PANGKALAN BUN/JAKARTA, Indonesia - An Indonesian naval patrol vessel has found what could be the tail of a crashed AirAsia passenger jet, the section where the crucial black box voice and flight data recorders are located, officials said on Monday.
News of the possible breakthrough came as the transport ministry in Jakarta said some officials on duty at the time of the accident will be moved to other roles. It also announced it was tightening rules on pre-flight procedures.
Ships and aircraft scouring the northern Java Sea for debris and bodies from the Airbus A320-200 have widened their search to allow for currents eight days after Flight QZ8501 plunged into the water en route from Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board.
"We found what has a high probability of being the tail of the plane," Yayan Sofyan, captain of the patrol vessel, told reporters.
He was speaking after his ship returned to the port in Surabaya on Monday, and it was not immediately clear if he was referring to one of the five large objects pinpointed by search vessels over the weekend.
Indonesia's meteorological agency has said seasonal tropical storms probably contributed to the Dec. 28 crash and the weather has persistently hampered efforts to recover bodies and find the cockpit voice and flight data recorders that should explain why the plane crashed into the sea.
The recorders are housed in the tail section of the Airbus, making retrieval of that part of the aircraft crucial.
"I am not saying it's the tail yet," the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, told a news conference in Jakarta. "That is suspected. Now we are trying to confirm it."
TRANSPORT MINISTRY CRACKDOWN
The transport ministry said some officials at the country's airport operator and air traffic control agency who were involved with the AirAsia flight will be moved to other duties while the accident investigation is completed.
The ministry gave no reason.
It also said that, three days after the crash, it had issued a directive making it mandatory for pilots to be briefed in person by an airline official on weather conditions and other operational issues before every flight.