Divers retrieve flight data recorder from AirAsia 8501 – USA TODAY
Search teams believe they have found the missing black boxes of AirAsia Flight 8501. Divers are expected to recover them on Monday. Officials are hopeful the boxes will provide answers as to why the plane crashed into the Java Sea in December.
Divers have retrieved one of the black boxes from the AirAsia flight that crashed more than two weeks ago into the Java Sea and continue to search for the second, an Indonesia official says.
Henry Bambang Soelistyo, chief of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, told reporters the flight data recorder was brought to the surface by four divers early Monday morning.
The search was continuing for the cockpit voice recorder.
Divers returned to the waters off Indonesia early Monday after electronic pings helped pinpoint what searchers determined was their location on the sea floor.
Underwater searchers spent 12 hours Sunday at a depth of 100 feet trying to find the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from the lost flight, but efforts were frustrated by murky conditions and strong currents, said Suyadi Bambang Supriyadi, operations coordinator at Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency.
A day earlier, search coordinator Tonny Budiono said the searchers had “succeeded in finding a very important instrument, the black box of AirAsia QZ8501.”
Retrieval of the data and cockpit voice recording boxes would be key to determining why the plane, with 162 passengers and crew aboard, plunged into the sea Dec. 28. The flight from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore disappeared from radar less than an hour into the scheduled two-hour flight. Indonesian weather service officials have tentatively blamed storms for the crash.
The Commission for Transportation Safety stopped a remote-operated vehicle from being deployed to probe the area where the pings were heard, fearing it might damage the boxes, said Muhammad Ilyas, head of oceanic surveys at Indonesia’s technology agency. The sites will only be examined by divers, he said.
The search has been bogged down by days of heavy rains, high winds and perilous seas. Even in good weather, divers have had to deal with visibility of as little as three feet.
On Sunday, relatively clear skies and calm seas allowed more extensive search efforts. Sonar detected a large object near the pings, and officials initially were hopeful it was the main section of the Airbus A320’s cabin. Soelistyo later said divers had confirmed it was a wing and debris from the engine.
On Saturday, the successfully lifted tail of the plane was taken to Pangkalan Bun, the nearest town, to be handed over to Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee for investigation, the airline said in a statement.
Authorities had hoped the black boxes would be attached to the tail, but apparently they became separated during the crash. Their beacons emit signals for about 30 days until the batteries die, meaning divers have about two weeks left before they go silent.
Some 48 bodies have been recovered so far, the National Search and Rescue Agency said in a statement Sunday. AirAsia said 32 of the remains have been identified.
Indonesian transport ministry has said AirAsia did not have a license to fly the route on the day of the crash, a claim AirAsia has vigorously disputed. The airline has been banned from flying the Surabaya-Singapore route. The transport ministry has suspended scores of routes from other domestic airlines for similar alleged violations.
Contributing:Jane Onyanga-Omara, USA TODAY; Associated Press