Crew members aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Success watch as a helicopter participates in a Replenishment at Sea with the Royal Malaysian Navy ship KD LEKIU in the southern Indian Ocean during the continuing search for Malaysia Airlines jetliner missing in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles off the coast of Perth, Australia. The U.S. Navy "towed pinger locator" connected to the Ocean Shield picked up signals consistent with that of the missing jetliner it was announced April 7, 2014. (UPI/ David Connolly/Australian Defense Force) | License Photo
PERTH, Australia, April 11 (UPI) -- The last signal searchers heard from what they thought was Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been determined to be unrelated to the missing plane.
Hopes for finally finding Malaysia Flight 370 were dampened Friday when the joint search agency said the signal they detected was probably not from the plane. Australian chief search coordinator Angus Houston said the acoustic signal detected Thursday is "unlikely to be related to the aircraft black boxes."
"On the information I have available to me, there has been no major breakthrough in the search for MH370," Houston said in his statement Friday. "Further analysis continues to be undertaken by Australian Joint Acoustic Analysis Centre."
This comes after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in China Friday that they were "very confident" the signals detected were from the plane, putting them closer to locating it and discovering what happened. It was unclear whether he was referring to the most recent signal or the four signals detected earlier this week. As 154 of the 239 passengers on the flight were Chinese, Abbott personally briefed Chinese President Xi Xinping.
The search area is significantly smaller as the search goes on, with Friday's search area at about 18,000 square miles, centered 1,436 miles northwest of Perth. This is substantial progress from a few weeks ago when the search area covered millions of square miles.
Time is of the essence for searchers, though, as Friday marks the 35th day in the search and the black box signal is designed to only last 30 days after getting wet.
"The signals are getting weaker," Houston said Wednesday, "which means we're either moving away from the search area or the pinger batteries are dying."