The Indonesian Military (TNI) said on Tuesday that it plans to end its participation in AirAsia Flight QZ8501 recovery operations, a day after its attempt to raise the downed plane's fuselage from the bottom of the Java Sea failed. The civilian search and rescue agency (Basarnas) said it may continue its efforts, which will be limited without the Navy's help. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

Military Pulls Out of AirAsia QZ8501 Recovery Effort

BY :REUTERS & AFP

JANUARY 27, 2015

The Indonesian Military (TNI) said on Tuesday that it plans to end its participation in AirAsia Flight QZ8501 recovery operations, a day after its attempt to raise the downed plane's fuselage from the bottom of the Java Sea failed. The civilian search and rescue agency (Basarnas) said it may continue its efforts, which will be limited without the Navy's help. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan. Indonesia’s military on Tuesday halted search and recovery efforts for an AirAsia passenger jet that crashed last month killing all 162 people on board, navy officials said.

“The operation has been ongoing for 30 days so the joint team has been pulled out,” Rear Adm. Widodo, head of the navy’s western fleet, told reporters. “We apologize to the families of the victims. We tried our best to look for the missing victims.”

The Airbus A320-200 vanished from radar screens on Dec. 28, less than half way into a two-hour flight from Surabaya to Singapore. There were no survivors. Seventy bodies have been recovered.

The flight recorders have also been retrieved and are being analyzed. Days of rough weather and poor visibility have hampered navy divers’ efforts to find more bodies and recover the fuselage of the plane. Widodo said no more victims had been found by divers involved in the search for the past two days.

Since Saturday, salvage teams have been using giant inflatable bags to try to raise the fuselage of the Airbus A320-200, which is lying in the sea at a depth of around 30 meters. At one point, they managed to lift the main body to the surface for two minutes before a sling holding it snapped.

Video showing images of the fuselage dragging against the military recovery boat's deck, then ripping and tumbling back to the bottom of the sea, raised concern among observers that vital clues about what caused the crash may have been destroyed in the failed attempt to raise the fuselage.

The civilian National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said on Tuesday it may press on with the search for bodies. But its efforts will be hampered by the loss of the military’s large vessels and heavy recovery equipment.

“Perhaps we will do regular operations with help from fishermen and communities near the coast to find other victims,” said Tatang Zaenuddin, Basarnas’s deputy of operations. The agency will hold a news conference on Wednesday.

Imam Sampurno, who lost four family members on Flight QZ8501, none of whom has been found, said he was resigned to their fate. “We can only hope they will continue to search, but if it’s stopped there is nothing I can do about it. I am resigned to it,” he said.

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) will submit its initial findings on the crash this week to the International Civil Aviation Organization. The preliminary report, which the ICAO requires within 30 days of an accident, will include “information on the plane, the number of passengers and other information like that,” NTSC investigator Suryanto said.

But it  will not include analysis from the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, both of which were recovered by divers from the bottom of the Java Sea.

Data from radar and the aircraft’s two “black box” flight recorders will provide investigators with a clearer picture of what occurred during the final minutes of the flight. But investigators say they have yet to start their analysis, as they have been compiling other data for the inquiry.

Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan told a parliamentary hearing last week that, based on radar data, the plane had climbed faster than normal in its final minutes, and then stalled. Investigators have found no evidence of foul play.

The NTSC will hold an annual media conference this week on its work over the past year but it is not expected to discuss details of its investigation of the AirAsia crash, NTSC head Tatang Kurniadi said.  The final report on the crash, which will be made public, must be filed within a year.

Former Garuda Indonesia captain Shadrach M. Nababan, said that based on the crashed plane’s logbook data, the Airbus A320-200 serving AirAsia flight QZ8501 had experienced problems with its auto rudder trim limiter as many as nine times in 2014, as reported by Tempo.co. Three days before crashing on December 25, 2014, flight QZ8501 was forced to “return to apron” twice, according to Shadrach, although it is not clear if the reason for the plane’s forced return was related to rudder trim trouble.

Reuters & AFP

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