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Hunt's on for black box, key to the tragedy

IN SYMPATHY: Indonesians placing cards and flowers for the passengers of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 in Malang, East Java, yesterday. So far, no pings have been detected from the plane's black box, but experts are confident that it will be found.


    Dec 31, 2014

    Hunt's on for black box, key to the tragedy


    WITH the wreckage of AirAsia QZ8501 located, the authorities will focus their efforts on finding the recorders which store cockpit communication and sounds from the front of the plane, as well as key data points that can help recreate the last moments of a doomed flight.

    The boxes, which are bright orange to facilitate their retrieval, are waterproof and fortified, and emit an electronic signal to help search crews find the devices.

    While the Java Sea covers about 320,000 sq km, waters in the region are known to be shallow, which analysts and oceanographers say will help in the search. But, so far, no pings have been detected from the plane's black box, Indonesia's air force said.

    But experts are confident that the black box will be found despite the region being "very violent in terms of weather" at this time of the year.

    Peter Marosszeky, a former air-accident investigator who lectures at the University of New South Wales, said: "There's no doubt they'll recover the data boxes. They know when it went down and about where."

    Finding the voice and data recorders is key to discovering why the Singapore-bound Airbus A320-200 aircraft went down after departing from the Indonesian city of Surabaya.

    "It wasn't a controlled ditching," said Paul Hayes, safety director at London-based aviation consulting company Ascend Worldwide. "That's clear from the finding of bodies that don't have life jackets on."

    The plane disappeared off radars after the pilot requested a higher altitude because of stormy clouds in the flight path. The last signal from the plane was between the city of Pontianak on Borneo and Tanjung Pandan.

    The plane - whose engines were made by CFM International, co-owned by General Electric and Safran of France - lacked real-time engine diagnostics or monitoring, a GE spokesman said.

    Such systems are mainly used on long-haul flights and can provide clues to airlines and investigators when things go wrong.

    Weather has been widely cited - the pilot had sought but failed to get permission to fly higher to avoid bad weather because of heavy air traffic.

    But online discussion among pilots has centred on unconfirmed secondary radar data from Malaysia that suggested the aircraft was climbing at a speed of 353 knots, about 100 knots too slow, and that it might have stalled.

    On board Flight QZ8501 were 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, and one person each from Singapore, Malaysia and Britain. The co-pilot was French.

    United States law-enforcement and security officials said passenger and crew lists were being examined, but nothing significant had turned up and the incident was regarded as an unexplained accident.