Australian defense vessel Ocean Shield detects pinging signals - missing airliner black boxes a possibility

Yokosuka, Japan - The U.S. Navy team operating the towed pinger locator (TPL) onboard Australian defense vessel Ocean Shield detected pinging signals.

The detected signals are consistent with sounds that would come from a black box.

The TPL heard consecutive pings at one second intervals. At the time of detection the TPL was at a depth of 300 meters, which is well above the optimal search depth where a black box would typically be detected.

Upon detection, the Ocean Shield crew turned off as much noise-producing equipment as possible to reduce the chance of false alarms, and the signal was again held for over two hours at a TPL depth of 1,400 meters. The signal stregnth increased and then faded, as would be expected with the ship moving toward then away from the signal.

After the signal was lost the team reeled the TPL back in to prepare for a course change to a reciprocal course to get a better line of bearing in the contact location.

While traveling on the reciprocal course, the Ocean Shield team again detected a separate set of pings while with the TPL set to an optimal depth of 3,000 meters. On this course the detection time lasted for about 15 minutes. The TPL detected two signals at the same frequency but in different locations. This would be consistent with the MH370 black box because the plane had both a flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

Since the current data remains inconclusive, the team is moving foward to reacquire the signal and use the Bluefin-21 Sidescan Sonar to get a picture of any potential wreckage. This is a 24-hour operation and the Navy team is working around the clock with their Australian partners to reacquire the black box signal.

The search is currently taking place approximately 950 nautical miles northwest of Perth.

The U.S. Navy P-8s in Perth are still flying search missions. Overall patrol aircraft support to date includes 24 missions with 220 of flight time covering 336,000 square nautical miles.

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