Update 12:55 p.m.: The black boxes were not found inside the tail of AirAsia Flight 8501, which was lifted from the Java Sea Saturday, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The cockpit voice and flight data recorders, located in the plane’s rear, must have detached when the Airbus A320 plummeted into the waters Dec. 28, Indonesian military commander Gen. Moeldoko told AP. He added that pings believed to be coming from the black boxes were detected. Beacons from the black boxes emit signals for about 30 days, meaning that divers have about two weeks left to find them, AP reported.
Indonesian search teams lifted the tail section of AirAsia Flight 8501 from the seafloor of the Java Sea using inflatable bags and a crane on Saturday, media reports said. The tail section holds the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, also called the black box, that could help determine the cause of the plane crash.
The tail, which is the first significant wreckage to be identified, was found nearly 100 feet below the sea surface on Wednesday, but divers faced challenges to recover the debris due to bad weather conditions in the search zone. The search teams will examine the plane’s tail to see if the black box is still attached to it. An investigator leading the operation told Channel News Asia that it was unlikely that the black box is still in the aircraft’s tail section.
"Yes, the tail is already on the surface," Suryadi B. Supriyadi, director of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, told reporters in Pangkalan Bun, the base for the search effort on Borneo, according to Reuters. "It's currently being brought close to a ship and then it will be towed. And then they want to search for the black box."
Supriyadi reportedly said that it could take nearly 15 hours to tow the tail to land.
"Last night, our divers had opened the door of the tail cabin, searched around but found nothing," Supriyadi told AFP. "But the boat above detected faint ping sounds believed to be from the black boxes about one mile southeast of the tail ... and covered in mud."
Supriyadi reportedly said that divers resumed their search for the black box and data recorder on Saturday morning.
"They are searching within a radius of 500 meters from where the pings are emitted. 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," he reportedly said.
The flight data emit signals underwater for about 30 days until their batteries run out.
Meanwhile, search for the missing bodies of the people on board the Airbus A320-200 is underway. Authorities said that the total number of bodies recovered so far is 48, adding that they hope to find more bodies once fuselage is located.
Indonesia's Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said Saturday that the top priority in the search operation is to find the bodies of the victims, and not the black box.
On Saturday, two more of the recovered bodies were identified -- Susandhini Limam, female, 38, and Justin Giovanni, male, 9, Channel News Asia reported.
The Airbus A320-200 was on its way to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia, when it disappeared from radar on Dec. 28. The plane was traveling at a height of 32,000 feet when the pilot requested a change of course to avoid bad weather, following which it lost contact with air traffic controllers.