KUSA - Australian officials announced Sunday night that signals consistent with black boxes had been detected in the southern Indian Ocean, in an area where two other vessels had also heard the so-called "pings".
Speaking from Perth, search coordinator Angus Houston said it may take days to confirm the signals are from a black box, but added: "This is a most promising lead."
Houston said the Ocean Shield detected the signals and they appear to be coming from a depth of more than 14,700 feet. He said that depth would test the limits of autonomous underwater vehicles, which would need to be launched in order to confirm whether or not the signal is from a black box.
Earlier on Sunday, a British vessel carrying sophisticated sonar equipment arrived in an area of the Indian Ocean where the ongoing search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was taking place. Chinese vessels had detected two pings that could be from the airplane's black box, but time was running out as the search entered its 30th day.
The 30-day mark is significant because the batteries in black boxes are designed to only function at full capacity for 30 days. After that, the locator signal begins to fade.
Whether the pings detected by a Chinese vessel are coming from a black box is simply not yet known. An Australian ship also reported hearing what it called an "acoustic event," about 300 miles away from where the Chinese vessel was located. The British ship, HMS Echo, headed to the area to see if it could find a black box locator signal.
9NEWS aviation expert Greg Feith said it is unusual that no wreckage from the plane has been seen in either of the "ping" areas. No matter what happens next, though, he said this case will have an effect on commercial aviation.
"I think the two things that are going to come out of this investigation that'll change aviation is the way that we track airplanes- that is, GPS tracking, so that we never have this situation where we don't have radar coverage," Feith said. "We'll always have some level of coverage- whether it's through radar or airborne satellite coverage- so that we know exactly where an airplane is at any time."
The other thing Feith says will change is the length of time a black box will transmit a locator signal. He said, in the next couple of years, expect the life of black box batteries to be extended from 30 days to 90 days.
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