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>>

  • City of Clay to defend pit bull ban in court Tuesday

    City of Clay to defend pit bull ban in court Tuesday

    Monday, September 1 2014 7:14 PM EDT2014-09-01 23:14:16 GMT
    The city of Clay will defend its Vicious Dog Ordinance Tuesday morning in court. The city council passed the ordinance last year. It bans pit bulls. Mayor Charles Webster calls it the biggest safety issue in Clay since he's been elected.More >>
    The city of Clay will defend its Vicious Dog Ordinance Tuesday morning in court. The city council passed the ordinance last year. It bans pit bulls. Mayor Charles Webster calls it the biggest safety issue in Clay since he's been elected.
    More >>
  • Friday Night Blitz: Coverage lineup for Week 3

    Friday Night Blitz: Coverage lineup for Week 3

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:32 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:32:55 GMT
    Week 3 Blitz Game of the Week:MOUNTAIN BROOK vs HOOVER (The Met)Blitz Cheer:BESSEMER CITY at BROOKWOODBlitz Brigade:HUEYTOWN at MINOROther Notable Matchups:VESTAVIA HILLS at OAK MOUNTAINNORTHRIDGE at MCADORYHILLCREST at CLAY-CHALKVILLE CENTRAL-CLAY at SHELBY COUNTYDEMOPOLIS at CALERAMUNFORD at LEEDSCHILTON COUNTY at PELL CITYPIEDMONT at ASHVILLEMOODY vs SPRINGVILLEJACKSON-OLIN vs BRIARWOODTHOMPSON at SPAIN PARKHEWITT-TRUSSVILLE at TUSCALOOSA COUNTYCORNER vs FAIRFIELDGREENE COUNTY vs GORDOTHOR...More >>
    Week 3 Blitz Game of the Week:MOUNTAIN BROOK vs HOOVER (The Met)Blitz Cheer:BESSEMER CITY at BROOKWOODBlitz Brigade:HUEYTOWN at MINOROther Notable Matchups:VESTAVIA HILLS at OAK MOUNTAINNORTHRIDGE at MCADORYHILLCREST at CLAY-CHALKVILLE CENTRAL-CLAY at SHELBY COUNTYDEMOPOLIS at CALERAMUNFORD at LEEDSCHILTON COUNTY at PELL CITYPIEDMONT at ASHVILLEMOODY vs SPRINGVILLEJACKSON-OLIN vs BRIARWOODTHOMPSON at SPAIN PARKHEWITT-TRUSSVILLE at TUSCALOOSA COUNTYCORNER vs FAIRFIELDGREENE COUNTY vs GORDOTHOR...More >>
  • Member of biker club speaks about fight before shooting

    Member of biker club speaks about fight before shooting

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:29 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:29:44 GMT

    Police: suspect in fight before shooting into crowd

    More >>

    Police: suspect in fight before shooting into crowd

    More >>
  • Labor Day Moon Pie eating contest

    Labor Day Moon Pie eating contest

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:22 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:22:19 GMT
    Dozens of folks got their ''fill'' of a popular Alabama treat this Labor Day.Tannehill State Park hosted the largest Moon Pie eating contest. All total there were 65 people who signed up. The winner receives a cash prize of $100. But this is about more than money. Park administrator, Stacey Green says, "I thought at times it was about the cash prizes, because the adults will win $100. But we've had so many repeat competitors, that I really think they're more in it for bragging rights. I re...More >>
    Dozens of folks got their ''fill'' of a popular Alabama treat this Labor Day.Tannehill State Park hosted the largest Moon Pie eating contest. All total there were 65 people who signed up. The winner receives a cash prize of $100. But this is about more than money. Park administrator, Stacey Green says, "I thought at times it was about the cash prizes, because the adults will win $100. But we've had so many repeat competitors, that I really think they're more in it for bragging rights. I re...More >>
  • UPDATE: Car belonging to elderly stabbing victim found

    UPDATE: Car belonging to elderly stabbing victim found

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:07 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:07:42 GMT
    Birmingham police say a neighbor found the woman lying on the floor of her house on the 600 block of 39th Street South Sunday evening. They believe she was the victim of a burglary and was stabbed to death.More >>
    Birmingham police say a neighbor found the woman lying on the floor of her house on the 600 block of 39th Street South Sunday evening. They believe she was the victim of a burglary and was stabbed to death.More >>
  • Job growth under microscope this Labor Day

    Job growth under microscope this Labor Day

    Monday, September 1 2014 5:50 PM EDT2014-09-01 21:50:56 GMT
    Keeping a roof overhead and putting food on the table. That's still difficult for many Alabamians on this 130th Labor Day. A just released report by Arise Citizens Policy Project warns Alabamians will continue to feel the effects of the great recession for years to come. Arise is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition that believes low-income people are suffering because of state policy decisions. Bottom line is that Alabama's unemployment rate stands at seven percent. Yet, the stat...More >>
    Keeping a roof overhead and putting food on the table. That's still difficult for many Alabamians on this 130th Labor Day. A just released report by Arise Citizens Policy Project warns Alabamians will continue to feel the effects of the great recession for years to come. Arise is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition that believes low-income people are suffering because of state policy decisions. Bottom line is that Alabama's unemployment rate stands at seven percent. Yet, the stat...More >>
  • Birmingham security talks underway for Magic City Classic, Dalai Lama visit

    Birmingham security talks underway for Magic City Classic, Dalai Lama visit

    Monday, September 1 2014 2:46 PM EDT2014-09-01 18:46:22 GMT
    This year's Magic City Classic week in Birmingham may be a classic one for security. That's because the annual game is happening the same week as the Dalai Lama's multi-day visit to the city, as ABC 33/40More >>
    Security preps.More >>
  • Man surrenders after shooting in Tuscaloosa

    Man surrenders after shooting in Tuscaloosa

    Monday, September 1 2014 1:15 PM EDT2014-09-01 17:15:16 GMT
    Tuscaloosa police have charged 31-year-old Teira Sherman with assault. Investigators say early Monday morning, police were called to 3100 block of 20th Street on a shooting. When they arrived, they found a 28-year-old man suffering from a gunshot wound to the neck. He was taken to DCH where he is being treated. Investigators spoke with witnesses and they were able to identify the suspect as Sherman. Investigators say it appears Sherman was involved in a fight at a local club and drove to the ...More >>
    Tuscaloosa police have charged 31-year-old Teira Sherman with assault. Investigators say early Monday morning, police were called to 3100 block of 20th Street on a shooting. When they arrived, they found a 28-year-old man suffering from a gunshot wound to the neck. He was taken to DCH where he is being treated. Investigators spoke with witnesses and they were able to identify the suspect as Sherman. Investigators say it appears Sherman was involved in a fight at a local club and drove to the ...More >>