Indonesian authorities are stepping up efforts to lift the tail structure of the AirAsia Bhd. jet that crashed into the Java Sea while the search for the plane’s black boxes continues for a 12th day.
“We will try as soon as we can to lift up the black box and try to analyze it,” Minister of Transportation Ignasius Jonan said in an interview with Bloomberg TV today. Yesterday, authorities found the tail of the plane, which houses the cockpit-voice recorder and the flight-data recorder. “We are pulling resources to do the lifting of the black box and tail.”
There will be 84 divers from several ships looking for the black box, F.H. Bambang Sulistyo, head of the national search and rescue agency, said today. Searchers may have heard pings from the tail section, S.B. Supriyadi, operations director at the agency, said yesterday.
Finding the tail puts the search team a step closer to locating the black boxes that may explain why the Airbus Group NV A320-200 jet with 162 on board fell from the sky on Dec. 28 while on a flight from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore. Forty one bodies have been found so far, Jonan said.
The tail is partly covered by mud in the sea, Supriyadi said yesterday. The data recorders emit pings that help the investigators locate it. The pings stop transmitting after about a month. The data recorders hold information including the plane’s altitude and speed and conversations between the pilots and traffic controllers.
The international team’s recovery efforts are focused near Pangkalan Bun in the Java Sea, about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) southeast of Singapore. QZ8501 was on a routine commercial flight from Surabaya to Singapore when it went off radar after the captain sought a higher altitude amid clouds.
The single-aisle Airbus jet, operated as QZ8501 by Malaysia-based AirAsia’s Indonesia affiliate, appears to have flown into a storm cloud, with its engines possibly affected by ice formation, researchers from the Indonesia weather office wrote in a report, citing meteorological data from the flight’s last known location over the Java Sea.
The cause of the crash remains mysterious, with an experienced pilot flying a young and tested A320 aircraft into a storm before losing contact with air traffic controllers without transmitting a distress signal.
Indonesia said previously that AirAsia wasn’t authorized to fly to Singapore the day its jet crashed, a Sunday, and halted the route pending an investigation. After the crash, the country is probing all airlines for any route violations.
“Every aircraft that flies in the Indonesian territory should have official approvals from the ministry of transportation,” Jonan said. Even if an airline gets a slot from authorities, it should still apply to the federal ministry to get the permit, the minister said. The ministry will then conduct reviews on safety and trustworthiness of the aircraft.
“This plane is confirmed not having the permit for flying on Sunday,” the minister said.