Underwater signal ‘a promising lead’ in bid to trace missing plane

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Underwater sounds detected by a ship searching the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet are consistent with the pings from aircraft black boxes, an Australian official said.

Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency co-ordinating the search, called it “a most promising lead” but warned that it could take days to confirm whether the signals picked up by the Australian navy ship Ocean Shield are indeed from the black boxes that belonged to Flight MH370, but called the discovery very encouraging.

“Clearly this is a most promising lead, and probably in the search so far, it’s probably the best information that we have had,” Mr Houston said at a news conference. “We’ve got a visual indication on a screen and we’ve also got an audible signal – and the audible signal sounds to me just like an emergency locator beacon.”

After a month-long search for answers filled with dead ends, yesterday’s news brought fresh hope given that the two black boxes, which contain flight data and cockpit voice recordings, are the key to unravelling exactly what happened to Flight MH370.

There is little time left to locate the devices, which have beacons that emit “pings” so they can be more easily found. The beacons’ batteries last only about a month – and today marks exactly one month since the plane disappeared with 239 people on board.