QZ8501: Black boxes missing from raised tail

The tail section of AirAsia flight QZ8501 has been raised from the seabed, but without the crucial ‘black boxes’ that could explain the cause of the crash.

Large inflatable bags were used to lift the distinctive red and white tailfin from its resting place at the bottom of the Karimata Strait, off the southwest coast of Borneo. And finally on Saturday, the section was brought to the surface and hoisted aboard a large floating platform. Unfortunately the black boxes – the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, which will be crucial in discovering why the aircraft crashed – were not contained within the recovered tail.

The search for the flight data and cockpit voice recorder continues
The search for the flight data and cockpit voice recorder continues

Hopes were raised that the black boxes would be recovered after search teams detected ‘pings’, which are emitted by black boxes after a crash to aid the recovery effort.

SB Supriyadi, director with Indonesia’s National Search & Rescue Agency (Basarnas), told AFP he believes the data recorders are still on the seabed.

“There’s a team examining the tail again to see if the black boxes are not there. But the chances they might find anything there are slim. We still strongly believe that the black boxes are in the sea and our divers are still searching for them,” he told the news agency.

He also said that previous pings were “very faint”, causing difficulty in located the source.

“[Divers] are searching within a radius of 500m from where the pings are emitted. The challenge is that these sounds are very faint. If a ship passes by, the sounds will be drowned out. So we really need calm waters,” he said. “So far, our divers still have not been able to determine the coordinates of the black box.”

But Indonesia’s Transport Minister, Ignasius Jonan, said that recovering the victims was more important than finding the aircraft’s black boxes.

“The ongoing search for the aircraft’s black box is not the primary thing, but the retrieval of its passengers is more important,” the Antara news agency quoted the minister as saying in Surabaya on Saturday.

A total of 48 bodies have now been recovered, 29 of which have been identified. AirAsia flight QZ8501 was carrying 162 passengers and crew when it crashed en route from Surabaya to Singapore.

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