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Signals fading in search for missing Malaysian flight



(Reuters) - The search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner resumed on Saturday, five weeks after the plane disappeared from radar screens, amid fears that batteries powering signals from the black box recorder on board were about to die.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said signals picked up during the search in the remote southern Indian Ocean, believed to be "pings" from the black box recorders, were "rapidly fading".

"While we do have a high degree of confidence that the transmissions that we've been picking up are from flight MH370's black box recorder, no one would underestimate the difficulties of the task still ahead of us," Abbott told a news conference in Beijing.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared soon after taking off on March 8 from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board, triggering a multinational search that is now focused on the Indian Ocean.

Search officials say they are confident they know the approximate position of the black box recorder, although they have determined that the latest "ping", picked up by searchers on Thursday, was not from the missing aircraft.

Batteries in the black box recorder are already past their normal 30-day life, making the search to find it on the murky sea bed all the more urgent. Once searchers are confident they have located it, they then plan to deploy a small unmanned "robot" known as an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.

"Work continues in an effort to narrow the underwater search area for when the autonomous underwater vehicle is deployed," the Australian agency coordinating the search said on Saturday.

"There have been no confirmed acoustic detections over the past 24 hours," it said in a statement.

Signal From Missing Plane's Black Boxes 'Rapidly Fading'

The black box records data from the cockpit and conversations among flight crew and may provide answers about what happened to the plane, which flew thousands of kilometers off course after taking off.

The mystery has sparked the most expensive search and rescue operation in aviation history.

Malaysia's government has begun investigating civil aviation and military authorities to determine why opportunities to identify and track the flight were missed in the chaotic hours after it vanished.

NARROWING SEARCH AREA

Analysis of satellite data has led investigators to conclude the Boeing 777 crashed into the ocean somewhere west of the Australian city of Perth. Four "ping" signals, which could be from the plane's black box recorders, have been detected in the search area in recent days by a U.S. Navy "Towed Pinger Locator".

Once the search area is narrowed down to as small as possible "it is our intention to then deploy the submersible, conduct a sonar search of the sea bed and, based on the sonar search, attempt to get a visual of the wreckage," Abbott said.

The U.S. supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez has joined the Australian-led task force to provide logistics support and replenish Australian navy ships, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Up to nine military aircraft, one civilian aircraft and 14 ships were scouring a 41,393 sq km (25,720 sq mile) patch of ocean 2,330 km (1,445 miles) northwest of Perth.

The extensive search and rescue operation has included assets from 26 countries.

Australia's Ocean Shield, which has the towed pinger locator on board, is operating in a smaller zone, just 600 sq km (232 sq miles) about 1,670 km (1,040 miles) northwest of Perth. That is near where it picked up the acoustic signals and where dozens of sonobuoys capable of transmitting data to search aircraft via radio signals were dropped on Wednesday.

Experts say the process of teasing out the signals from the cacophony of background noise in the sea is slow and exhausting.

An unmanned submarine named Bluefin-21 is on board the Ocean Shield and could be deployed to look for wreckage on the sea floor some 4.5 km (2.8 miles) below the surface once a final search area has been identified.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander in WASHINGTON; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Paul Tait and Robert Birsel)

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travasham April 12 2014 at 9:59 AM

what? no conspiracy theories on this article? too many facts not enough speculation?

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bronco116 April 12 2014 at 11:05 AM

in this length of time, I also hae serious doubts that the aircraft will be found.
If crashed into the sea, would there not have been some kind of luggage, etc. floating around.
There is nothing.
May the passengers, flight crew Rest in Peace. God Bless

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1 reply
Mike bronco116 April 12 2014 at 11:33 AM

Yes, very strange that no trace has been found yet, but in the time it took search operations to zero in on the approx. location they think the jet crashed in, anything floating could be hundreds (or thousands) of miles away by now.

