Search Zone for Missing Jet Cut by More Than Half in One Day

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The search zone for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet narrowed to the smallest area yet on Thursday, as officials leading the operation said they were optimistic they were close to finding wreckage of MH370.

Scaling down the area to just over 22,000 square miles from over 46,000 on Wednesday, Angus Houston, the Australian official in charge of the search, said he hoped crews were closing in on the vanished jet's "final resting place."

"I'm now optimistic that we will find the aircraft, or what is left of the aircraft, in the not-too-distant future," Houston said on Wednesday.

At its largest, the area covered 2.96 million square miles, or the was the equivalent of 11 percent of the Indian Ocean.

No further sounds have been picked up since a U.S. Navy pinger locator detected two signals that might be from the plane’s black box on Wednesday. However, the Australian search vessel Ocean Shield continued to tow the detection equipment through the depths with the aim of finding the signal again and get a more specific fix on its location.

Another 13 ships and 14 planes were scouring the southern Indian Ocean for floating debris, crisscrossing an area they had already searched but moving in tighter patterns now that the search zone has been narrowed.

Investigators are in a race against time to find the airplane's black boxes that carry data which may allow them to build a picture of what happened during the flight’s final hours.

The beacons' batteries last only about a month and that deadline passed on Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

-Henry Austin