Indonesia locates black boxes
PANGKALAN BUN, INDONESIA
INDONESIAN divers have located the black boxes of the AirAsia plane which crashed in the Java Sea a fortnight ago with 162 people aboard, the transport ministry said last night.
But they failed to retrieve them because they were stuck under debris from the main body of the plane, it added.
"The navy divers in Jadayat state boat have succeeded in finding a very important instrument, the black box of AirAsia QZ8501," said Tonny Budiono, a senior ministry official.
The recorders were at a depth of about 30m, he said in a statement. Divers will try to shift the position of the wreckage to access the black boxes today.
"However, if this effort fails, then the team will lift part of the main body using the same balloon technique used earlier to lift the tail," Mr Budiono added.
Strong ping signals were being picked up by three vessels involved in the search in the Java Sea, S. B. Supriyadi, a director with the National Search and Rescue Agency, told reporters earlier.
Those signals are coming from the seabed less than 1km from where the tail of the plane was found, Malaysian navy chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar said in a post on Twitter. Malaysia's navy is helping in the search.
If and when the recorders are found and taken to Jakarta for analysis, it could take up to two weeks to download the data, investigators said, although the information could be accessed in as few as two days if the devices are not badly damaged.
The Indonesian meteorological agency has said stormy weather likely caused the Airbus A320-200 to crash as it flew from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. But a definitive answer is impossible without the black boxes, which should contain the pilots' final words as well as various flight data.
Time is running out to find the boxes by tracking the signals, as their batteries for the pings are expected to run out after about 30 days.
Mr Supriyadi said a sonar scan had revealed that an object measuring 10m by 4m by 2.5m on the seabed, believed to be the main body of the plane, had also been detected close to the area where the pings were emanating.
"If it is the body of the plane then we will first (recover) the victims. Second, we will search for the black box," he said.
The search efforts, which have involved United States, Chinese, Singapore and other foreign naval ships, has recovered just 48 bodies.
Mr Supriyadi said many bodies were believed to be trapped in the cabin, so reaching that part of the wreckage was also a top priority.
The tail of the plane, with its red AirAsia logo, was lifted out of the water on Saturday using giant balloons and a crane. It was brought by tugboat yesterday to a port near the search headquarters in Pangkalan Bun town on Borneo island.
All but seven of those on board were Indonesian. The bodies of a South Korean couple were identified on Sunday, but their 11-month-old baby remains unaccounted for, the Indonesian authorities said.
The other foreigners were a Singaporean, one Malaysian, one Briton and a Frenchman, co-pilot Remi Plesel. Their bodies have not been recovered.