted from the flight recorders, or "black boxes." The ship's equipment detected two more sounds in the same general area on Tuesday.

"We are confident that we know the position of the black box flight recorder to within some kilometers, but confidence in the approximate position of the black box is not the same as recovering wreckage from almost 4 ½ kilometers beneath the sea or finally determining all that happened on that flight," Abbott said.

An Australian air force P-3 Orion, which has been dropping sonar buoys into the water near where four sounds were heard earlier, picked up another "possible signal" on Thursday, but Angus Houston, who is coordinating the search for Flight 370 off Australia's west coast, said in a statement that an initial assessment of the signal had determined it was not related to an aircraft black box.

Houston said the Ocean Shield was continuing on Friday to use its towed pinger locator to try and locate additional signals. The underwater search zone is currently a 1,300-square-kilometer (500-square-mile) patch of the ocean floor, about the size of the city of Los Angeles.

"It is vital to glean as much information as possible while the batteries on the underwater locator beacons may still be active," Houston said in a statement. "The AP-3C Orions continue their acoustic search, working in conjunction with Ocean Shield, with three more missions planned for today."

The Bluefin 21 submersible takes six times longer to cover the same area as the ping locator being towed by the Ocean Shield and would take six weeks to two months to canvass the current underwater search zone.

"On the information I have available to me, there has been no major breakthrough in the search for MH370," he added. "I will provide a further update if, and when, further information becomes available."

The searchers are trying to pinpoint the location of the source of the signals so they can send down a robotic submersible to look for wreckage and the flight recorders from the Malaysian jet. Houston said on Friday that that decision could be "some days away."

Houston's coordination center said the area to be searched for floating debris on Friday had been narrowed to 46,713 square kilometers (18,036 square miles) of ocean extending from 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of Perth. Up to 15 planes and 13 ships would join Friday's search.

Thursday's search of a 57,900 square kilometer (22,300 square mile) area of ocean in a similar location reported no sightings of potential wreckage, the center said.

The sonar buoys are being dropped by the Australian air force to maximize the sound-detectors operating in the search zone. Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy said each buoy is dangling a hydrophone listening device about 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the surface and transmits its data via radio back to a search plane.

Houston has expressed optimism about the sounds detected earlier in the week, saying Wednesday that he was hopeful crews would find the aircraft - or what's left of it - in the "not-too-distant future."

Separately, a Malaysian government official said Thursday that investigators have concluded the pilot spoke the last words to air traffic control, "Good night, Malaysian three-seven-zero," and that his voice had no signs of duress. A re-examination of the last communication from the cockpit was initiated after authorities last week reversed their initial statement that the co-pilot was speaking different words.

The senior government official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

___

Gelineau reported from Sydney. Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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timkrc April 11 2014 at 1:32 PM

Whats to say thers not anouther set of black boxes????

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2 replies
ohioh111b111y timkrc April 11 2014 at 1:38 PM

tim: whooaa... now youre just getting confusing crazy.... but ... what if?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
tornekrayville timkrc April 11 2014 at 1:43 PM

My thoughts exactly. Keep the resources busy. Afterall it is just a ping and not serial #'d to ANY one aircraft.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
allstarcaps April 11 2014 at 1:13 PM

Signal is only now fading...the truth faded into the Middle East long ago........

Flag Reply +6 rate up
mistersuperskip April 11 2014 at 1:14 PM

THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT SHOULD JUST SHUT UP AND LET THE AUSSIES AND THE US HANDLE THIS MESS.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
fnhaggerty April 10 2014 at 10:19 PM

CNN said the batteries went dead after 30 days ?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
bobbytyrone April 10 2014 at 10:20 PM

My question is about debris. There has been a lot of talk about floating debris, but was any debris found? It seems like if there was debris found, it would confirm that the plane was in the ocean. Personally, I think it will be a while before we know what happened to this plane.

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SumBreezeHuh April 11 2014 at 11:36 AM

The conspiracy theories are getting reallllly old. They are telling you that these are DEFINITELY pings from the boxes. They've known it for days. They have narrowed down the original search areas tenfold as of today. Look at any of the graphs showing the search areas in the last couple of weeks, and especially since they first heard the first pings. My god, peeps, get a life. The plane crashed. It's in the ocean. It's not some fake black boxes planted there - this is the plane. Eventually, hopefully, we will learn what transpired to make this plane crash, but it's not sitting on Diego, it's not covered under the jungle brush in Somalia, and it's not in an underground hangar in some other country. smh

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1 reply
trappersnapp SumBreezeHuh April 11 2014 at 12:07 PM

Then why is the actual "ping" search area getting bigger, not smaller...I am w/you on BS conspiracy theories, but I will believe nothing until they're bringing up parts of the plane...

Flag Reply 0 rate up
rgl444 April 11 2014 at 1:16 PM

Gee..ya think cuz they are Muslims? Not many other religions promote terroism...

Flag Reply +6 rate up
la231 April 11 2014 at 1:25 PM

There is no proof that the plane did or didn't go in the water or who is responsible if there was not a mechanical failure, sabotage. If this was not a mechanical failure, etc. there aren't too many people (either pilot, both pilots or crew member(s)) who would be responsible since all the passengers were supposedly cleared. As 5 wks. have gone by we know no more than day 1 except there is a missing plane.

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1 reply
honeyrose3332 la231 April 11 2014 at 11:19 PM

You are right in that there is no proof as of yet what happened to this plane, whether it is on land or water. No one but God above knows.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
JESUS April 11 2014 at 2:06 PM

GIVE IT A REST. NO ONE IS FOOLED BY WEEKS OF NON NEW NEWS.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Will Hinkley April 11 2014 at 10:31 AM

The one thing that must come out of all this is a system that will track every commercial airliner in the world using GPS and satellite relays that cannot be disabled by the cockpit crew. This needs to be tied to a program that will sound an alarm if the aircraft deviates significantly from its planned route. We can do this. Now we need to make the investment.

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3 replies
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