Flight QZ8501: Tail lifted, but no sign of black box

Flight QZ8501: Tail lifted, but no sign of black box
The tail of AirAsia QZ8501 passenger plane is seen on the deck of the Indonesian Search and Rescue (BASARNAS) ship Crest Onyx after it was lifted from the sea bed, south of Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan January 10, 2015.

PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia - After days of frustration with bad weather, Indonesian recovery teams have finally lifted the tail of the Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 plane that crashed - and confirmed that the black box is not in it.

It had been "detached from the tail", said Mr S.B. Supriyadi, director of operations for Indonesian search agency Basarnas, yesterday.

The news bears out earlier suspicion that the flight recorders are located away from the tail and searchers will now likely focus on the pings that have been detected by search vessels about 1km from the area where the tail was found.

Indonesia's chief of armed forces, General Moeldoko, said seven divers will be deployed today to Indonesian ship KM Jadayat, which detected the "consistent" pings, to search for the flight recorders.

Yesterday's success came after bad weather and strong undersea currents frustrated earlier attempts to raise the tail in the past two days.

However, the weather was still generally unfavourable, officials said, preventing divers from investigating the pings, which are emitted by the black box in a crash.

Sailors on board Indonesian vessel KRI Banda Aceh cheered when the tail emerged on the surface yesterday morning, after navy divers successfully attached inflatable orange lifting bags to it.

The process was witnessed by Gen Moeldoko, who has spent the last two days on an Indonesian vessel.

Lifting the tail - which was wedged upside down in the seabed 30m deep - required detailed planning and, late into Friday night, key planners were still busy discussing the best way to raise it. The black box is usually located in the tail of an aircraft.

The salvaged tail, which is being towed to the port town of Kumai about 10 hours away by sea, is the biggest part of the plane's wreckage to be found so far. It may shed some light on why the plane crashed into the Java Sea on Dec 28 with 162 on board.

The authorities say they may use smaller boats to look for the black box now, as bigger vessels drown out the pings when they pass by.

chengwee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 11, 2015.
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