AirAsia crash: Search for black box recorders from found plane tail disrupted by bad weather

The black box recorders would hold clues to what brought down the plane

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Severe weather conditions have thwarted an attempt by divers to find and pull out AirAsia Flight 8501’s black boxes from the sea bed today, which are believed to still be located in the recently discovered tail of the plane.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders, which would help determine the cause of what brought the plane down with 162 people on board on 28 December, are located in the rear of the aircraft but strong currents and blinding silt have slowed down the mission. Bad weather is already believed to have been a contributing factor in the crash.


A day after an unmanned underwater vehicle spotted the plane’s tail, lying upside down and partially buried in the Java Sea floor, divers were unable to make it past choppy waters and visibility of one-meter (three-foot), said National Search and Rescue chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo.

He said expert teams from Indonesia and France were looking at other options, including using a crane to lift the tail out after the discovery was confirmed yesterday about six miles (nine kilometres) from where the Airbus A320 lost contact with the control tower halfway between Singapore and Indonesian city Surabaya.

The pings will still be emitted from the black boxes for about 20 more days before the batteries go dead, but high waves had prevented the deployment of ping locators, which were dragged by six ships according to Nurcahyo Utomo, an investigator of the National Commission for Transportation Safety.

An image believed to be of wreckage of ill-fated AirAsia flight QZ8501 photographed by divers working in the Java Sea

He said that based on pictures taken by the divers, he believed that the black boxes were still attached to their original location amid the wreckage of the tail that has been identified by the aircraft operator’s logo and the plane registration number.

“Once detected, we will try to find and lift up the black boxes as soon as possible,” he said.

Tony Fernandes, AirAsia's chief executive officer, said that the airline’s priority was still is to recover all the bodies “to ease the pain of our families.” Families of the victims are set to receive £66,000 ($100,000) in compensation each after they were initially offered £16,000, it was confirmed today by AirAsia Indonesia president Sunu Widyatmoko.

The total number of bodies recovered from the sea so far stands at 41 after another was found today. Officials are hopeful many of the 121 bodies still unaccounted for will be found inside the fuselage, which is thought to be lying near the tail.

Just before losing contact, the pilot told air traffic control he was approaching threatening clouds, but was denied permission to climb to a higher altitude because of heavy air traffic. No distress signal was issued.