An Australian ship detected two more acoustic events possibly from airplane black boxes in the past 24 hours in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 in South Indian Ocean, Australian official announced Monday.
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“The towed pinger locator deployed from the Australian Defense Vessel Ocean Shield has detected signals consistent with those emitted from aircraft black boxes,” said Angus Houston who is heading the Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC) which oversees an international joint search mission for the missing flight.
The two separate signal detections occurred within the northern part of the defined search area and would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, according to Houston who was former Australian defense minister and a retired air chief marshal.
“The first detection was held for approximately two hours and 20 minutes and the ship then lost contact before conducting a turn and attempting to reacquire the signal. The second detection on the return leg was held for approximately 13 minutes,” Houston said.
Describing the new detection as “the most promising lead” and “the best information” so far in the search effort, Houston warned it has to be treated cautiously and responsibly until final determination is made.
He said the first thing to do before these leads could be possibly verified is to fix the position of the signals, then the Ocean Shield could deploy the autonomous underwater vehicle, Blue Fin 21, into the water and attempt to locate wreckage on the sea floor.
It has been a continuous encouraging lead added to the acoustic findings by Chinese maritime vessel Haixun 01 which first detected pulse signals on last Friday and Saturday in the southern Indian Ocean.
Houston told the press by showing a map of the search effort that the distance between the two locations where Haixun 01 and Ocean Shield respectively detected signals is 600 km.
“We cannot confirm until we find the wreckage,” he emphasized, adding that it will be a long-term mission and may take some days for the confirmation.
“In deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast,” Houston, who is a veteran in search and rescue missions, told the press.
Houston said Ocean Shield remained in the waters, with a depth of 4,500 meters where the two new signals were detected, to continue to try and regain the signals with towed pinger locator.
The depth of the waters also gives a limited capability of the Blue Fin 21 to retrieve the black boxes, if they are lying on the ocean floor.
The new discovery was made in a sea area north of the place where Chinese vessel Haixun 01 picked up suspicious signals on Saturday, according to Houston, adding it remains unknown whether the two are related.
The missing Boeing 777 plane of the flight lost radio contact in early hours on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, among of which are 154 Chinese passengers.
According to JACC, up to nine military planes, three civil planes and 14 ships will assist in Monday’s search for missing flight MH370 with a search area approximately 234,000 square km.
Weather in the search area is expected to be good throughout the day with showers in the afternoon although this is not expected to affect the search.
British HMS Echo is en route to assist the Chinese vessel Haixun 01, which detected pulse signals in the Indian Ocean.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau continues to refine the area where the aircraft entered the water based on continuing ground-breaking and multi-disciplinary technical analysis of satellite communication and aircraft performance, passed from the international air crash investigative team comprising analysts from Malaysia, the United States, the UK, China and Australia.