Indonesian navy divers yesterday retrieved the “black box” flight data recorder from the wreck of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, in a major step toward unravelling the cause of the crash that killed 162 people.
Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control in bad weather on Dec. 28 last year, less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Indonesia’s Surabaya to Singapore.
“At 7:11, we succeeded in lifting the part of the black box known as the flight data recorder,” Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency director Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo said at a news conference.
The second black box, containing the cockpit voice recorder, has been located, but not yet retrieved, said Madjono Siswosuwarno, the main investigator at Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC).
The black boxes, found near the wrecked wing of the plane in the northern Java Sea, contain a wealth of data that will be crucial for investigators piecing together the sequence of events that led the airliner to plunge into the sea. Indonesia’s weather bureau has said seasonal storms were likely a factor in AirAsia’s first fatal crash.
The data recorder was brought by helicopter to Pangkalan Bun, the southern Borneo town that has been the base for the search effort, and then flown to Jakarta for analysis.
NTSC head Tatang Kurniadi said the black box looked to be in good condition, but Siswosuwarno said investigators may need up to a month to get a complete reading.
“The download [of the data] is easy, probably one day, but the reading is more difficult ... could take two weeks to one month,” he said.
Over the weekend, three vessels detected “pings” believed to be from the black boxes, but bad weather hampered search efforts.
Dozens of Indonesian Navy divers took advantage of calmer weather yesterday to retrieve the flight recorder and search for the fuselage of the Airbus A320-200.
Forty-eight bodies have been retrieved from the Java Sea and brought to Surabaya for identification. Searchers believe more will be found in the plane’s fuselage.
Relatives of the victims have urged authorities to make finding their loved ones the priority.
“I told our soldiers that the search isn’t over yet,” Philippine Armed Forces Chief Moeldoko said.
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