Long hunt for missing jet looms as pings go silent - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Long hunt for missing jet looms as pings go silent

Posted: Updated:
In this map provided on Saturday, April 12, 2014, by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, details are presented in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Joint Agency Coordination Centre) In this map provided on Saturday, April 12, 2014, by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, details are presented in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Joint Agency Coordination Centre)

PERTH, Australia (AP) — After a week of optimism over four underwater signals believed to be coming from the missing Malaysian plane, the sea has gone quiet and Australia's leader is warning that the massive search will likely be long.

No new electronic pings have been heard since April 8, and the batteries powering the locator beacons on the jet's black box recorders may already be dead. They only last about a month, and that window has already passed. Once officials are confident no more sounds will be heard, a robotic submersible will be sent down to slowly scour for wreckage across a vast area in extremely deep water.

"No one should underestimate the difficulties of the task still ahead of us," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in Beijing on Saturday, the last day of his China trip.

Abbott appeared to couch his comments from a day earlier, when he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to brief him on the search for the Malaysia Airlines flight, which was carrying 239 people — most of them Chinese — when it disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing.

After analyzing satellite data, officials believe the plane flew off course for an unknown reason and went down in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia's west coast.

Abbott expressed confidence that the signals heard by an Australian ship, which is towing a U.S. Navy device that listens for flight recorder pings, were coming from the missing Boeing 777's black boxes. But he said the fading batteries were making the job much harder. Recovering the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders is essential for investigators to try to piece together what happened to Flight 370.

"There's still a lot more work to be done and I don't want anyone to think that we are certain of success, or that success, should it come, is going to happen in the next week or even month. There's a lot of difficulty and a lot of uncertainty left in this," he said.

In Malaysia, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on Saturday refuted a front-page report in a local newspaper, the New Strait Times, that a signal from the mobile phone of co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid was picked up by a telecommunications tower near the Malaysian city of Penang shortly before the plane disappeared from radar. The newspaper report said the signal ended abruptly before contact was established.

Hishammuddin, who is also the acting transport minister, told the Malaysian national news agency Bernama that he should have been aware of the phone call earlier, but that wasn't the case.

"I cannot comment (on the newspaper report) because if it is true, we would have known about it much earlier," Hishammuddin said after praying at a mosque in southern Jofor state, according to Bernama.

He added that it was irresponsible for anyone to take the opportunity to make "baseless" reports.

Four sounds heard April 5 and April 8 by the Australian ship Ocean Shield, which was towing the ping locator, were determined to be consistent with signals emitted from the two black boxes.

"Given that the signal from the black box is rapidly fading, what we are now doing is trying to get as many detections as we can so that we can narrow the search area down to as small an area as possible," Abbott said.

The underwater search zone is currently a 1,300-square-kilometer (500-square-mile) patch of the seabed, about the size of Los Angeles.

The searchers want to pinpoint the exact location of the source of the sounds — or as close as they can get — before sending the sub down. It will not be deployed until officials are confident that no other electronic signals are present.

The Bluefin 21 submersible takes six times longer to cover the same area as the ping locator, and will need about six weeks to two months to canvass the current underwater zone. The signals are also coming from 4,500 meters (15,000 feet) below the surface, which is the deepest the Bluefin can dive.

The surface area being searched on Sunday for floating debris was 57,506 square kilometers (22,203 square miles) of ocean extending about 2,200 kilometers (1,367 miles) northwest of Perth. Up to 12 planes and 14 ships were participating in the hunt.

___

Follow Margie Mason on Twitter: twitter.com/MargieMasonAP

  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • Black box found at Air Algerie wreckage site

    Black box found at Air Algerie wreckage site

    Friday, July 25 2014 11:34 AM EDT2014-07-25 15:34:18 GMT
    French officials say that the wreckage of an Air Algeria plane which crashed with 116 people aboard has been found in Mali.More >>
    French soldiers recovered a black box from the Air Algerie wreckage site in a desolate region of restive northern Mali on Friday, officials said. Terrorism hasn't been ruled out as a cause, although officials say the...More >>
  • Lawyer for doctors: Man's claims of botched circumcision, amputated penis are untrue

    Lawyer for doctors: Man's claims of botched circumcision, amputated penis are untrue

    Friday, July 25 2014 11:21 AM EDT2014-07-25 15:21:47 GMT
     Two doctors are denying claims by an Alabama man who says his penis was amputated during what was supposed to be a routine circumcision.More >>
     Two doctors are denying claims by an Alabama man who says his penis was amputated during what was supposed to be a routine circumcision.
    More >>
  • Antioch Baptist Church Plans Several Events to Honor Pastor Quinton Earl Hammond

    Birmingham Pastor Reaches Milestone

    Birmingham Pastor Reaches Milestone

    Friday, July 25 2014 10:50 AM EDT2014-07-25 14:50:40 GMT
    This is the 40th year of preaching for Dr. Quinton Earl Hammond. Thirty-four of those years were spent at Antioch Baptist Church.
    More >>
    This is the 40th year of preaching for Dr. Quinton Earl Hammond. Thirty-four of those years were spent at Antioch Baptist Church. Today, members wore black tee-shirts which boast how they feel about their beloved pastor. The shirts read, "We love our Pastor." Meanwhile, the Pastor of the church sports a tee-shirt that reads, "I love my church." Reverend Hammond's achievements are being celebrated at a black-tie Gala planned for August 8th 2014 at the Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham. A s...More >>
  • Lane Closures Planned as Wire Rails are Installed, Asphalt Paving, Grading Work Done

