Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

Missing Malaysia Airlines plane search a 'massive, massive task' Abbott says

PM Abbott confident signals from MH370

    Just Watched

    PM Abbott confident signals from MH370

PM Abbott confident signals from MH370 01:01

Story highlights

  • A mother's lament: "They only keep saying, 'We are searching'"
  • Abbott predicts a long slog
  • "We're optimistic," U.S. Navy commander says
  • Up to 11 military aircraft, one civil aircraft and 14 ships in Sunday search

Australia's Prime Minister repeated Saturday that he has a "high degree of confidence" that acoustic signals detected in the Indian Ocean are from at least one of the two black boxes from the missing Malaysian plane, but predicted that finding them remains a "massive, massive task."

"It is likely to continue for a long time to come," Tony Abbott told journalists in Beijing, where he was on a diplomatic visit.

Chinese officials appreciate Australia's "transparency and candor" in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, he said, adding "I think it's to our country's credit that we've approached it that way."

More than 35 days since the plane vanished from radar screens early March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, the search continued.

Up to 11 military aircraft, one civil aircraft and 14 ships will assist in Sunday's search for the missing airliner, the Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Centre said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority planned a visual search area totaling approximately 22,203 square miles (57,506 square kilometers). The center of the search area lies about 1,367 miles (2,200 kilometers) northwest of Perth.

During Friday's search, only a small number of the objects sighted from aircraft and ships were recovered; as has been the case throughout the effort, none was linked to the Boeing aircraft, according to the Joint Agency Coordination Centre.

Are signals from Flight 370's black box?

    Just Watched

    Are signals from Flight 370's black box?

Are signals from Flight 370's black box? 03:37
PLAY VIDEO
Watch latest reports on MH370 pings

    Just Watched

    Watch latest reports on MH370 pings

Watch latest reports on MH370 pings 01:31
PLAY VIDEO
Australian plane detects new signals

    Just Watched

    Australian plane detects new signals

Australian plane detects new signals 01:32
PLAY VIDEO
Sources: Malaysia plane dropped altitude

    Just Watched

    Sources: Malaysia plane dropped altitude

Sources: Malaysia plane dropped altitude 01:21
PLAY VIDEO

Still, the U.S. Navy commander leading the American effort to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 said he was "optimistic" about how the search is proceeding.

The four pings detected in recent days were continuous and consistent with what a black box would emit, said Cmdr. William Marks. "We've ruled out that it was anything natural, or anything from commercial shipping, or anything like that."

"I agree with the Prime Minister," Marks said. "We're optimistic."

Families skeptical

But the optimism was not universal.

Relatives of the 239 people who were aboard the plane when it vanished met Friday with Malaysia Airlines and government officials.

The mother of Pouria Nourmohammadi, the 19-year-old Iranian man who used a fake passport to board the plane, came away unimpressed. "I feel the Malaysian government has forgotten about all things MH370," his mother told CNN on Saturday. "These days there is not news. They only keep saying, 'We are searching.'"

On Saturday, searchers aboard the Australian vessel Ocean Shield were planning to continue towing the ping locator -- referred to as a TPL -- at a walking pace through the water in hopes of picking up new signals from either or both of the locator signals that were attached to the plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, Marks said.

The more signals they can locate, the more investigators say they can narrow the search zone. "We have to stick with the TPL for just a little while longer to make sure we have exhausted every ounce of power coming from the battery through the black boxes," he said. The batteries were certified to last 30 days, but the beacon manufacturer predicted they would last days longer.

Once the searchers have concluded that there is no hope that the batteries could still be powering the beacons, searchers will lower into the water the Bluefin-21, a sonar device, to scour the ocean floor.

The Bluefin's pace is slower than that of the TPL, he said.

Four pings, one dud

On April 5, the TPL detected two sets of underwater pulses of a frequency close to that used by the locator beacons. Three days later, last Tuesday, it reacquired the signals twice.

