Indonesian authorities say the cockpit voice recorder from AirAsia Flight QZ8501 has been retrieved from the bottom of the Java Sea. It was lifted onto an Indonesian navy ship and is now en route to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, for analysis.
The plane’s flight data recorder was retrieved by divers yesterday. It was found on the sea floor under the wing of the plane, which crashed on December 28 when en route from Surabaya to Singapore.
The voice recorder was also under the wreckage, at a depth of about 30 metres (100 feet).
AirAsia Indonesia said in a statement yesterday that the data recorder would be handed over to Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee for investigation.
The safety committee’s chief, Tatang Kurniadi, said that opening the flight recorders takes two to three days, but analysing them takes longer and the Indonesians will need input from Airbus.
There were 162 people on board Flight QZ8501 when it crashed in bad weather about 40 minutes after take-off. Only 48 bodies have been recovered from the Java Sea. Thirty-four of them have been identified.
Investigators believe most of the bodies are trapped in the plane’s main fuselage, which has not yet been found.
The CEO of AirAsia, Tony Fernandes said again on Twitter on Monday that his main concern was finding the fuselage of the plane.
Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) is also assuring relatives that retrieving the bodies of the crash victims remains the main priority.
It was initially believed that the wreckage detected by a sonar scan on Monday was the fuselage, but divers identified it as a wing of the plane and debris from the engine.
It is hoped that the recovery of the flight recorders will help the investigators find out what caused the Airbus A320-200 to crash.
Flight data recorders register the operating functions of a plane such as altitude, airspeed, engine temperature, and the direction the plane is heading. They can also monitor other actions such as the movement of individual flaps on the wings, the auto-pilot and the fuel gauge.
The voice recorders, which overwrite every two hours, give investigators details of conversations between the pilots, and with air traffic control and other aircraft. They can also get clues from other sounds occurring within the cockpit.
The black box flight recorders are usually housed inside a plane’s tail section. They contain underwater locator beacons that emit pings for at least 30 days.
On Saturday, the tail section of the Airbus A320-200 was brought to the surface, but it was badly broken up, and the flight recorder was not inside it, as had been hoped.
Indonesia’s meteorological agency has said weather was the “triggering factor” in the crash, but it did add that this was just one of the possibilities.
It said the most probable weather phenomenon was icing which can cause engine damage due to a cooling process.
There was a request from the pilot, Captain Iriyanto, before the crash to be allowed to fly higher to avoid storm clouds.
The search for bodies and wreckage has been hampered by very bad weather.