KUALA LUMPUR/PERTH: A Chinese patrol ship hunting for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner detected a pulse signal in the south Indian Ocean yesterday, the state news agency Xinhua reported, in a possible indicator of the underwater beacon from a plane’s “black box”.
Australian search authorities said such a signal would be “consistent” with a black box, but both they and Xinhua stressed there was no conclusive evidence linking the “ping” to Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8 with 239 people aboard shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.
A black box detector deployed by the vessel Haixun 01 picked up the “ping” signal with a frequency of 37.5kHz per second - the same as emitted by flight recorders - at about 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east longitude, Xinhua said. Xinhua also reported that a Chinese air force plane had spotted a number of white floating objects in the search area.
Dozens of ships and planes from 26 countries are racing to find the black box recorders before their batteries run out. Up to 10 military planes, three civilian jets and 11 ships are scouring a 217,000-sq-km patch of desolate ocean some 1,700km northwest of Perth, near where investigators believe the Boeing went down.
“The characteristics reported (by the Chinese vessel) are consistent with the aircraft black box,” Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the operation, said. “However, there is no confirmation at this stage that the signals and the objects are related to the missing aircraft,” he said.
Dozens of flights by a multinational task-force have failed to turn up any trace of the plane in the past four weeks.
Meanwhile, Malaysia said it had launched a formal investigation into the plane’s disappearance that would include experts from Australia, the United States, China, Britain and France. Normally, a formal air safety investigation is not launched until wreckage is found. But there have been concerns that Malaysia’s informal investigations to date have lacked the legal standing of an official inquiry convened under UN rules.