A Chinese ship searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has detected ‘pings’ of the standard frequency of an airplane black box and flight recorder, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua.
The news agency’s reporter on board search vessel Haixun 01 reported that searchers on the ship had received return pings from an object emitting signals at 37.5kHz frequency, the standard frequency at which airplane black boxes are set in order to find them in cases such as the flight 370’s disappearance. The ping came from an area around 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east longtitude, which would put it almost directly west of Camarvon, Australia.
Xinhua did not note whether there was any confirmation that such a signal was the black box from flight 370, only that the possibility was extremely high that the signal was being sent from flight equipment. Reuters notes that the area is also littered with debris, though none has been confirmed to have come from a plane.
Australian authorities appear much more cautious to declare the find a victory, given the numerous false identification of potentially related debris and the dramatically different turns the search has taken using radar data. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian Defense Minister David Johnston has emphasized caution in confirming that the results of the search have found the plane. “There’s a huge chance of false positives here,” he told Australian television, adding that “this is not the first time we’ve had something that has turned out to be very disappointing.”
Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who is running the search operation for Australia, reportedly confirmed in the Wall Street Journal that the search has taken a new direction in the past few days as analysis of radar data has been completed. “My expectation is we’re into a situation where the data we’ve got is the data we’ve got, and we’ll proceed on the basis of that,” he told the paper.
The breakthrough in the search follows several updates on finding flight 370 that yielded no results. After a number of satellite identifications of debris in the designated search area were found by China, Australia, and France, all such sightings were dismissed. The most promising one, a sighting of debris in the search area that matched the colors of the plane, was confirmed to be fishing gear.
Black box flight recorders are equipped with batteries that can last for 30 days, which would leave one more day for authorities to find the black box using its 37.5kHz frequency, according to the Wall Street Journal.