At the same time, however, the head of the agency coordinating the
search said that the latest "ping" signal, which was captured by a
listening device buoy on Thursday, was not related to the plane.
"We are confident that we know the position of the black box flight
recorder to within some kilometers (miles)," Abbott said in a speech
in the Chinese commercial capital Shanghai.
"Still, confidence in the approximate position of the black box is
not the same as recovering wreckage from almost four and a half
kilometers beneath the sea or finally determining all that happened
on the flight."
The mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared
more than a month ago, has sparked the most expensive search and
rescue operation in aviation history.
The search was focusing on a small patch of the Indian Ocean on
Friday, after the latest "ping" seemed to lend credence to four
previous "pings" detected by a U.S. Navy "Towed Pinger Locator"
(TPL) towed by Australia's Ocean Shield vessel.
All five acoustic signals were detected in this small area.
But Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency supervising the
search effort, said on Friday that analysis of acoustic data
confirmed that the latest signal was unlikely to be related to the
missing plane's black boxes.
"On the information I have available to me, there has been no major
breakthrough in the search for MH370. I will provide a further
update if, and when, further information becomes available," he said
in a statement.
The black boxes record cockpit data and may provide answers about
what happened to the plane, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12
crew when it vanished on March 8 and flew thousands of kilometers
off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.
[to top of second column]
BATTERIES FADING AS SEARCH CLOSES IN
Search efforts are now focused on three areas.
Aircraft and ships are combing two large search zones, some 2,390 km
(1,485 miles) northwest of Perth, for possible floating debris
related to the crash.
But it is the much smaller search zone, just 600 sq km (232 sq
miles, located about 1,670 km (1038 miles) northwest of Perth that
has generated fresh optimism.
The smaller zone is near where the Ocean Shield picked up the
acoustic signals and where dozens of sonobuoys capable of
transmitting data to search aircraft via radio signals were dropped
The batteries in the black boxes have already reached the end of
their 30-day expected life, making efforts to swiftly locate them on
the murky ocean floor all the more critical, Abbott said.
"We are now getting to the stage where the signal from what we are
very confident is the black box is starting to fade and we are
hoping to get as much information as we can before the signal
finally expires," he said.
But experts say the process of teasing out the signals from the
cacophony of background noise in the sea is a slow and exhausting
An autonomous underwater vehicle named Bluefin-21 is onboard the
Ocean Shield and could be deployed to look for wreckage on the sea
floor once a final search area has been identified.
(Additional reporting by Matt Siegel and Lincoln Feast in Sydney;
editing by Michael Perry)
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