AirAsia flight QZ8501: Divers retrieve cockpit voice recorder of jet

JAKARTA (Reuters/AFP) - Divers on Tuesday retrieved the black box cockpit voice recorder, a key piece of evidence in determining the cause of a crash, from the wreck of an AirAsia passenger jet, Indonesian news channel MetroTV said, quoting a Transport Ministry official. An Indonesian air transport investigator also confirmed that it was retrieved from the Java Sea on Tuesday.

When asked if the so-called black box was found, Mr Santoso Sayogo, an investigator at the National Transportation Safety Committee, told Reuters: “We can confirm.”

The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) was found 20m from near the location where the flight data recorder was retrieved on Monday.

“The CVR has been lifted from the water and is in the ship,” Mr Sayogo told AFP, adding it would be flown to Jakarta later on Tuesday The device had been about 32m underwater, beneath a wing. It was not far from the first black box but took longer to retrieve as it was trapped under heavy wreckage.

The official added that the device had been taken to the Indonesian navy ship Banda Aceh. It is expected to be sent to the capital, Jakarta, for analysis.

The CVR, which records conversations between the pilots and with air traffic controllers, was found close to where the flight data recorder (FDR) was recovered from the bottom of the Java Sea on Monday, the report said.

After having detected pings since last Wednesday and on Friday, naval divers managed to retrieve the FDR at 7.11am on Monday. It was found to be in good condition, said the Indonesian authorities, and was later placed in a clear case filled with seawater to prevent rust from setting in before being taken to Jakarta on a military plane.

The CVR, though located 20m away, had not been retrieved until Tuesday. 

The black boxes contain a wealth of data that will be crucial for investigators piecing together the sequence of events that led to the airliner plunging into the sea.

The FDR contains information about the plane's movements such as air speed and engine pressure, while the CVR records all sounds in the cockpit, including conversations between pilots.

Now that they have both the FDR and the CVR, crash investigators can start work by downloading the data.

However, analysis could take up to a month. "To open it (FDR) takes only two to three days. But the process of analysing it will take a longer time. We will also need input from Airbus," Mr Tatang told reporters, referring to the plane maker. 

Indonesia’s National Transport Safety Committee said the boxes would undergo a lengthy analysis in the capital. Mr Suryanto Cahyono, a senior investigator from the committee, told AFP that it would take about a week to download the data before analysis could begin.He said French experts from Airbus were in Jakarta to help with the analysis, and experts from countries whose citizens were involved in the crash would also assist.The committee has said a preliminary report on the accident will be produced within a month, and a final report after a year.

The Airbus A320-200 airliner lost contact with air traffic control in bad weather on Dec 28, less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore.

The accident is the first major setback for Malaysia-based AirAsia, which has enjoyed a 13-year run of success.But its flamboyant boss Tony Fernandes pledged on Tuesday that the airline would overcome the crisis.“Rest assured, we are committed to reviewing and improving our products and services. We are more focused than ever to provide you with nothing but the best,” he said in a message.“Even in our toughest times, we will continue to be the world’s best and be better for you.”

Dozens of Indonesian navy divers took advantage of calmer weather this week to retrieve the black boxes and now hope to find the fuselage of the Airbus.

Forty-eight bodies have been retrieved from the Java Sea and brought to Surabaya for identification. Searchers believe more bodies will be found in the plane’s fuselage.

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