An Australian aircraft hunting for the missing Malaysian jet has picked up a new possible underwater signal in the same area search crews previously detected sounds consistent with an aircraft’s black boxes.
The Australian navy P-3 Orion, which has been dropping sound-locating buoys into the water near where the original sounds were heard, picked up a “possible signal” that may be from a man-made source, said Angus Houston, who is co-ordinating the search off Australia’s west coast.
“The acoustic data will require further analysis overnight,” Mr Houston said in a statement.
If confirmed, this would be the fifth underwater signal detected in the hunt for Flight 370, which vanished on March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, with 239 people aboard.
On Tuesday, the Australian vessel Ocean Shield picked up two underwater sounds, and an analysis of two other sounds detected in the same general area on Saturday showed they were consistent with a plane’s flight recorders, or “black boxes”. The Australian navy has been dropping buoys from planes in a pattern near where the Ocean Shield’s signals were heard.
Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy said each buoy is dangling a hydrophone listening device about 1,000ft below the surface. The hope is that the buoys will help better pinpoint the signals, with the Ocean Shield, which is dragging a US navy pinger locator through the water.
Zeroing in on the source of the sounds is critical to narrowing down the underwater search zone, which is currently a 500 square mile patch of the ocean floor.
Once the exact location is pinpointed, crews can send an unmanned submarine to create a sonar map of a potential debris field on the seabed.
The hunt for debris on the ocean surface intensified yesterday, with the search zone narrowed to its smallest size yet – 22,300 sq miles. Fourteen planes and 13 ships were taking part in the hunt for floating debris.