Sci/Tech

Statement from coordinator of hunt for missing jet

PERTH, Australia (AP) — The first part of the opening statement from Monday's press conference by retired Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who is head of the joint agency coordinating the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 out of Perth, Australia:

"Well, good afternoon. Yesterday I outlined a number of leads we were pursuing in relation to the search, the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. Namely, the electronic pulse signals detected by the Chinese ship Haixun 01 and an acoustic noise being pursued by the Australian defense vessel Ocean Shield in her current location. I stated that the Ocean Shield would be delayed from going to the approximate area where the Haixun 01 had detected the signals while she continued her own investigations.

"Today I can report some very encouraging information which has unfolded over the last 24 hours. The towed pinger locator deployed from the Australian defense vessel Ocean Shield has detected signals consistent with those emitted by aircraft black boxes.

"Two separate signal detections have occurred within the northern part of the defined search area. The first detection was held for approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes. The ship then lost contact before conducting a turn and attempting to re-acquire the signal.

"The second detection on the return leg was held for approximately 13 minutes. On this occasion, two distinct pinger returns were audible. Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder.

"Clearly, this is a most promising lead. And probably in the search so far, it's probably the best information that we have had. "Again, I would ask all of you to treat this information cautiously and responsibly until such time as we can provide an unequivocal determination. We haven't found the aircraft yet; we need the confirmation. And I really stress this; it's very important.

"Ocean Shield remains in the immediate area and continues to try and regain contact with the towed pinger locator. To this point, it has not been able to re-acquire the signals. "There are many steps yet before these detections can be positively verified as being from missing Flight MH370.

"Firstly, we need to fix the position. Then the Ocean Shield can lower the autonomous underwater vehicle 'Bluefin 21' into the water and attempt to locate wreckage on the sea floor. Another source of evidence such as wreckage would verify this lead. The area in which the signals have been received has a depth of approximately 4,500 meters (15,000 feet). This is also the limit of capability of the autonomous underwater vehicle.

"I need to be honest with you. It could take some days before the information is available to establish whether these detections can be confirmed as being from MH370. "In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast. Of course, I will update you once we have an unequivocal determination."

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