The latest acoustic signal detected in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was unlikely to be from the missing plane and there has been no major breakthrough in the more than month-long hunt, Australian officials said yesterday.
The result of analysis of the signal, captured by a listening device buoy and relayed to an Australian ship on Thursday, was announced in a statement by Angus Houston, head of the Perth-based Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC).
“On the information I have available to me, there has been no major breakthrough in the search for MH370,” Houston added, following unconfirmed reports in some media that the black boxes had been located.
However, on the same day, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said from Shanghai that he is “very confident” that signals detected in the search for Flight MH370 are from the aircraft’s black box, whose batteries are waning more than a month after the plane vanished.
“We have very much narrowed down the search area and we are very confident the signals are from the black box,” Abbott said in Shanghai.
Abbott, speaking on a visit to China where two-thirds of the 239 on board the Malaysia Airlines jet came from, said he would brief Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) more fully on the investigation later in the day.
“It’s been very much narrowed down because we’ve now had a series of detections, some for quite a long period of time. Nevertheless, we’re getting to the stage where the signal from what we are very confident is the black box is starting to fade,” Abbott said.
“We are confident that we know the position of the black box flight recorder to within some kilometers,” Abbott said. “But confidence in the approximate position of the black box is not the same as recovering wreckage from almost 4.5km beneath the sea, or finally determining all that happened on that flight.”
He also offered support for relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers, saying he was grieving alongside them.
“I offer them the assurance that Australia will not rest until we have done everything we can to provide comfort and closure,” the prime minister said.
The fifth “ping” was picked up on Thursday by the Orion, which was flying close to the area where two signals were detected at the weekend and two more on Tuesday by Australian ship Ocean Shield.
The JACC said the search area yesterday had been further reduced to two zones totaling 46,713km2.
The core of the search is now 2,312km northwest of Perth.
No floating debris from the plane has yet been found, the JACC said, despite the massive multinational air and sea operation.
Houston has said wreckage must be found to be absolutely certain of the plane’s fate, and has repeatedly warned against unduly inflating hopes for the sake of the victims’ relatives, whose month-long nightmare has been punctuated by false leads.
The JACC said that up to 12 military aircraft, three civil aircraft and 13 ships were to join yesterday’s hunt.
The agency said it should not be long before a US-made autonomous underwater vehicle called a Bluefin-21 will be sent down to investigate, but has warned that it will have to operate at the very limits of its capability given the vast depths involved.