PERTH, Australia (AP) — With the Malaysian jetliner mystery now five weeks old, officials have narrowed the search zone for the missing plane and are “very confident” the underwater signals they have heard are from its black box, Australia’s prime minister said yesterday.
At the same time, however, those electronic signals are fading, Tony Abbott added.
On a visit to China, Abbott briefed President Xi Jinping on the search for Flight 370, which vanished March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, carrying 239 people, most of them Chinese. Based on an analysis of satellite data, officials believe the Boeing 777 flew off-course for an unknown reason and went down in the southern Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia.
Crews involved in the hunt have in recent days focused on a more-targeted area in the ocean for the source of the electronic signals, Abbott said.
“We have very much narrowed down the search area and we are very confident that the signals that we are detecting are from the black box on MH370,” he told reporters in Shanghai, referring to the plane’s flight data and cockpit recorders.
Search crews are racing against time because the batteries powering the recorders’ locator beacons last only about a month — and more than a month has passed since the plane disappeared. Finding the devices after the batteries fail will be extremely difficult because the water in the area is 4,500 meters (15,000 feet) deep.
“We’re getting into the stage where the signal from what we are very confident is the black box is starting to fade,” he added. “We are hoping to get as much information as we can before the signal finally expires.”
The Australian ship Ocean Shield is towing a U.S. Navy device that detects signals from the flight recorders. Two sounds heard Saturday were determined to be consistent with the signals emitted from the black boxes. Two more sounds were detected in the same general area Tuesday.