Click for St. Louis, Missouri Forecast

// a href = ./ // St Louis News, Weather, Sports, The Big 550 AM, St Louis Traffic, Breaking News in St Louis

 
 
 

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- The frustrating monthlong search for the Malaysian jetliner received a tremendous boost when a navy ship detected two more signals that most likely emanated from the aircraft's black boxes. The Australian official coordinating the search expressed hope Wednesday that the wreckage will soon be found.

Angus Houston, head of a joint agency coordinating the search for the missing plane in the southern Indian Ocean, said that the Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield picked up the two signals on Tuesday, and that an analysis of two sounds detected in the same area on Saturday showed they were consistent with a plane's black boxes.

"I'm now optimistic that we will find the aircraft, or what is left of the aircraft, in the not-too-distant future. But we haven't found it yet, because this is a very challenging business," Houston said at a news conference in Perth, the hub for the search operation.

The signals detected 1,645 kilometers (1,020 miles) northwest of Perth are the strongest indication yet that the plane crashed and is now lying at the bottom of the ocean in the area where the search is now focused. Still, Houston warned he could not yet conclude that searchers had pinpointed Flight 370's crash site.

"I think that we're looking in the right area, but I'm not prepared to say, to confirm, anything until such time as somebody lays eyes on the wreckage," he said.

Finding the black boxes quickly is a matter of urgency because their locator beacons have a battery life of only about a month, and Tuesday marked exactly one month since the plane vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board.

If the beacons blink off before the black boxes' location can be determined, finding them in such deep water - about 4,500 meters, or 15,000 feet - would be an immensely difficult, if not impossible, task.

The Ocean Shield first detected underwater sounds on Saturday before losing them, but managed to pick them up again on Tuesday, Houston said. The ship is equipped with a U.S. Navy towed pinger locator that is designed to detect signals from a plane's two black boxes - the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

A data analysis of the signals heard Saturday determined they were distinct, man-made and pulsed consistently, Houston said, indicating they were coming from a plane's black box.

"They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder," he said.

To assist the Ocean Shield, the Australian navy on Wednesday began using parachutes to drop a series of buoys in a pattern near where the signals were last heard.

Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy said each buoy will dangle an underwater listening device called a hydrophone about 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the surface. The hope, he said, is the buoys will help better pinpoint the location of the signals.

Houston acknowledged searchers were running out of time, and noted that the signals picked up on Tuesday were weaker and briefer than the ones heard over the weekend, suggesting that the batteries might be dying. The two signals detected on Saturday lasted two hours and 20 minutes and 13 minutes, respectively; the sounds heard Tuesday lasted just 5 and a half minutes and 7 minutes.

"So we need to, as we say in Australia, `make hay while the sun shines,'" Houston said.

Picking up the sound again is crucial to narrowing the search area so a small, unmanned submarine can be deployed to create a sonar map of a potential debris field on the seafloor. The sub, dubbed Bluefin 21, takes six times longer to cover the same area as the pinger locator, which is pulled behind the boat at a depth of 3,000 meters.

U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews said the detections indicate the device emitting the pings is somewhere within about a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius. Still, he said, that equates to a 1,300-square-kilometer (500-square-mile) chunk of the ocean floor.

That amounts to trying to find a desktop computer in a city the size of Los Angeles, and would take the sub about six weeks to two months to canvass. So it makes more sense to continue using the towed pinger locator to zero in on a more precise location, Matthews said.

"It's certainly a man-made device emitting that signal," he said. "And I have no explanation for what other component could be there."

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing has sparked one of aviation's biggest mysteries. The search has shifted from waters off of Vietnam, to the Strait of Malacca and then to waters in the southern Indian Ocean as data from radar and satellites was further analyzed.

The weakening of the signals could indicate that the batteries were reaching the end of their life, or that the device was farther away, Matthews said. Temperature, water pressure or the saltiness of the sea could also be factors.

Houston said a decision had not yet been made on how long searchers would wait after the final sound was heard before the sub was deployed, saying only that time was "not far away."

"Hopefully in a matter of days, we will be able to find something on the bottom that might confirm that this is the last resting place of MH370," he said.

The Bluefin sub's sonar can scan only about 100 meters and it can "see" with lights and cameras only a few meters. The maximum depth it can dive is 4,500 meters, and some areas of the search zone are deeper.

Search crews are also contending with a thick layer of silt on the seafloor that can both hide any possible wreckage and distort the sounds emanating from the black boxes that may be resting there, said Leavy, who is helping to lead the search.

Meanwhile, the search for debris on the ocean surface picked up intensity on Wednesday, with 15 planes and 14 ships scouring a 75,400 square kilometer area that extends from 2,250 kilometers northwest of Perth.

Despite the challenges still facing search crews, those involved in the hunt were buoyed by the Ocean Shield's findings.

"I'm an engineer so I don't talk emotions too much," Matthews said. "But certainly when I received word that they had another detection, you feel elated. You're hopeful that you can locate the final resting place of the aircraft and bring closure to all the families involved."

--

Gelineau reported from Sydney. Associated Press Writer Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

Read more...

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Search crews in the Indian Ocean failed to pick up more of the faint underwater sounds that may have been from the missing Malaysian jetliner's black boxes whose batteries are at the end of their life.

The signals first heard late Saturday and early Sunday had sparked hopes of a breakthrough in the search for Flight 370, but Angus Houston, the retired Australian air chief marshal leading the search far off western Australia, said listening equipment on the Ocean Shield ship has picked up no trace of the sounds since then.

Finding the sound again is crucial to narrowing the search area so a submarine can be deployed to chart a potential debris field on the seafloor. If the autonomous sub was used now with the sparse data collected so far, covering all the potential places from which the pings might have come would take many days.

