A new acoustic signal was detected in the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on Thursday, further boosting confidence that officials are zeroing in on the missing plane after weeks of searching.
The signal, which could be from the plane’s black box recorders, brings to five the number of “pings” detected in recent days within the search area in the Indian Ocean.
The first four signals were detected by a U.S. Navy “Towed Pinger Locator” (TPL) aboard Australia’s Ocean Shield vessel, while the latest was reported by an aircraft picking up transmissions from a listening device buoy laid near the ship on Wednesday.
“Whilst conducting an acoustic search this afternoon a RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft has detected a possible signal in the vicinity of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield,” Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency co-ordinating the search, said in a statement.
The data would require further analysis overnight but it showed the potential of being from a “man-made source”, he said.
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, but concrete information has proven frustratingly illusive.
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 kilometres off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.
But 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.
“We are still a long way to go, but things are more positive than they were some time ago,” Martin Dolan, Chief Commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Board, which is involved in the search mission, told Reuters.