    Lane Closures Planned as Wire Rails are Installed, Asphalt Paving, Grading Work Done

    Friday, July 25 2014 10:50 AM EDT2014-07-25 14:50:03 GMT
    If you drive along Interstate 459, you might want to budget more travel time. Guard-rail, grading work and asphalt paving work is set to begin along the highway. Work on the north and southbound on I-459 in Hoover is set to begin this weekend. The inside lanes will be shut down from the Al 150 interchange to the U-S 31 interchange...Sunday through Tuesday nights, from 7 PM until 6 AM. Aldot plans to install cable rails to keep drivers from crossing over into oncoming traffic. A series of fa...More >>
    If you drive along Interstate 459, you might want to budget more travel time. Guard-rail, grading work and asphalt paving work is set to begin along the highway. Work on the north and southbound on I-459 in Hoover is set to begin this weekend. The inside lanes will be shut down from the Al 150 interchange to the U-S 31 interchange...Sunday through Tuesday nights, from 7 PM until 6 AM. Aldot plans to install cable rails to keep drivers from crossing over into oncoming traffic. A series of fa...More >>
  • Birmingham Protesters Join National Movement to Protest Federal Immigration Policies

    Birmingham Protesters Join National Movement to Protest Federal Immigration Policies

    Friday, July 25 2014 10:49 AM EDT2014-07-25 14:49:18 GMT
    Birmingham was one of 400 cities to have participated in what the group claims is the largest anti-amnesty nation-wide protest in history. The group calls themselves "Make Them Listen." They took to the streets expressing frustration with the federal government's stance on immigration. Using Facebook to get the word out, they staged a national day of protesting against immigration reform, amnesty and border surge. Car horns blared and beeped in response to the "no amnesty" and "no illegal i...More >>
    Birmingham was one of 400 cities to have participated in what the group claims is the largest anti-amnesty nation-wide protest in history. The group calls themselves "Make Them Listen." They took to the streets expressing frustration with the federal government's stance on immigration. Using Facebook to get the word out, they staged a national day of protesting against immigration reform, amnesty and border surge. Car horns blared and beeped in response to the "no amnesty" and "no illegal i...More >>
  • Single Mother's Empowerment Conference Honors and Inspires

    Single Mother's Empowerment Conference Honors and Inspires

    Friday, July 25 2014 10:48 AM EDT2014-07-25 14:48:43 GMT
    Women were informed, and inspired and networked with one-another at today's Single Mother's Empowerment Conference. ABC 33-40's Linda Mays, the conference Executive Director, kicked off the event. Then speakers and panelists moved into break-out sessions. ABC 33-40 anchor and reporter Brenda Ladun was a guest panelist, along with Ruby Felton, the Community-based Program Manager at the Exchange Club Child Abuse Prevention Center, Melva Tate, owner of public relations firm Tate Associates, LL...More >>
    Women were informed, and inspired and networked with one-another at today's Single Mother's Empowerment Conference. ABC 33-40's Linda Mays, the conference Executive Director, kicked off the event. Then speakers and panelists moved into break-out sessions. ABC 33-40 anchor and reporter Brenda Ladun was a guest panelist, along with Ruby Felton, the Community-based Program Manager at the Exchange Club Child Abuse Prevention Center, Melva Tate, owner of public relations firm Tate Associates, LL...More >>
  • Blount County Shooting Victim Identified

    Blount County Shooting Victim Identified

    Friday, July 25 2014 10:47 AM EDT2014-07-25 14:47:32 GMT
    The Blount County Sheriff's office has identified the 34-year old man who was shot and killed in the 1600 block of Tawbush Road yesterday. Deputies say Ayatollah Khomeini Muhammad's driver's license listed a Center Point, Alabama address. Investigators say Muhammad did not reside at the Tawbush Road home, where he was removed by sheriffs deputies Wednesday morning. "What happened yesterday was he showed up at the house at 1 o'clock. Deputies were called over there. There were no problems, no...More >>
    The Blount County Sheriff's office has identified the 34-year old man who was shot and killed in the 1600 block of Tawbush Road yesterday. Deputies say Ayatollah Khomeini Muhammad's driver's license listed a Center Point, Alabama address. Investigators say Muhammad did not reside at the Tawbush Road home, where he was removed by sheriffs deputies Wednesday morning. "What happened yesterday was he showed up at the house at 1 o'clock. Deputies were called over there. There were no problems, no...More >>
  • Samford "shoes" a nation

    Samford "shoes" a nation

    Friday, July 25 2014 8:23 AM EDT2014-07-25 12:23:40 GMT
    Samford is now the first university to "Shoe a Nation." More >>
    Samford is now the first university to "Shoe a Nation." More >>