An Australian official says equipment on a ship searching for the missing Malaysian jet has relocated an underwater signal that is consistent with a plane\’s black boxes.
Australian search chief Angus Houston said the transmissions were detected by a U.S. Navy towed pinger locator on two separate occasions Tuesday.
"Yesterday\’s signals will assist in better defining a reduced and much more manageable search area on the ocean floor. I believe we are searching in the right area but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370."
He said more signals need to be detected and the search area better refined before authorities can deploy a robot submarine to search the ocean floor.
Authorities are running out of time, as the battery on the plane\’s black box locator beacon that transmits the "pings" lasts only for about 30 days.
It has now been over a month since the Boeing 777 disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, carrying 239 people.
The Australian Navy ship Ocean Shield, which is carrying the towed pinger locator, first picked up the signals on Saturday and Sunday, before losing them.
Houston said said one "ping" was heard Tuesday afternoon for about five minutes. A second was picked up late Tuesday for about seven minutes.
He said the signals, at 33.331 kilohertz and at 1.106 intervals, were consistent with those expected to be transmitted by the black box\’s beacon.
The retired air chief marshall said search crews were "very fortunate" to have relocated the transmissions, since it had been 33 days since the plane disappeared.
If additional signals are detected, Houston said he hoped to find something "within a matter of days" that would confirm the plane\’s "final resting place."
Once the black box is retrieved, authorities will be able to determine what happened to the plane. Its fate has become one of the most puzzling mysteries in modern aviation.
The plane vanished without any distress calls, and authorities have refused to rule out any possibilities, including hijacking, sabotage or a mechanical malfunction.
Search teams have been racing against time to locate signals from the flight recorders before their batteries expire after about one month.
Investigators still do not know why MH370 strayed so far off course, after disappearing over the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.
Flight MH370 disappeared on 8 March, carrying 239 people. It was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it lost contact with air traffic controllers.