"It's literally crawling at the bottom of the ocean so it's going to take a long, long time," Houston said.

The locator beacons on the black boxes have a battery life of only about a month — and Tuesday marked exactly one month since the plane vanished. Once the beacons blink off, locating the black boxes in such deep water would be an immensely difficult, if not impossible, task.

"There have been no further contacts with any transmission and we need to continue (searching) for several days right up to the point at which there's absolutely no doubt that the batteries will have expired," Houston said.

If, by that point, the U.S. Navy towed pinger locator has failed to pick up more signals, the sub will be deployed. If it maps out a debris field on the ocean floor, the sonar system on board will be replaced with a camera unit to photograph any wreckage.

Earlier, Australia's acting prime minister, Warren Truss, had said the Bluefin 21 autonomous sub would be launched on Tuesday, but a spokesman for Truss said later the conflicting information was a misunderstanding, and Truss acknowledged the sub was not being used immediately.

Houston earlier said the two sounds heard Saturday and Sunday are consistent with the pings from an aircraft's black boxes.

Defense Minister David Johnston called the sounds the most positive lead and said it was being pursued vigorously. Still, officials warned it could take days to determine whether the sounds were connected to the plane that vanished March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 on board.

"This is an herculean task — it's over a very, very wide area, the water is extremely deep," Johnston said. "We have at least several days of intense action ahead of us."

Houston also warned of past false leads — such as ships detecting their own signals. Because of that, other ships are being kept away, so as not to add unwanted noise.

"We're very hopeful we will find further evidence that will confirm the aircraft is in that location," Houston said. "There's still a little bit of doubt there, but I'm a lot more optimistic than I was one week ago."

Such optimism was overshadowed by anguish at a hotel in Beijing where around 300 relatives of the flight's passengers — most of whom were Chinese — wait for information about the plane's fate.

One family lit candles on a heart-shaped cake to mark what would have been the 21st birthday of passenger Feng Dong, who had been working in construction in Singapore for the past year and was flying home to China via Kuala Lumpur. Feng's mother wept as she blew out the candles.

A family member of another passenger said staying together allowed the relatives to support one another through the ordeal. "If we go back to our homes now it will be extremely painful," said Steve Wang. "We have to face a bigger pain of facing uncertainty, the unknown future. This is the most difficult to cope with."

Investigators have not found any explanation yet for why the plane lost communications and veered far off its Beijing-bound course, so the black boxes containing the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are key to learning what went wrong.

"Everyone's anxious about the life of the batteries on the black box flight recorders," said Truss, who is acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is overseas. "Sometimes they go on for many, many weeks longer than they're mandated to operate for — we hope that'll be the case in this instance. But clearly there is an aura of urgency about the investigation."

The first sound picked up by the equipment on board the Ocean Shield lasted two hours and 20 minutes before it was lost, Houston said. The ship then turned around and picked up a signal again — this time recording two distinct "pinger returns" that lasted 13 minutes. That would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder.

The black boxes normally emit a frequency of 37.5 kilohertz, and the signals picked up by the Ocean Shield were both 33.3 kilohertz, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews said.

Houston said the frequency heard was considered "quite credible" by the manufacturer, and noted that the frequency from the Air France jet that crashed several years ago was 34 kilohertz. The age of the batteries and the water pressure in the deep ocean can affect the transmission level, he said.

The Ocean Shield is dragging a pinger locator at a depth of 3 kilometers (1.9 miles). It is designed to detect signals at a range of 1.8 kilometers (1.12 miles), meaning it would need to be almost on top of the recorders to detect them if they were on the ocean floor, which is about 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) deep.

The surface search for any plane debris also continued Tuesday. Up to 14 planes and as many ships were focusing on a single search area covering 77, 580 square kilometers (29,954 square miles) of ocean, said the Joint Agency Coordination Center, which is overseeing the operation.

___

Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, and video journalists Isolda Morillo and Peng Peng in Beijing contributed to this report.

Read more...

Latest News

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
Prev Next
Man charged in connection to mother's murder

Man charged in connection to mother's murder

St. Louis, MO (KTRS) - A St. Louis man is facing first-degree murder charges in his mother's death.   Prosecutors allege that Courtney Cunningham allegedly shot his...

Missouri lawmakers mull change to helmet law

Missouri lawmakers mull change to helmet law

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House has endorsed a bill that would allow motorcyclists over the age of 21 to forgo wearing helmets while travelling on the road. &n...

House approves change to Missouri primary dates

House approves change to Missouri primary dates

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House gave initial approval to legislation that would move the state's primary elections to June.   Party primaries for Cong...

One dead after shooting in Washington Park, Illinois

WASHINGTON PARK, Ill. (AP) - Illinois State Police are helping investigate a suspected drive-by shooting death of a 19-year-old man in southwestern Illinois' Washington Park. ...

Three gyms robbed within minutes of one another

St. Louis, MO (KTRS) - A spate of break-ins targeted south city gyms this morning.   Fox2 reports thieves hit at least three different gyms in less than a half an h...

UPDATE: Missing Belleville boy found safe

UPDATE: Missing Belleville boy found safe

St. Louis, MO (KTRS) - UPDATE: Good news for a Belleville father, his 11-year-old son has been found safe.   A SARAA Alert was issued Wednesday morning for DeA...

Universities examine bans of 'selfies' at graduations

St. Louis, MO (KTRS) - It may be coming to a college near you.......with graduation season upon us, bans on selfies are being suggested.   Two universities are the ...

© 2013 KTRS All Rights Reserved