PERTH: The hunt for more black box “pings” from missing Malaysian airliner MH370 narrowed on Thursday to a specific patch of remote ocean after the logging of fresh signals raised hopes wreckage will soon be found.
With dying batteries after more than a month since the Boeing 777 vanished, the head of the Australian-led search Angus Houston wants to pursue the listening operation to help pinpoint the plane’s exact location before sending down a submersible.
Houston’s Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC) announced on Thursday the search area off western Australia was now 57,923 square kilometers (22,364 square miles)—compared to more than 220,000 square kilometers previously and 75,000 square kilometers on Wednesday.
But the Australian ship Ocean Shield is focused on a far smaller area of the Indian Ocean 2,280 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of Perth where it picked up two fresh signals on Tuesday. They matched a pair of trans-missions logged over the weekend.
“When you put those two [sets of pings]together, it makes us very optimistic,” US Seventh fleet spokesman commander William Marks said on Thursday, adding that the search was getting “closer and closer.”
“This is not something you find with commercial shipping, not something just found in nature, this is definitely something that is man-made, consistent with what you would find with these black boxes,” he added.
“So we are looking pretty good now,” Marks added.
He told CNN he expected the pings to last “maybe another day or two.”
No debris from the aircraft which disappeared on March 8 has yet been found, although a large number of objects were spotted on the surface on Wednesday, JACC said.
Officials had feared that the signals which were initially picked up might not be detected again, particularly since the batteries on the black box tracking beacons have a normal lifespan of about 30 days.
“Yesterday’s signals will assist in better defining a reduced and much more manageable search area on the ocean floor,” Houston said on Wednesday.
“I believe we are searching in the right area but we need to visually identify the aircraft before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370,” he added.
Houston, however, again urged caution for the sake of the families of those aboard the flight, which mysteriously vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, and said the search for more signals would go on.
“Hopefully with lots of transmissions we’ll have a tight, small area and . . . in a matter of days we’ll be able to find something on the bottom,” he said.
Australia confirmed Wednesday that the fresh signals were consistent with black box recorders, boosting optimism after more than a month of fruitless searching for the missing jetliner.