Australian official says since Ocean Shield vessel has reacquired signal he is ‘optimistic’ plane will be found soon
The search area for the missing Malaysia airlines flight MH370 has been drastically reduced after two further detections of pings consistent with those of a black box from a plane late on Tuesday.
The head of Australia’s Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre, Angus Houston, said on Wednesday the Australian defence vessel Ocean Shield had detected two further pings on Tuesday – one in the afternoon and one in the late evening – that had allowed the search area to be further refined to 75,000 sq km. He said he was “optimistic” the plane would be found soon.
“I can now tell you that Ocean Shield has been able to reacquire the signals on two further occasions; late yesterday afternoon and late last night,” Houston said.
The smaller area would make the task far more manageable and would allow searchers to “plan much tighter search patterns”.
“Ocean Shield is now searching a reduced and much more manageable search area on the ocean floor,” he said.
“I believe we are searching in the right area but we need to identity wreckage to be sure that this is the final resting place of MH370.”
The plane has been missing for more than a month and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, claiming the lives of all 239 passengers on board.
Houston said the Ocean Shield would continue searching the area before launching the submersible underwater vehicle while the batteries of the black boxes are still believed to be active. The detections suggest at least one of the boxes is still transmitting, but that “they will very shortly fail”.
“We are not yet at the point of deploying the autonomous underwater vehicle … it is important to note that Ocean Shield can search six times the amount of area with the towed pinger locator than can be done with the sonar on the autonomous underwater vehicle,” he said.
On Monday it was revealed that the Ocean Shield had detected two pings that were believed to be consistent with frequencies from a black box. Houston said on Wednesday the Australian Joint Acoustic Analysis Centre had analysed the two earlier pings detected by the Ocean Shield and found could have come from the plane.
“The analysis determined that a very stable … signal was detected at 33.331 kHz and that it consistently pulsed,” he said.
“They therefore assessed that the signal was not of natural origin and was likely sourced from specific electronic equipment … consistent with a flight data recorder.
There are 11 military aircraft, four civilian aircraft and 14 ships taking part in the search on Wednesday.