The tail of the doomed AirAsia jet was on Saturday lifted out of the choppy waters of the Java Sea using inflatable balloons but the black box, crucial for unravelling the mystery of the crash, was not found inside the section nearly two weeks after the tragedy.
The 10-metre-long metal chunk, with the words “AirAsia” clearly visible across it, became the first major wreckage lifted off the seabed.
The development comes a day after “pings” believed to have come from the ill-fated jet’s black box was detected and efforts to retrieve the tail section – where the black box is located – were stepped up.
Officials, however, said the flight recorders — essential for explaining the disaster — might have been dislodged from its place in the aircraft.
“The divers looked for the black box but they didn’t find it,” said S B Supriyadi, search and rescue agency coordinator told reporters in Pangkalan Bun, the town closest to the site.
“It’s definite that the black boxes aren’t there,” he said.
He, however, said the boxes were still emanating signals and could be buried somewhere close to the area the tail was found in the seabed.
Supriyadi said: “The challenge is that these sounds are very faint. If a ship passes by, the sounds will be drowned out. So we really need calm waters.”
The recorders are important because they should contain the pilots’ final words and possibly various flight data.
Indonesian search and rescue teams earlier today hoisted the Airbus A320-200’s rear section using inflatable balloons and a crane from a depth of about 30 metres on to a ship.
In a major breakthrough in the arduous hunt, searchers spotted the tail section 30 kms from the plane’s last known location on Wednesday, a day after divers joined the hunt.
Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 lost contact with ground control on December 28, less than half way into a two-hour flight from Indonesia to Singapore and crashed possibly due to bad weather.
In his last communication, the pilot said he wanted to change course to avoid a storm. Then all contact was lost.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian meteorological agency said weather was the “triggering factor” for the crash, with ice likely damaging the engines of the Airbus A320-200.
Only 48 bodies, including at least two strapped to their seats, have been found in the choppy waters.
Indonesia’s Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan assured the search to find the still untraced bodies would be funded by the State budget and the efforts would continue no matter how long it would take.
Jonan said the search would be widened along and near the coastline of Central Kalimantan province on Borneo.
Bad weather consistently hampered the search and efforts to lift the tail.