Crews searching for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have relocated signals that were detected over the weekend and are consistent with those emitted by cockpit voice and flight data recorders — so-called “black boxes.”
Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency coordinating the search in the southern Indian Ocean, said on Wednesday that the Australian navy’s Ocean Shield had picked up two more underwater signals that could be from Flight 370.
Houston said that the newly detected signals had not narrowed the search area enough to dispatch a submersible to search for possible wreckage, but did express his belief that searchers are finally “looking in the right area.”
“I’m now optimistic that we will find the aircraft, or what is left of the aircraft, in the not too distant future — but we haven’t found it yet, because this is a very challenging business,” he said. “We need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370,” he said.
The Ocean Shield first detected the sounds late Saturday and early Sunday before losing them, and Houston said the ship relocated the signals twice on Tuesday.
The ship is equipped with a U.S. Navy towed pinger locator that is designed to pick up signals from a plane’s black boxes.
The locator beacons on the black boxes have a battery life of only about a month — and Tuesday marked exactly one month since the plane vanished. Once the beacons blink off, locating the black boxes in such deep water would be an immensely difficult, if not impossible, task.
The multinational search for the plane began shortly after it vanished with 239 people on board in the early hours of March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing. The search began off the coast of Vietnam, near where civilian air traffic controllers last had contact with the flight, before shifting to the coast of western Malaysia, before finally settling in the southern Indian Ocean, approximately 1,000 miles off the coast of Western Australia.
Malaysian authorities have previously said that satellite data appears to indicate that the plane did go down near the present search area, raising speculation as to what happened to drive the plane so far from its intended flight path.