Abbott: Australia's 'transparency and candor' appreciated in search for MH 370

Are signals from Flight 370's black box?
Are signals from Flight 370's black box?


    Are signals from Flight 370's black box?


Are signals from Flight 370's black box? 03:37

Story highlights

  • Transparent communication is 'to our country's credit,' Australian leader says
  • Abbott: 'High degree of confidence' that the detected signals are from the black box
  • "We're optimistic," U.S. Navy commander says
  • Saturday's search area is 41,393 square kilometers (16,000 square miles)

Australia's Prime Minister said Saturday that Chinese officials appreciate his country's "transparency and candor" in the handling of the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

"I think it's to our country's credit that we've approached it that way," Tony Abbott told journalists in China.

He reiterated the "high degree of confidence" he has expressed before that acoustic signals picked up by searchers in the Indian Ocean are from the plane's black box.

But he warned that, that even if the plane is lying on the bottom of the sea underneath the search vessels that locating it underneath nearly three miles of water would be a "massive, massive task."

"It is likely to continue for a long time to come," he said.

U.S. Navy commander 'optimistic'

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

"We are detecting very continuous pings coming through in a manner consistent with exactly what you'd expect from a black box," Cmdr. William Marks told CNN's Erin Burnett on Friday. "We've ruled out that it was anything natural, or anything from commercial shipping, or anything like that."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said earlier Friday that search efforts are heading in the right direction. Marks said, "I agree with the prime minister. We're optimistic."

Up to nine military aircraft, one civil aircraft and 14 ships will assist in Saturday's search for the airliner, Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a press release. The center of the 41,393-square-kilometer (16,000 square-mile) search area lies about 2,331 kilometers (1,448 miles) northwest of Perth.

Abbott's confidence

Abbott has expressed such confidence about detected acoustic signals coming from the plane's black box before.

Over the past week, four such pings have been detected by a ping locator towed by the Australian vessel Ocean Shield.

"We are confident that we know the position of the black box flight recorder to within some kilometers, but confidence in the approximate position of the black box is not the same as recovering wreckage from almost 4½ kilometers beneath the sea or finally determining all that happened on that flight," he said.

Watch latest reports on MH370 pings
Watch latest reports on MH370 pings


    Watch latest reports on MH370 pings


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


    Australian plane detects new signals


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


    Sources: Malaysia plane dropped altitude


Sources: Malaysia plane dropped altitude 01:21

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

"On the information I have available to me, there has been no major breakthrough in the search for MH370," Houston said in a statement Friday. "Further analysis continues to be undertaken by Australian Joint Acoustic Analysis Centre."

Friday was Day 35 in the search, and the batteries powering the flight data recorders' locator beacons are certified to emit signals for only 30 days after they get wet.

That has injected the search effort with a heightened sense of urgency.

The signal is "starting to fade, and we are hoping to get as much information as we can before the signal finally expires," Abbott said.

Families skeptical

Families of the 239 people who were aboard when the plane disappeared from radar screens early March 8 met Friday with Malaysia Airlines and government officials. They came away unpersuaded that progress was being made.

"Today, all they said was that they were confident," family representative Steve Wang said. "But that really doesn't mean that they have confirmed it. They didn't use the word 'confirm.' So it could be that it's a real lead, but it could also not be. I think that, at the moment, everyone needs to wait for final, confirmed information."

That view was echoed by Sarah Bajc, whose partner, Philip Wood, was among the passengers.

"Every time some official gives one of those absolute statements of 'We're sure it's the pings from the black boxes' or 'We're sure it's in the ocean,' we all crash," she told CNN's "New Day."

"Our feet get knocked out from underneath us. But then it always ends up reversing itself, and they step back from it."

She expressed skepticism about the way the investigation has been handled. "The fox is very much in charge of the henhouse here," she told "New Day." "We've got a country leading the investigation who also has the primary liability in the case, and it makes us question every step that's taken."

New flight details revealed

Malaysian sources told CNN that Flight 370's pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was the last person on the jet to speak to air traffic controllers, telling them "Good night, Malaysian three-seven-zero."

The sources said there was nothing unusual about his voice, which conveyed no indication that he was under stress.

One of the sources, an official involved in the investigation, told CNN that police played the recording to five other Malaysia Airlines pilots who knew the pilot and co-pilot.

"There were no third-party voices," the source said.

Imagining the search underwater

Search area shrinks

Up to 12 military aircraft, three civil aircraft and 13 ships were assigned to assist in Friday's search for the Boeing 777-200ER, which was carrying 239 people when it vanished on March 8 on a fight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

There were no sightings reported by search aircraft or objects recovered by ships Thursday, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said.

Friday's search area was about 18,000 square miles (46,600 square kilometers), centered 1,436 miles (2,311 kilometers) northwest of Perth.

That's far smaller than the search area's size a few weeks ago.

"It's pretty incredible if you look at where we started, which was virtually the entire Indian Ocean. Now getting it down to what's essentially a couple hundred square miles (where the pings have been detected) is pretty miraculous," Marks said.

The Ocean Shield first picked up two sets of underwater pulses April 5 that were of a frequency close to that used by the locator beacons. It heard nothing more until Tuesday, when it reacquired the signals twice. The four signals were within 17 miles of one another.

As the search continues, a U.S. Navy ship will help provide supplies and fuel to the ships that are looking for the missing plane.

The USNS Cesar Chavez will help supply Australian naval ships involved in the search "in the coming days," the Navy said in a statement.

That's probably a sign that search teams are preparing for a lengthy hunt, analysts said.

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

"I think they're getting ready for the long haul," said Goelz, the aviation analyst. "Even if they do get four or five more pings, once they drop the side-scanning sonar device down, that is going to be painstaking and long. So I think they are settling in for the long search."

As the focus narrows, more questions emerge 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

      An empty space on earth

      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.

      Is this the sound of the crash?

      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

      Search back to square one

      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)

      Bring in the lawyers

      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

      Pings likely not from Flight 370

      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)

      Underwater search on hold

      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.

      An MH370 movie already?

      Movie-makers in Cannes have announced they're making a thriller based on the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370.
    • The story of the search

      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.