7 Jan 2015

Tail find raises black box hopes

9:17 pm on 7 January 2015

Indonesian search and rescue teams hunting for the wreck of AirAsia QZ8501 in the north Java Sea say they have located the tail of the aircraft on the seabed.

Indonesian crew members observe the surface of the sea during the search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501.

Indonesian crew members observe the surface of the sea during the search for AirAsia QZ8501. Photo: AFP

The tail is the section where the crucial black box voice and flight data recorders are located.

It is hoped they will help establish the cause of the crash.

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 Indonesia on 7 January showing what is believed to be part of AirAsia QZ8501. Photo: AFP / BASARNAS

The Indonesia AirAsia Airbus A320-200 crashed ten days ago en route from Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya to Singapore. There were no survivors among the 162 people on board.

"We've found the tail that has been our main target today," Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, the head of the search and rescue agency, told a news conference in Jakarta.

The tail had been identified using an underwater remote operated vehicle, Soelistyo said, adding that the team "now is still desperately trying to locate the black box".

Forty bodies and debris from the plane have been plucked from the surface of the waters off Borneo, but strong winds and high waves have prevented divers from reaching larger pieces of suspected wreckage detected by sonar on the sea floor.

An Indonesian naval patrol ship captain had said on Monday that his vessel had found what could be the tail, but there had been no confirmation of the find.

"I am led to believe the tail section has been found," AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes tweeted minutes after the announcement.

"If right part of tail section, then the black box should be there ... We need to find all parts soon so we can find all our guests to ease the pain of our families. That still is our priority."

Mr Soelistyo said a total of 12 objects had now been found, but he did not confirm whether all were parts of the aircraft.

The wreckage is thought to also include parts of the fuselage, where many of the bodies of victims may still be trapped.

Criticism of Indonesia AirAsia

Indonesia AirAsia, which is 49 percent owned by Mr Fernandes's Malaysia-based AirAsia budget group, has faced criticism from authorities in Jakarta in the 10 days since the crash.

The transport ministry has suspended the carrier's Surabaya-Singapore licence, saying it only had permission to fly the route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Flight QZ8501 took off on a Sunday, though the ministry said this had no bearing on the accident.

AirAsia has said it is cooperating fully with the ministry's investigations. That investigation will be completed by Friday evening, the transport ministry said.

Indonesia has also reassigned some airport and air traffic control officials who allowed the flight to take off and tightened rules on pre-flight procedures in a country with a patchy reputation for air safety.

Air Asia search

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

Previous attempts by divers have failed because of zero visibility on the sea floor and bad weather.

AFP PHOTO HANDOUT-US NAVY/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brett Cote"/

Previous attempts by divers have failed because of zero visibility on the sea floor and bad weather. Photo: AFP / US Navy / Brett Cote

Indonesian military officers carry wreckage from AirAsia QZ8501 in Pangkalan Bun, the town with the nearest airstrip to the crash site, on 2 January.

Indonesian military officers carry wreckage from AirAsia QZ8501 in Pangkalan Bun, the town with the nearest airstrip to the crash site, on 2 January. Photo: AFP

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