12 Jan 2015

Divers retrieve AirAsia flight recorder

4:13 pm on 12 January 2015

A team of Indonesian navy divers has retrieved the flight data recorder from an AirAsia airliner that crashed two weeks ago, killing all 162 people on board, a government official says.

Air Asia search

An Indonesian officer observes a Malaysian navy vessel during rescue operations for AirAsia QZ8501. Photo: AFP

"This morning, I had an official report from the national transportation safety committee. At 7.11am, we had succeeded in lifting the part of the black box known as the flight data recorder," Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency head Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo said.

"We are still trying to find the cockpit voice recorder."

Divers found the crucial black box flight recorders on Sunday, Indonesia's transport ministry said.

But the ministry said they failed to retrieve it immediately from the seabed because it was stuck under debris from the main body of the plane, AFP reported.

"The navy divers in Jadayat state boat have succeeded in finding a very important instrument, the black box of AirAsia QZ8501," senior ministry official Tonny Budiono said.

The recorders were at a depth of 30-32 metres, he said in a statement.

After a frustrating two-week search often hampered by bad weather, officials raised hopes on Sunday by reporting that strong ping signals had been detected by three vessels involved in the search.

Those signals were coming from the seabed less than one kilometre 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.

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 on 28 December.

But a definitive answer is impossible without the black box, which should contain the pilots' final words as well as various flight data.

The tail of the AirAsia QZ8501 on the deck of the Indonesian Search and Rescue ship Crest Onyx after it was recovered.

The tail of AirAsia QZ8501 on the deck of National Search and Rescue Agency ship 'Crest Onyx'. Photo: AFP

A handout image released by Indonesia's National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) on 7 January showing images believed to be of AirAsia QZ8501.

A handout image released by the agency on 7 January showing images believed to be of AirAsia QZ8501. Photo: AFP / BASARNAS

Forty-eight bodies recovered

National Search and Rescue Agency director S B Supriyadi told reporters earlier in the day that an object believed to be the plane's main body had also been detected near the source of the pings, AFP reported.

The search, which has involved US, Chinese and other international naval ships, has recovered 48 bodies so far.

Mr Supriyadi said many bodies were believed 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 on Sunday to a port near the search headquarters, at Pangkalan Bun town on Borneo island.

All but seven of those on board the flight were Indonesian.

The bodies of a South Korean couple were identified on Sunday, but their 11-month-old baby remains unaccounted for, Indonesian authorities said.

The other foreigners were one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one Briton and a Frenchman - co-pilot Remi Plesel. Their bodies have not been recovered.

Indonesia's aviation industry in spotlight

While the cause of the crash is unknown, the disaster has once again placed Indonesia's chaotic aviation industry under scrutiny.

Indonesian officials have alleged Indonesia AirAsia did not have a licence to fly the route on the day of the crash, although the airline rejects the claim.

Indonesia's transport ministry quickly banned AirAsia from flying the Surabaya-Singapore route.

On Friday, it suspended dozens more routes operated by five other domestic airlines for similar licence violations.

- AFP / Reuters

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