Ships earlier today found signals, or “pings”, from something underwater that is consistent of an airplane’s Black Box. A Chinese ship a few days ago heard this signal for a few moments then alerted other ships in the area which arrived earlier today. An Australian ship, the Ocean Shield, has now also detected the signals confirming the Chinese finding.
The Australian ship was pulling a towed sonar borrowed from the US Navy. It found the signal twice. The first time it “heard” the signal for two hours and 20 minutes. It lost the signal then regained it later for 13 minutes.
This is a very promising lead. The best they have had since the plane was lost exactly 30 days ago. It is also very good news as the Black Box’s “pinging” signal is expected to end after 30 days…or today although it can last for 40 to 50 days depending on how good the battery is.
However, they haven’t found the aircraft yet. This will be challenging. If the signals are from the aircraft, it will substantially help in locating the plane as it will make the search area much smaller.
Now they will bring in underwater robots called AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) and ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles). (More info). These systems will scan and search the bottom of the ocean looking for the plane.
In the 2009 Air France crash in the Atlantic Ocean near Brazil, it took investigators two years to recover the Black Box and Flight Data Recorder. The plane was 13,100 feet (4,000m) below the surface which made the recovery very difficult. It took AUVs 40 days just to find the airplane. Then ROVs were used to recover the bodies and the Black Boxes.
At the location of the pings, the ocean is 14,750 feet deep. The concern is that at these depths, the underwater equipment is at its physical limit. There’s a chance the equipment could be crushed due to the water pressures at that depth.
Searchers are using 9 military planes, 3 civilian planes, 14 ships and at least 1 submarine. Let hope for the families that the plane is located very soon.
See Complete History of Flight 370 for the historical account.