Three fresh pings buoy optimism in jet search

April 11, 2014 - 6:20:04 am
Able Seaman Marine Technician, Hannah Nadalini,  heaves on the distance line on the chaff deck on board HMAS Perth during a replenishment at sea with HMAS Success while searching for the missing jet on Wednesday.

PERTH:  A new acoustic signal was detected in the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 yesterday, further boosting confidence that officials are zeroing in on the missing plane after weeks of searching.

The signal, which could be from the plane’s black box recorders, brings to five the number of “pings” detected in recent days within the search area in the Indian Ocean.

The first four signals were detected by a  US Navy “Towed Pinger Locator” (TPL) aboard Australia’s Ocean Shield vessel, while the latest was reported by an aircraft picking up transmissions from a listening device buoy laid near the ship on Wednesday.

“Whilst conducting an acoustic search this afternoon a RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft has detected a possible signal in the vicinity of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield,” Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency co-ordinating the search, said in a statement.

The data would require further analysis overnight but it showed the potential of being from a “man-made source,” he said.

“We are still a long way to go, but things are more positive than they were some time ago,” Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Board, which is involved in the search mission, said. 

Efforts are now focused on two areas - a larger one about 2,240km  northwest of Perth and a smaller area about 600km  closer to that west Australian city. 

The smaller zone is around where the Ocean Shield picked up the acoustic signals and where dozens of acoustic sonobuoys were dropped on Wednesday.

“That does provide a lot of sensors in the vicinity of the Ocean Shield without having a ship there to produce the background noise,” said Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy, operational head of the Australian search.

Experts say the process of teasing out the signals from the cacophony of background noise in the sea is a slow process. Operators must separate a ping lasting just 9.3 milliseconds - a tenth of the blink of a human eye - and repeated every 1.08 seconds from natural ocean sounds, as well as disturbances from search vessels.                        Reuters

 

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