Divers re­cover data recorder from In­done­sian sea floor

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - International Business -

DIVERS on Thurs­day re­cov­ered a flight data recorder from the crashed Lion Air jet on the sea floor, a cru­cial de­vel­op­ment in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what caused the 2-month-old plane to plunge into In­done­sian seas ear­lier this week, killing all 189 peo­ple on board.

One TV sta­tion showed footage of two divers af­ter they sur­faced, swim­ming to an in­flat­able ves­sel and plac­ing the bright or­ange de­vice into a large con­tainer that was trans­ferred to a search-and-res­cue ship.

“I was des­per­ate be­cause the cur­rent be­low was strong but I am con­fi­dent of the tools given to me,” said navy 1st Sgt. Hen­dra, who uses a sin­gle name, in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view. Af­ter nar­row­ing the pos­si­ble lo­ca­tion, “I started dig­ging and clean­ing the de­bris un­til I fi­nally found an or­ange ob­ject,” he said, stand­ing on the deck of a ship next to his div­ing mate.

The Boe­ing 737 MAX 8 plane crashed early Mon­day just min­utes af­ter take­off from the In­done­sian cap­i­tal Jakarta. It was the worst air­line dis­as­ter in In­done­sia in more than two decades and re­newed con­cerns about safety in its fast-grow­ing avi­a­tion in­dus­try, which was re­cently re­moved from Euro­pean Union and US black­lists.

Navy Col. Mo­nang Sit­o­m­pul told lo­cal TV an ob­ject be­lieved to be the air­craft’s fuse­lage was also seen on the sea floor.

The de­vice re­cov­ered by divers is the flight data recorder, and the search for the cock­pit voice recorder con­tin­ues, said Bam­bang Irawan, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor with the Na­tional Trans­port Safety Com­mis­sion.

“We will process the data con­tained in this FDR as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion process to find out the cause of the crash,” he said. “We can­not say how long it takes to process data in a black box, but of course we will try as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The lo­ca­tion of the find was about 500 me­tres north­west of the co­or­di­nates where the plane lost con­tact and at a depth of 30m, said search and res­cue agency head Muham­mad Syaugi.

“The cur­rents be­low the sea are still strong, which makes it dif­fi­cult for divers, but they per­sis­tently face it,” he said.

Data from flight-track­ing sites show the plane had er­ratic speed and al­ti­tude in the early min­utes of a flight on Sun­day and on its fa­tal flight Mon­day. Safety ex­perts cau­tion, how­ever, that the data must be checked for ac­cu­racy against the flight data recorder.

Sev­eral pas­sen­gers on the Sun­day flight from Bali to Jakarta have re­counted prob­lems that in­cluded a long-de­layed take­off for an engine check and ter­ri­fy­ing de­scents in the first 10 min­utes in the air.

Lion Air has or­dered 50 of the MAX 8 planes and one of its sub­sidiary air­lines was last year the first to op­er­ate the new gen­er­a­tion jet.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors say a pre­lim­i­nary re­port into the ac­ci­dent could be re­leased within a month but com­plete find­ings will take sev­eral months more.

The Lion Air crash is the worst air­line dis­as­ter in In­done­sia since 1997, when 234 peo­ple died on a Garuda flight near Medan. In De­cem­ber 2014, an Airasia flight from Surabaya to Sin­ga­pore plunged into the sea, killing all 162 on board.

In­done­sian air­lines were barred in 2007 from fly­ing to Europe be­cause of safety con­cerns, though sev­eral were al­lowed to re­sume ser­vices in the fol­low­ing decade. The ban was com­pletely lifted in June. The US lifted a decade-long ban in 2016. – AP

Search and res­cue agency head Muham­mad Syaugi, cen­tre, holds the flight data recorder from the crashed Lion Air jet dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on­board a res­cue ship an­chored off Tan­jung Karawang, In­done­sia, on Thurs­day. Photo: AP

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