CNN joins MH370 search over Indian Ocean

    Just Watched

    CNN joins MH370 search over Indian Ocean

CNN joins MH370 search over Indian Ocean 02:45
PLAY VIDEO
Search area for Flight 370 shrinks

    Just Watched

    Search area for Flight 370 shrinks

Search area for Flight 370 shrinks 03:48
PLAY VIDEO
Titanic founder: Search crews are close

    Just Watched

    Titanic founder: Search crews are close

Titanic founder: Search crews are close 04:07
PLAY VIDEO
See AUV used to scour ocean in search

    Just Watched

    See AUV used to scour ocean in search

See AUV used to scour ocean in search 02:18
PLAY VIDEO

All four signals were within 17 miles of one another.

A fifth ping, detected Thursday by a sonobuoy dropped from an airplane, is "unlikely to be related to the aircraft black boxes," Australian chief search coordinator Angus Houston said a day later.

Tracking pings is only one early step in the hunt to find the plane's data recorders, wreckage and the people aboard.

Imagining the search underwater

As the focus narrows, more questions surface in search for Malaysia 370

The hunt for a Flight 370 ping: How they are doing it

How deep is deep? Imagining the MH370 search underwater

      Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

    • nr intv moni basu husbands quiet suffering flight 370_00020822.jpg

      His wife never came home from her flight on MH370, and now K.S. Narendran is left to imagine the worst of possible truths without knowing.
    • This handout photo taken on April 7, 2014 and released on April 9, 2014 by Australian Defence shows Maritime Warfare Officer, Sub Lieutenant Ryan Penrose watching HMAS Success as HMAS Perth approaches for a replenishment at sea while searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Two fresh signals have been picked up Australian ship Ocean Shield in the search for missing Malaysian flight MH370, raising hopes that wreckage will be found within days even as black box batteries start to expire.

      Was the sound of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 striking the water captured by ocean devices used to listen for signs of nuclear blasts?
    •  A crew member of a Royal New Zealand Airforce (RNZAF) P-3K2-Orion aircraft helps to look for objects during the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in flight over the Indian Ocean on April 13, 2014 off the coast of Perth, Australia. S

      What was believed to be the best hope of finding the missing plane is now being called a false hope. Rene Marsh explains.
    • Caption:A Chinese relative of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 uses a lighter as she prays at the Metro Park Hotel in Beijing on April 8, 2014. The hunt for physical evidence that the Malaysia Airlines jet crashed in the Indian Ocean more than three weeks ago has turned up nothing, despite a massive operation involving seven countries and repeated sightings of suspected debris. AFP PHOTO/WANG ZHAO (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)

      Involved parties, including the manufacturer Boeing, are bracing for a long public relations siege.
    • The painstaking search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 got a vote of confidence Friday that the effort is headed in the right direction, but officials noted that much work remains.
Credit: 	CNN

      Official: The four acoustic pings at the center of the search for Flight 370 are no longer believed to have come from the plane's black boxes.
    • INDIAN OCEAN (April 14, 2014) -- Operators aboard ADF Ocean Shield move U.S. Navy's Bluefin-21 into position for deployment, April 14. Using side scan sonar, the Bluefin will descend to a depth of between 4,000 and 4,500 meters, approximately 35 meters above the ocean floor. It will spend up to 16 hours at this depth collecting data, before potentially moving to other likely search areas. Joint Task Force 658 is currently supporting Operation Southern Indian Ocean, searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. (U.S. Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair/RELEASED)

      The underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane will effectively be put on hold this week, and may not resume until August at the earliest.
    • Movie-makers say they have recruited leading Hollywood technicians to bring their experience to mid-air flight sequences.

      Movie-makers in Cannes have announced they're making a thriller based on the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370.
    • The search for the missing Boeing 777 has gone on for eight weeks now. CNN's David Molko looks back at this difficult, emotional assignment.