PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia - The flight data recorder of the sunken AirAsia Flight QZ8501 has been found and is in good condition, the Indonesian authorities said yesterday.
The recorder, one of two black boxes containing vital information, was brought to the surface early yesterday morning, said national search-and-rescue chief Bambang Soelistyo, after a fortnight-long, frustrating search often hampered by bad weather.
"We succeeded in bringing up part of the black box that we call the flight data recorder," Mr Soelistyo told reporters in Jakarta.
He said it was found under the wing of the ill-fated Airbus 320-200, which went down on Dec 28 in the Java Sea. He added that divers were still hunting for the second black box, the cockpit voice recorder.
Indonesia's National Transport Safety Committee said the recovered black box would be sent to Jakarta for analysis by French experts and Airbus. It would later be sent to France - where the aircraft manufacturer is headquartered - for further analysis.
Officials said on Sunday that strong ping signals from the black boxes had been detected near an object believed to be the plane's main body. Yesterday, improved weather enabled divers to retrieve the flight data recorder.
It monitors data such as airspeed and heading, while the cockpit voice recorder stores radio transmissions and sounds in the cockpit. Both are located near the rear of the plane, and are designed to survive underwater.
Indonesia's meteorological agency has said stormy weather likely caused the plane to go down, but a definitive answer is impossible without the data recorders.
Forty-eight bodies have been recovered, but the weather has hampered efforts to locate all the victims and the wreckage.
The East Java Police Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team has identified two more bodies out of the 162 people who were on board the plane.
The East Java Police's medical and health department chief, Budiyono, announced yesterday afternoon that the DVI team had identified two bodies, codenamed B030 and B043, which had been recovered by the joint search-and-rescue (SAR) team last week.
"Even though the body labelled B030 was not complete, based on its primary identification data, the body was that of Elisabeth Youvita, a 20-year-old female from Surabaya," Brigadier-General Budiyono told the press during a conference in Surabaya.
He added that the body designated B043 was David Gunawan, a 37-year-old male who lived in Surabaya. He was found still wearing his Louis Vuitton trousers and belt, but his body was in an advanced stage of decomposition.
"In total, we have identified 34 out of the 48 bodies that we received from the SAR team. We are still working to identify the remaining 14 bodies," he added.
S. B. Supriyadi, a director with the national search-and-rescue agency, said initial analysis of the wreckage recovered so far indicated that the plane broke apart upon impact with the water.
"It exploded because of the pressure," he told reporters in Pangkalan Bun, the search headquarters. "The cabin was pressurised and before its pressure could be adjusted, it went down - boom. That explosion was heard in the area."
The search has involved United States, Chinese and other international naval ships. Mr Supriyadi said many bodies were believed to be trapped in the cabin, so reaching that part of the wreckage was 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 Pangkalan Bun.