Signals from the black box of AirAsia Flight 8501 were detected Wednesday near where the plane's tail has been located in the Java Sea, but the pings were later lost, Indonesian Armed Forces Commander General Moeldoko said Thursday. Authorities reportedly said that the recovery of the tail section, where the flight recorders are typically located, is underway.
Several divers plunged into the sea, about 20 miles from the plane’s last known location, where the tail has been found, to look for the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, also called the black box. An Indonesian official said Thursday that the tail section is upside down and partially buried in the sea floor, giving rise to speculation that the black box could be also be buried under mud, USA Today reported.
"Firstly, they are going to send down one observation team to take photos. Then two teams will do the recovery process -- to recover bodies if there are any. If not, they will recover the black box for investigation and then other debris from the aircraft,” Lt. Edy Tirtayasa, commander of Indonesia's navy rescue team, said according to Channel News Asia.
Suryadi B. Supriyadi, director of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, reportedly said that experts are trying to devise ways to retrieve the flight recorders from the buried tail section. The black box, which could help determine the cause of the crash, emits signals for about 30 days from an incident until their batteries run out.
"First we will (check whether) the black box is still at its place, in the tail, or if it has detached,” Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, head of the search and rescue agency, reportedly said.
Weather conditions in the area are expected to be favorable at least until Thursday afternoon, the public weather service reported, adding that light rain was expected in the area where the plane’s tail has been found. Currents are also expected to remain suitable for divers to continue the recovery operation on Thursday.
Malaysian Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar said that the body of a female victim has been recovered by Malaysian vessel KD Perak on Thursday and will be handed over to Indonesia’s search and rescue agency. Authorities said that 42 bodies have so far been recovered from the search area.
The Indonesian government has reportedly asked AirAsia to provide compensation to the families of the victims within seven days after the bodies are identified. However, the airline reportedly said, earlier on Thursday that the issue of compensation could be a sensitive process as some families still cling to hope that there may be survivors. The airline also said that because, in some cases, entire families were on board the Airbus A320-200, it would have to take care to find the next of kin to deliver compensation.
Indonesia's ministry of administrative and bureaucratic reform said that airlines that fly outside their permitted schedules will be investigated, amid a broader crackdown on perceived violations of government regulations, after it was found that AirAsia Flight 8501, which crashed on Dec. 28 with 162 people on board, was not authorized to fly on that day.