Another possible signal heard in Flight 370 search

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A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon takes off from Perth Airport on route to rejoin the on-going search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Perth, Australia, Thursday, April 10, 2014. Planes and ships hunting for the missing Malaysian jetliner zeroed in on a targeted patch of the Indian Ocean on Thursday, after a navy ship picked up underwater signals that are consistent with a plane’s black box. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon takes off from Perth Airport on route to rejoin the on-going search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Perth, Australia, Thursday, April 10, 2014. Planes and ships hunting for the missing Malaysian jetliner zeroed in on a targeted patch of the Indian Ocean on Thursday, after a navy ship picked up underwater signals that are consistent with a plane’s black box. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon taxies along the runway before it takes off from Perth Airport on route to rejoin the on-going search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Perth, Australia, Thursday, April 10, 2014. Planes and ships hunting for the missing Malaysian jetliner zeroed in on a targeted patch of the Indian Ocean on Thursday, after a navy ship picked up underwater signals that are consistent with a plane’s black box. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

A woman ties a message card for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 at a shopping mall in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, April 10, 2014. With hopes high that search crews are zeroing in on the missing Malaysian jetliner’s crash site, ships and planes hunting for the aircraft intensified their efforts Thursday after equipment picked up sounds consistent with a plane’s black box in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo)

Spectators take photos of a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft as it comes in for a landing at Perth International Airport after returning from the ongoing search operations for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Perth, Australia, Thursday, April 10, 2014. With hopes high that search crews are zeroing in on the missing Malaysian jetliner’s crash site, ships and planes hunting for the aircraft intensified their efforts Thursday after equipment picked up sounds consistent with a plane’s black box in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

A couple is silhouetted as they watch a Malaysia Airlines plane on the tarmac from the viewing gallery at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, April 10, 2014. With hopes high that search crews are zeroing in on the missing Malaysian jetliner’s crash site, ships and planes hunting for the aircraft intensified their search efforts on Thursday after equipment picked up sounds consistent with a plane’s black box in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

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PERTH, Australia (AP) — For the fifth time in recent days, an underwater sensor detected a signal in the same swath of the southern Indian Ocean on Thursday, raising hopes that searchers are closing in on what could be a flight recorder from the missing Malaysian jet.

An Australian air force P-3 Orion, which has been dropping sonar buoys into the water near where four sounds were heard earlier, picked up a “possible signal” that may be from a man-made source, said Angus Houston, who is coordinating the search for Flight 370 off Australia’s west coast.

The latest acoustic data would be analyzed, he said. If confirmed, the signal would further narrow the hunt for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, which vanished March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard.

The Australian ship Ocean Shield, which is towing a U.S. Navy device to detect signal beacons from a plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders, picked up two underwater sounds Tuesday. Two sounds it detected Saturday were determined to be consistent with the pings emitted from the flight recorders, or “black boxes.”

The searchers are trying to pinpoint the location of the source of the underwater signals so they can send down a robotic submersible to look for wreckage and the flight recorders from the Malaysian jet.

The sonar buoys are being dropped by the Australian air force to maximize the sound-detectors operating in the search zone. Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy said each buoy is dangling a hydrophone listening device about 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the surface and transmits its data via radio back to a search plane.

The underwater search zone is currently a 1,300-square-kilometer (500-square-mile) patch of the ocean floor — about the size of the city of Los Angeles — and narrowing the area as much as possible is crucial before the submersible is sent to create a sonar map of a potential debris field on the seabed.

The Bluefin 21 submersible takes six times longer to cover the same area as the ping locator being towed by the Ocean Shield and would take six weeks to two months to canvass the current underwater search zone. That’s why the acoustic equipment is still being used to get a more precise location, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews said.

Houston has expressed optimism about the sounds detected earlier in the week, saying Wednesday that he was hopeful crews would find the aircraft — or what’s left of it — in the “not-too-distant future.”

The search for debris floating on the surface was narrowed Thursday to its smallest size yet — 57,900 square kilometers (22,300 square miles), or about one-quarter the size it was a few days ago. Fourteen planes and 13 ships were looking for the debris about 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of Perth.

Crews searching the surface are moving in tighter patterns, now that the zone has been narrowed to about a quarter the size it was a few days ago, Houston said.

Separately, a Malaysian government official said Thursday that investigators have concluded

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