MH370 The search for a missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) jetliner resumed today with a renewed sense of optimism, after Australian officials said they had detected two new “ping” signals that may have come from the plane’s black box recorders.
The mystery of MAS Flight MH370, which disappeared more than a month ago, has sparked the most expensive search and rescue operation in aviation history, but concrete information has proven frustratingly illusive.
Angus Houston, the head of the joint search effort out of Perth, told reporters Wednesday morning that tow pinger locator from the ship had picked up signals from one of the black box recorders, effectively ruling out the possibility that the distinctive pings could have come from other sources.
“The transmission was not of natural origin,” he said, adding that the signals are “consistent with a flight data recorder” rather than the voice recorder that captures that last two hours of cockpit communications. In this case, the data recorder will be the more valuable of the two. The as-yet-unexplained seven-hour gap between the time that the flight went off radar and when it is believed to have ended in the Indian Ocean means the voice recorder might well contain no useful information.
In another sign that the massive effort is finally paying off, Houston said that the search zone has been reduced by about half. (It is still about the size of Ireland.) Houston said he wants to use the last few days of the batteries’ presumed life to narrow the area further before sending down autonomous underwater vehicles equipped with side-scan sonar.
However, Houston cautioned that not a single piece of debris has turned up from the lost plane despite numerous sightings of flotsam. He added: “The only thing we’ve got at the moment in terms of the location is the detection of the transmissions. We have no idea what is below the water.” He emphasized that a parallel search conducted by military and civilian planes would continue to look for any evidence on the ocean’s surface. “We are continuing intense visual search consistent with oceanic drift,” he said.