'Race against time' in hunt for blackbox of missing jetliner - New York News

'Race against time' in hunt for blackbox of missing jetliner

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Three distinct but brief signals from the Indian Ocean revived hope for investigators in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Sunday, as authorities rush to determine the origin of the signals before the batteries of the plane's black box run out.

Australian authorities confirmed on Sunday that a Chinese patrol vessel, the Haixun 01, had picked up a fleeting "ping" signal twice on Friday and Saturday in waters west of Perth, near where investigators believe Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went down on March 8. As a consequence, more planes and ships were being sent to assist in that area.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, an Australian ship carrying sophisticated deep-sea sound equipment picked up a third signal in a different part of the massive search area, some 300 nautical miles away.

After weeks of fruitless looking, the multinational search team is racing against time to find the sound-emitting beacons and cockpit voice recorders that could help unravel the mystery of the plane. The beacons in the black boxes emit "pings" so they can be more easily found, but the batteries last for only about a month.

"This is an important and encouraging lead, but one which I urge you to treat carefully," retired Australian Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, who is coordinating the search, told reporters in Perth.

Houston stressed that the signals had not been verified as being linked to Flight 370, which was traveling from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing when it disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board. Experts, meanwhile, expressed doubt that the equipment aboard the Chinese ship was capable of picking up signals from the black boxes.

"We have an acoustic event. The job now is to determine the significance of that event. It does not confirm or deny the presence of the aircraft locator on the bottom of the ocean," Houston said, referring to each of the three transmissions.

"We are dealing with very deep water, we are dealing with an environment where sometimes you can get false indications," he said. "There are lots of noises in the ocean, and sometimes the acoustic equipment can rebound, echo if you like."

Signals emanating from the blackbox can ping for around 30 days. Malaysia's defense minister Hishammuddin Hussein says their determination to find out what happened remains undiminished.

“We will continue to search with the same level of vigor and intensity. We owe this to the families on those onboard and to the wider world” Hussein said.

Ships equipped with locators are now searching the deep depths of a remote part of the Indian Ocean. However, using the locators is a difficult and tedious task.

Locators only work if they're within 20,000 feet of the black boxes.

Search teams also have to drag the locators slowly through the water. The sophisticated equipment that's being used in itself is a massive operation.

Experts say this is the largest search of its kind in history. Chinese Airforce search planes also spotted white objects floating near the search area.

Unfortunately, there's no confirmation at this stage that the pulse signals or the objects are related to the missing aircraft.239 people were onboard when the plane vanished.

The possible pinging noise, according aviation expert JP Tristani, is the best breakthrough yet..

“The pinging noise a mile and a half underwater is very hopeful” he said. Finding floating wreckage is key to narrowing the search area, as officials can then use data on currents to backtrack to where the plane hit the water, and where the flight recorders may be.

If it doesn't happen, the only hope for finding the plane may be a full survey of the Indian Ocean floor, an operation that would take years and an enormous international operation.

The overall search area is a 84,000-square-mile zone in the southern Indian Ocean, about 1,100 miles northwest of the western Australian city of Perth.

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