Wreckage from AirAsia flight QZ8501 is lifted into the Crest Onyx ship at sea on on Saturday. (Antara Photo)

Searchers Believe Crashed AirAsia Plane's Fuselage Found


JANUARY 11, 2015

[Updated at 6:20 p.m. on January 11, 2015, to add comments from minister Indroyono Susilo]

Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan. Indonesian search teams believe they have located the black box of ill fated AirAsia Flight QZ8501, which crashed two weeks ago with the loss of all 162 people on board, a senior minister said on Sunday

Indroyono Susilo, Indonesia's coordinating minister for maritime affairs, said the vessel Baruna Jaya I had honed in on the location of the crucial flight data recorder.

"At 10 a.m Sunday I was informed where AirAsia's black box was," Indroyono Susilo said.

The Baruna Jaya I and two other search vessels have detected pings about five kilometers from where the tail of the Airbus A320-200 aircraft tail was raised on Saturday. The sonar recordings put the black box at depth of 35 meters under the sea surface.

Supriyadi, operations coordinator for the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), said earlier on Sunday a sonar scan had revealed an object measuring 10 meters by four meters by 2.5 meters on the sea floor. The object is suspected to be the body of the plane.

Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control during thundery weather on Dec. 28, less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Surabaya to Singapore. There were no survivors.

Forty-eight bodies have been found in the Java Sea off Kalimantan and searchers are still hunting for the plane's fuselage, which could contain more bodies.

"If it is the body of the plane then we will first evacuate the victims. Secondly we will search for the black box," Supriyadi said.

Strong winds, currents and high waves have been hampering efforts to reach other large pieces of suspected wreckage detected by sonar on the sea floor.

If and when the recorders are found and taken to Jakarta, for analysis, it could take up to two weeks to download data, investigators said, although the information could be accessed in as little as two days if the devices are not badly damaged.

On Saturday, teams of divers in rubber dinghies battled the swell to attach inflatable balloons to the tail section, which was later hauled onto a rescue vessel.

The aircraft carries cockpit voice and flight data recorders -- or black boxes -- near its tail but once the wreckage was visible, it quickly became apparent that the flight recorders were still underwater.

While the cause of the crash is not known, the national weather bureau has said seasonal storms were likely to be a factor.

President Joko Widodo, who took office in late October, said the crash exposed widespread problems in the management of air transport in Indonesia.