AirAsia QZ8501 crash: Search teams detect 'pings' from plane's black box location beacon signal

The battery-powered black box beacon has been separated from the plane's tail section, officials say

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The Independent Online

Teams looking for the black box flight recorder of downed AirAsia flight QZ8501 have detected signal “pings” from its location beacon, Indonesian officials have said.

The Airbus A320 plane went missing 12 days ago on 28 December around half way into a two hour flight between Indonesia’s second largest city or Surabaya and the city-state of Singapore.

Black box location beacons are battery powered and if maintained properly should last at least a month after their activation on contact with water.

Santoso Sayogo, an investigator at Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, said the black box recorders appeared to no longer be in the plane’s tail.

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Pilot and co-pilot of the Indonesian air force keep a look out during search and rescue operations for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501

"We received an update from the field that the pinger locator already detected pings," he told the Reuters news agency.

"We have our fingers crossed it is the black box. Divers need to confirm. Unfortunately it seems it's off from the tail. But the divers need to confirm the position."

The black box flight recorder should contain details of the plane's last moments and shed light on why it crashed.

It contains a battery-powered location beacon to help find it in the event of a crash.

The plane’s tail section was identified on Wednesday after it was spotted by an Indonesian navy patrol boat at the weekend.

It is partly submerged on the sea bed, 30m below sea level, and around 30km away from the plane’s last known location.

Recovery teams were today seen loading specialist balloons onto helicopters, which will be used to try and lift the tail section off the seabed.

"The divers are tying the tail with straps and then we will try [to lift it] two ways - floating balloons combined with cranes, so that the tail sector wouldn't be damaged," Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said.

 

He confirmed that looking for victims’ bodies was the main priority ahead of searching for the plane’s black box.

AirAsia’s licence to fly the route taken by QZ8501 has been suspended after authorities said it did not have proper authorisation to run flights on a Sunday, when the accident took place.

The cause of the crash is still unknown but Indonesia’s national weather forecasting service says that seasonal storms are likely to be a factor.

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