Hopes of finding plane improve

AN Australian ship has detected new signals consistent with aircraft “black boxes”, the chief of the MH370 search said yesterday.

Retired Australian defence force chief Angus Houston said the acoustics emanating from deep down in the Indian Ocean provided the most promising lead yet in the month-old hunt for the plane

Houston said the signals showed the multinational search by ships and planes seemed to be “very close to where we need to be”.

The apparent breakthrough comes as the clock ticks past the 30-day lifespan of the emergency beacons of the two data recorders from the Malaysia Airlines jet, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

“The towed pinger locator deployed from the Australian defence vessel Ocean Shield has detected signals consistent with those emitted from aircraft black boxes,” Houston said.

He said more information was needed but the findings of the past 24 hours were very encouraging.

One signal lasted for two hours and 20 minutes, the second for 13 minutes.

“On this [second] occasion two distinct ping returns were audible,” Houston said.

The pings were consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, which have separate beacons.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in Kuala Lumpur: “We are cautiously hopeful that there could be a positive development in the next few days, if not hours.”

Commander William Marks, of the US Seventh Fleet, said one of the signals strengthened for a time, then weakened, indicating crews were near its source.

Malaysian investigations into the aircraft’s disappearance have centred on hijacking, sabotage or psychological problems among passengers or crew, but no supporting evidence has turned up. – AFP

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