A Chinese patrol ship looking for signs of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean discovered Saturday a pulse signal with a frequency of 37.5 kHz, state news agency Xinhua reported.
“That is the standard beacon frequency” for both so-called black boxes — the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, said Anish Patel, president of pinger manufacturer Dukane Seacom.
But experts cautioned that no confirmation had been made that the signal was linked to the missing plane. “This could be a variety of things,” said oceanographer Simon Boxall, who said the frequency is used by a variety of instruments.
“We’ve had a lot of red herrings, hyperbole on this whole search,” the lecturer in ocean and earth science at the University of Southampton told CNN. “I’d really like to see this data confirmed.”
He added, “It could be a false signal.”
But, if this proves to be what investigators have been searching for, “then the possibility of recovering the plane — or at least the black boxes — goes from being one in a million to almost certain.”
The announcement came nearly a month after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, and on the same day that the nation’s acting transportation minister said three committees were being formed to tackle the disappearance of the flight.
One will tend to the families of passengers aboard the missing flight, the second will oversee the investigation team and a third committee will handle the deployment of assets, said Hishammuddin Hussein.
Malaysia will also appoint an independent investigator to lead an investigation team, the acting minister said.
The team will include an airworthiness group, looking at issues such as maintenance records, and an operations group to examine aspects such as flight recorders and operations. A medical and human factors team will investigate issues such as psychology, he said.
As well as Malaysia and Australia, the team will include representatives from China, the United States, the United Kingdom and France, he said.
Hishammuddin also addressed “unfounded allegations made against Malaysia,” which, he said, “include the extraordinary assertion that Malaysian authorities were somehow complicit in what happened to MH370.”
He added, “I should like to state, for the record, that these allegations are completely untrue.”
Hishammuddin pointed to a statement from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which says Malaysia has “done its level best” in its response to an operation “which is the biggest and most complex we have ever seen.”
The minister, who had earlier briefed ASEAN ministers and the United States on the search at a joint defense forum, thanked the United States for its “unwavering support” and said the ASEAN ministers had pledged their continued cooperation.
The hunt for physical evidence continues Saturday — both on the surface of the southern Indian Ocean and deep below it.
The British submarine HMS Tireless is now in the search area, Hishammuddin said.
Meanwhile, a parallel search for digital clues on the hard drives of a flight simulator in the home of one of the pilots turned up nothing conclusive.
There was no “we got it” information, a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN late Friday.
There were some “curious” things, given the situation, the official said. The captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had programmed several alternate routes into the simulator, but it appeared he had done so to come up with safe plans of action in case of emergencies aboard the plane, the official said.
The searches appear to be what an experienced and professional pilot would do, the official said.