AirAsia flight QZ8501: S'pore ship to look for flight recorder on first day of 2015

The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) on board the MV Swift Rescue, the fourth ship to be sent by Singapore to help in the search for QZ8501. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) on board the MV Swift Rescue, the fourth ship to be sent by Singapore to help in the search for QZ8501. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Senior Medic ME2 Bernard Chew, 35, check equipments in one of four recompression chambers of the Recompression Chamber Complex (RCC) on board the MV Swift Rescue, the fourth ship to be sent by Singapore to help in the search for QZ8501. -- ST PHOTO:
Senior Medic ME2 Bernard Chew, 35, check equipments in one of four recompression chambers of the Recompression Chamber Complex (RCC) on board the MV Swift Rescue, the fourth ship to be sent by Singapore to help in the search for QZ8501. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Naval divers (left to right) Master Sergeant Roger Chan, 26, 3rd Warrant Officer Low Wing Soon, 34, 1st Sergeant Lee Jin Rong, 25 and Staff Sergeant Low Cher Zhi, 28, prepare their equipment including the pinger receiver (yellow), used for detecting
Naval divers (left to right) Master Sergeant Roger Chan, 26, 3rd Warrant Officer Low Wing Soon, 34, 1st Sergeant Lee Jin Rong, 25 and Staff Sergeant Low Cher Zhi, 28, prepare their equipment including the pinger receiver (yellow), used for detecting signals from the flight data recorder, on board the MV Swift Rescue, the fourth ship to be sent by Singapore to help in the search for QZ8501. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
(From right) Major Wee Hong Tat, 33 (Deputy Officer-Commanding), Major John Lau, 42 (Attached Watch Officer), and 2nd Officer Ronald Tecson, 37 (commercial crew), at the bridge of the MV Swift Rescue, the fourth ship to be sent by Singapore to help i
(From right) Major Wee Hong Tat, 33 (Deputy Officer-Commanding), Major John Lau, 42 (Attached Watch Officer), and 2nd Officer Ronald Tecson, 37 (commercial crew), at the bridge of the MV Swift Rescue, the fourth ship to be sent by Singapore to help in the search for QZ8501. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The MV Swift Rescue - a search- and-support ship deployed by Singapore to look for Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501's flight recorder - is expected to reach the crash site at 2pm on Thursday, Jan 1, 2015, after almost two days of sailing. -- ST PHOTO:
The MV Swift Rescue - a search- and-support ship deployed by Singapore to look for Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501's flight recorder - is expected to reach the crash site at 2pm on Thursday, Jan 1, 2015, after almost two days of sailing. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

ON BOARD THE MV SWIFT RESCUE - The MV Swift Rescue - a search- and-support ship which has been deployed by Singapore to look for Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501's flight recorder - is expected to reach the crash site at 2pm on Thursday, after almost two days of sailing.

Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Chow Khim Chong, who is in charge of the underwater search operation, said: "By finding the black box, we can unravel the mystery behind the plane's crash."

The black box records conversations in the cockpit and preserves data on the aircraft's position and speed. It is fitted with an underwater locator beacon that transmits for 30 days to guide search teams.

The task will be a challenging one as the exact location of the box is not known, though information collated by Indonesian authorities has provided an educated estimate, said Senior Lt-Col Chow.

He added: "The area we are tasked to search has a higher chance of success."

Also, MV Swift Rescue is fitted for underwater search and recovery missions, he added.

It has a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) which allows crew members to control the search from the ship. The ROV can search waters up to 500m deep, detect the black box's signals, and travel faster than a human diver. It will also provide live camera and sonar feed to its operators in the control room while it is underwater.

Its pilot, Mr Joseph Yap, 38, said: "The various sensors can more accurately identify the black box's location because we can detect its frequency and move towards it while avoiding obstructions, even in complete darkness. The video feed can also be recorded so we can check the footage to see if we missed anything."

Meanwhile, divers on board the MV Swift Rescue are gearing up for  their mission to locate and recover AirAsia QZ8501 when they arrive at the disaster site.

As the operation's focus is on search and recovery, the team of eight has brought along lifting and scanning equipment as well as their diving gear.

The pinger receiver can detect the blackbox's signals and the Mark V - a yellow lifting bag - can raise up to one tonne.

The skill set for this mission is an extension of their daily training, said team leader Ong Chong-Yu.

"Usually we would drop a pinger in the sea and have a team of divers search for it using the receiver," the 28-year-old navy captain added.

One of the team's focus is to find the flight recorder or blackbox, as it is more commonly known.

As of now, the location of the plane's blackbox - which should have recorded conversations in the cockpit and data on the position and speed of the aircraft - has yet to be determined. Obtaining the blackbox is crucial in identifying the cause of the plane's crash.

A fifth Republic of Singapore Navy ship - the RSS Kallang, a Bedok-class mine countermeasure vessel with underwater search capabilities like those of the MV Swift Rescue - set sail for the area on Wednesday to help search for debris. It will be helped by an autonomous underwater vehicle that is being flown to the area.

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