Perth: An Australian aircraft searching for the crashed Malaysian plane today detected a new possible underwater signal in the remote Indian Ocean consistent with a plane`s black box, fuelling hopes of a breakthrough in the arduous month-long hunt.
The fifth signal was picked up in the same area where search crews previously detected sounds possibly from the black box of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, that vanished mysteriously on March 8 with 239 people on board.
While conducting an acoustic search this afternoon, an RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft detected a possible signal in the vicinity of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield, said Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) which is leading the search.
"The acoustic data will require further analysis overnight but shows potential of being from a man-made source, Houston said.
Finding the black box is crucial for knowing what happened on March 8 when the Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 with 239 people, including five Indians, disappeared after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.
The batteries powering the black box are certified to be working for 30 days. Stored in a plane`s tail, they are designed to begin sending off distinct, high-pitched pings or signals as soon as they come in contact with water.
The Ocean Shield, bearing a special US Navy "towed pinger locator", had picked up two fresh signals on Tuesday that matched a pair of signals detected over the weekend.
Today, Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) narrowed down drastically the search area to about 57,923 sq km from yesterday`s 75,000 sq km, the smallest yet in the month-long hunt. The centre of the search area lies approximately 2,280 km north west of Perth.
Up to 10 military aircraft, four civil aircraft and 13 ships were assist in today`s search for the plane that authorities believe crashed in the Indian Ocean.
The new signal came a day after Houston expressed the searchers are approaching the "final resting place" of the ill-fated MH370.
"I`m now optimistic. We`ll find the aircraft or what`s left of the aircraft in the not too distant future. Hopefully in a matter of days, we will be able to find something on the bottom that might confirm that this is the last resting place of MH370," he said yesterday.
Aircraft and ships reported spotting a large number of objects during yesterday`s search, but only a small number were able to be recovered.
None of the recovered items were believed to be associated with the Boeing 777-200.
Houston had said there will be no confirmation of a link to the plane until wreckage is found.