AirAsia QZ8501: Divers struggle to locate black boxes

JANUARY 5, 2015

The AirAsia Flight QZ8501 salvage operation, which shifted on Monday to focus on recovering the aircraft’s flight-data recorders, otherwise known as black boxes, has been hampered by stormy weather in the Java Sea.

Only 37 bodies have so far been recovered. 155 passengers and seven crew are believed to have been aboard the doomed Flight QZ 8501, which vanished from radar 42 minutes after departing Indonesia’s second city of Surabaya bound for Singapore early December 28.

According to Suryadi Supriyadi, director of operations at Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, at least five ships with black-box pinger locators have been dispatched to where four large objects, believed to be wreckage from the plane, were spotted by sonar.

Once triangulation of black-box signals has been achieved, and conditions sufficiently improve, a team of more than 80 deep-sea divers will be deployed to get visual confirmation.

Murky conditions

On Sunday, divers had to abandon their forays after being confronted with near-zero visibility in the murky depths.

Locating the black boxes is crucial to determining what made the twin-engine Airbus A320-200 crash, though severe weather is still presumed to be key factor.

“The most probable weather phenomenon was icing, which can cause engine damage due to a cooling process,” said a preliminary report on the website of Indonesia’s meteorological agency.

Last contact

The last cockpit contact between Captain Iriyanto and Indonesian Air Traffic Control occurred when the highly experienced former Indonesian air-force pilot requested permission to change direction and climb from a cruising altitude of 32,000 ft. to 38,000 ft. in order to avoid severe weather.

The first request was granted, but the aircraft was only permitted to ascend to 34,000 ft. as there was traffic above.

On Sunday, four more bodies as well as more debris believed to be from the aircraft were recovered, including the emergency-exit window, some luggage, passenger seats and survival kits, AirAsia said in a statement.

Flying without permission

AirAsia has still not responded to claims by Indonesian officials that Flight QZ 8501 did not have permission to fly on the Surabaya to Singapore route on the Sunday it crashed.

Thirteen of the 37 bodies recovered to date have been identified. The remains of flight attendant Wismoyo Ari Prambudi, 24; passengers Jie Stevie Gunawan, 10; and Juanita Limantara, 30, were returned to their families on Sunday.

Read more: AIRASIA QZ8501: DIVERS RESUME SEARCH FOR MISSING JETLINER