(Fox News) -- The team of international investigators hunting for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has "unquestionably" located the missing jetliner and could soon have high resolution images of the wreck site, an expert in deep sea recoveries of ships and planes told FoxNews.com.
There is virtually no chance that the pings picked up by ships towing sophisticated listening devices could be anything other than signals emitted by the plane's flight data recorder, or "black box," David Mearns, of Blue Water Recoveries, a United Kingdom-based company that holds the Guinness World Record for the deepest ocean recovery and has assisted searches for sunken planes.
"This cannot be coming from anything else," Mearns said. "This is the best equipment there is, and the signal is unmistakable.”
If Mearns is correct, what remains is to pinpoint the precise location, map the debris field on the seabed and begin recovering parts of the plane and, possibly, the bodies of victims. The site is some 15,000 feet, or 2.8 miles deep, Mearns said, and in a remote part of the Indian Ocean that is deeper than the Titanic's final resting site and too deep for humans to dive.
Mearns, who is not involved in the effort but knows people who are and has been through the process himself, said he believes Angus Houston, the retired Australian air chief marshal heading the Joint Agency Coordination Center, is deliberately awaiting incontrovertible visual evidence out of respect for the passengers' families. The search for the Boeing 777, which disappeared March 8 with 239 passengers and crew, has been flawed from the beginning. So far, an estimated $50 million has been spent on the effort, which involves teams from the U.S., Australia, Great Britain, China and Malaysia.
"The reason they haven’t announced it is what the families have gone through in terms of all the false leads, and they are demanding that they see pieces of wreckage," Mearns said.
Houston himself on Tuesday gave his strongest indication yet that he believes the pings mean the searchers are above the wreck site.
"(The analysts) therefore assess that the transmission was not of natural origin and was likely sourced from specific electronic equipment," Houston said. "They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder.
“I believe we’re searching in the right area,” he added, “but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place.”
If the pings are indeed from the black box, the searchers may have won a race against time. The batteries that power the recorders are only built to last about a month, and that's how much time has elapsed since the plane disappeared. Once the battery dies, finding the plane could become nearly impossible, according to experts.