While Indonesian divers have recovered one of two black boxes that belonged to the Sriwijaya Air plane that crashed in the Java Sea, it was also reported that the aircraft hadn’t flown for nine months.
The flight data recorder was found as a team — including divers and a remotely operated underwater vehicle swept the sea floor in search of the black boxes that were on flight SJ 182 when it crashed shortly after takeoff with 62 people on board, CNN reported.
Flight data recorders process a flight’s information, including pressure, airspeed and altitude. The second black box, the cockpit voice recorder, has not yet been found.
Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said that the black boxes’ underwater acoustic beacons, which send out a series of pings to help searchers find them, had both been detached, CNN reported.
He was optimistic, however, that the team would find the second black box soon.
“We are expecting that through this investigation we can unfold the mystery of this accident,” he said.
Meanwhile, according to an Associated Press report, the 26-year-old jet had been out of service for almost nine months because of flight cutbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic, officials said. It resumed commercial flights last month.
Tjahjono ruled out a possible midair breakup after seeing the condition of the wreckage found by searchers.
He said the jet was intact until it struck the water, concentrating the debris field, rather than spreading it out over a large area as would be seen with a midair event, AP reported.
Tjahjono said the plane continued to send altitude data until it descended to 250 feet (75 metres) above the water’s surface.
As in many countries, Indonesia’s aviation industry has been badly hit by the pandemic, with travel restrictions and sharp declines in passengers. According to Transportation Ministry data, the jet didn’t fly from March 23 to Dec. 19, AP reported.
The US Federal Aviation Administration sent an airworthiness directive requiring operators of various Boeing 737 aircraft models, including the 737-500, to carry out engine checks before they can be flown again after being out of service, Director General of Air Transportation Novie Riyanto said in a statement.
He said the plane was inspected on Dec. 2, including checks for engine corrosion, and was declared airworthy by the Transportation Ministry on Dec. 14, AP reported.
The plane made an initial flight without passengers on Dec. 19 and resumed commercial flights on Dec. 22, according to ministry data.
Scores of body bags filled with human remains were being taken to a police morgue where forensic investigators hope to identify victims by matching fingerprints or DNA with distraught relatives — some held out hope of survivors, New Straits Times reported.
“We haven’t accepted it yet,” Inda Gunawan said of his brother Didik Gunardi who was on the doomed Saturday flight.
“Our family is still hoping for a miracle that he is still alive.”
Authorities have identified flight attendant Okky Bisma, 29, as the first confirmed victim after matching fingerprints from a retrieved hand to those in a government identity database, New Straits Times reported.
“Rest in peace up there darling and wait for me… in heaven,” Okky Bisma’s wife Aldha Refa wrote on Instagram.
There were 10 children among the passengers on the half-full plane, which had experienced pilots at the controls as it left Jakarta bound for Pontianak city on Borneo island on a 90-minute flight, New Straits Times reported.