April 7, 2014— -- One of the vessels searching the southern Indian Ocean has detected signals “consistent with those emitted from airplane black boxes,” retired Australia Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said today at a news conference – the most promising lead in the search for doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
Two signals were heard by the Australian ship Ocean Shield, said Houston, who’s coordinating the search from Perth, Australia. The longest signal was held for two hours, 20 minutes. The second signal was heard for 13 minutes.
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The signals were detected in the northern part of the search area.
While Houston called the development “the best information we’ve had,” he stressed that further confirmation is needed, and the airplane has yet to be found. He said the ocean is about 2.8 miles deep in the area where the signals were heard.
“In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast,” he said.
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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was carrying 239 people when it went missing March 8. The plane made six exchanges with a satellite before disappearing, Houston said, followed by "a slightly different signal" six minutes after the sixth ping.
"Experts consider this very significant. We assess that's where the aircraft would've run out of fuel," Houston said.
Commander William Marks, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, expressed optimism about the developments in an interview with ABC News Radio.
“We need to reacquire this same signal. Once we get that we can get a good location of where we think these black boxes are. And then we can deploy our side scan sonar," Marks said.
“We did hear two signals. There was very similar frequency ranges involved coming from different locations. That's actually pretty encouraging because, remember, there are two black boxes involved.”