Crews Zero In on ‘Pings’ in Search for MAS Flight 370

 - April 7, 2014, 10:42 AM
An acoustic signal locator dropped into the Indian Ocean and towed by the Australian navy ship Ocean Shield detected signals consistent with a flight recorder pinger on Sunday. (Photo: Royal Australian Navy)

Australian navy teams detected signals consistent with the frequency emitted by flight data and cockpit voice recorders some 900 nautical miles northwest of Perth in the Indian Ocean over the weekend, a development characterized by authorities as the best lead yet in the search for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

“Clearly this is a most promising lead, and in the search so far it’s probably the best information that we have had,” said retired air chief marshal Angus Houston, the head of the joint agency coordinating the search.

Malaysian minister of defense and acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein issued a statement Monday morning confirming discussions between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott about the discovery of the signals, or so-called “pings.”

According to the Joint Agency Coordination Center in Perth, the Australian team detected two separate signals in the northern part of the defined search area. The first detection lasted for some 2 hours and 20 minutes. The Australian navy vessel Ocean Shield then lost contact before conducting a turn and attempting to re-acquire the signal.

The second detection on the return leg lasted about 13 minutes, during which time search crews heard two distinct pinger returns. Separately, on Saturday the Chinese ship Haixun 01 also detected similar signals twice.

Thirty-one days have now passed since Malaysia Flight 370 went missing over the Bay of Thailand while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The batteries powering the signal transmitters from the recorders normally last only a month.

The most recent analysis of satellite signals shows that after turning west from its last point of contact with ground radar, Flight 370 took a track around the Indonesian island of Sumatra before heading toward the current search area.