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1 reply
SumBreezeHuh Mike April 12 2014 at 3:21 PM

Agreed Mike. Anything that initially floated up is likely gone. We were searching in another ocean at that time. There were storms and also a cyclone in that part of the ocean soon after the crash too. And there's always the chance that the plane went into the water at a steep angle and went straight to the bottom where it imploded and was crushed like a tin can.

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sharway777 April 12 2014 at 11:06 AM

239 family and friends of those on board will never forget . God Help them all.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
goodgrief61945 April 12 2014 at 11:08 AM

Didn't they record the coordinates of the pings before the batteries went dead?

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2 replies
becky.leach goodgrief61945 April 12 2014 at 11:31 AM

yes I'm certain they have coordinates. however, 3 miles down with hills and valleys underwater, sounds do not travel straight up and sometimes layers of warm water change the course of the sound significantly. It's a lot more complicated that it seems according to experts.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Mike goodgrief61945 April 12 2014 at 11:37 AM

Of course they have coordinates, but they are over 100 miles apart from one another. Trying to find wreckage in an area that large on the bottom of the ocean some 3 miles deep is a daunting task, and they aren't even positive that the pings they picked up are from flight MH370

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2 replies
oceansunset76242 Mike April 12 2014 at 11:58 AM

WOW THAT IS STRANGE I THOUGHT THEY SAID THEY WERE SURE THE PINGS CAME FROM MH370. I HONESTLY BELIEVE THEY DO NOT KNOW A THING. THAT PLANE IS SO FAR OUT IN THE OCEAN THEY WILL NEVER FIND IT. THIS IS REALLY SAD IN THIS DAY AND AGE. THEY NEED TO MAKE A BETTER BOX OR WHATEVER ON A PLANE. WHEN TWO MEN GET ON A PLANE WITH PHONY PASSPORTS-----HELLO. WAKE UP HERE SOMETHING IS JUST NOT RIGHT AND NO ONE IS BEING TOLD.

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SumBreezeHuh Mike April 12 2014 at 3:19 PM

Wrong. They are positive the first 4 pings are definitely from 370. The 5th one they ruled out as not being from 370.

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Tom April 12 2014 at 11:13 AM

I was afraid we would not get a new report about unknown pings this morning. We will miss the "unconfirmed reports" and guesses by the "experts". Will finding the plane on the bottom of the ocean ease he pain of the families? Finding a crashed plane on a mountainside has never eased the pain of families.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
wizardsking April 12 2014 at 11:39 PM

OK Gomer you type:
SURPRISE SURPRISE..............
Golly Geez Even I knew they were on a wild goose chase.

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Davie2743 April 12 2014 at 10:24 PM

One of the most startling and amazing aspects of this search is that not a single piece of debris has been found.

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2 replies
marshall Davie2743 April 12 2014 at 10:31 PM

Amelia earheart knows where it is

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Pam Davie2743 April 13 2014 at 12:51 AM

That's because in my view it didn't crash! I don't know what happened to the plane, just as they didn't know what happened to flight 19 in the 40's. We may never know and for the survivors it has to be hell on earth. What a sorry thing to happen

Flag Reply +2 rate up
paulserrag April 12 2014 at 3:29 PM

I'm FAR from being a prophet or a conspiracy nut BUT I can tell you right now...they are NEVER going to find that plane. Period. Furthermore, how could it have possibly crashed into the ocean and not left ONE IOTA of debris...nothing. Some might say "well there are ocean currents and they (the debris) may have drifted far away". OK, I'll buy that, but there have been a raft of planes and ships scouring the area for weeks, and they found NOTHING ! Something just doesn't add up. JMO.

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1 reply
cact25 paulserrag April 12 2014 at 10:53 PM

They are searching for the plane where they think it may have gone down. They are not searching every possible location that ocean currents could have taken debris. It woud be a waste of resources.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
dorc792 April 12 2014 at 3:16 PM

one thing we all know ....it did take off...???

Flag Reply +5 rate up
la231 April 12 2014 at 2:40 PM

They haven't heard pings in a few days. I"m so surprised, NOT.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
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