Divers will attempt to retrieve the black box of Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 today, after it was located lying under the debris of what is believed to be the fuselage. The Indonesian authorities are also looking to find more bodies that they believe are still in the body of the Airbus A320-200.
All this only if the weather permits, cautioned officials frustrated by the vagaries of conditions at sea in the past two weeks.
"The black box is located among parts of the fuselage," said senior Transport Ministry official Tonny Budiono in a statement last night. "This is why divers faced huge difficulty retrieving it." Earlier in the day, search agency Basarnas' director of operations S.B. Supriyadi said a big object measuring 10m by 4m by 2.5m, which could be the body of the Airbus A320-200, was detected in the same area where "pings" were heard.
Only 48 bodies have been recovered since the Indonesia AirAsia flight crashed into the Java Sea on Dec 28 with 162 people on board. No bodies have been found in the past two days. Transport Ministry spokesman J.A. Barata was quoted yesterday as saying divers identified the location of the black box and marked the area for retrieval. But he did not disclose the exact location.
Mr Budiono said divers will try to shift the position of the wreckage today to get to the black box, which is at a depth of about 30m.
"We will slowly move these obstacles out of the way," he said. "But if this technique does not succeed, we will lift the fuselage parts using a balloon technique like what we did with the plane's tail."
The black box and voice recorders hold important information that can explain the crash of Flight QZ8501 two weeks ago.
The search intensified yesterday after the black box could not be found in the plane's tail that was fished out last Saturday.
Mr Supriyadi said three ships were between 300m and 500m from where they believe the black box is, and were trying to pinpoint its location from the pings detected.
AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes, writing on Twitter, said: "We are led to believe Blackbox may (have) been found... Still not confirmed. But strong info coming. But my (main) thought is fuselage."
The small number of bodies recovered so far offers little closure to the families still awaiting news.
"We are going forward with the hope that we will find many more passengers," said Mr Supriyadi.
He said divers were waiting for a window of good weather and sea conditions to retrieve the black box today.
"It is just a matter of time."
The crash of Flight QZ8501 triggered a crackdown on errant officials and raised questions again about the poor safety track record of Indonesia's aviation sector, which has been booming amid concerns over its readiness to handle the traffic.
The plane took off on a Sunday, a day when Indonesia AirAsia supposedly did not have permission to fly. Since then, the authorities have suspended more than 60 domestic flight routes and at least 11 transport officials.
Meanwhile, strong winds caused a DHC-6 Twin Otter operated by Indonesia's Trigana Air to crash on landing in Papua yesterday. News website Detik said the three crew members were unhurt.
This article was first published on January 12, 2015.
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