Tail Of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 Recovered, But The Black Boxes Are Mysteriously Missing

After nearly two weeks of search and recovery operations, rescuers were able to remove the tail of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 from the waters of the Java Sea. Although the discovery of the tail was a major break in the search for the missing plane, the key to solving QZ8501's tragic crash is still missing: the plane's black boxes.

The Associated Press reported that the jet's black boxes, which include the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, were not found in the tail, lifted from the sea on Saturday with the help of inflatable balloons. Without these black boxes, it will be more difficult for investigators to determine what truly happened to the flight that crashed just 40 minutes after it departed from Surabaya on Dec. 28.

For this particular AirAsia plane, the black boxes were located in the tail. So, where can they be now that the tail has been recovered? It's unlikely that the black boxes were destroyed, as aviation experts claim the devices are built to withstand catastrophic crashes. Also, Indonesian officials said on Friday that "pings" believed to be sounding from the black boxes were detected in the ocean near where the plane's trail was discovered.

AirAsia also released a statement on Saturday confirming that search teams were picking up "pings" from Flight QZ8501's black boxes:

The sonar equipments continued to detect more objects which are suspected to be the plane’s front section and detected pings suspected to be from the plane’s black box flight recorders near the location where the tail was found. Sea divers, vessels and helicopters were deployed to observe the focused searched area.
Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Because of the consistent "pings" in the area, Indonesian military commander Gen. Moeldoko told the AP the black boxes most likely came detached from the plane, but are still nearby. "I am fully confident that the black boxes are still not far from the tail," Moeldoko told the news source.

S.B. Supriyadi, operations director at the National Search and Rescue Agency, told reporters at a news conference on Saturday that the "pings" are located "around 1 kilometer southeast from the spot where we located the tail section." He added that rescue teams "will try to get a correct fix of the coordinate" so that divers could be deployed.

According to BBC News, the black boxes are likely resting at the bottom of the Java Sea, which is relatively shallow at 25-meters, or 82-feet, deep. However, severe weather in the region had made it impossible for divers to get down there over the last week.

In addition to the black boxes, Indonesian officials are also determined on finding the plane's fuselage, which they believe may contain the majority of the victims. So far, just 48 bodies of the 162 passengers and crew onboard have been recovered, according to a statement from AirAsia. The airline added that seven bodies were lifted from the water Saturday morning.

AirAsia has come under fire after it was revealed that the airline wasn't authorized to issue flights between Surabaya and Singapore on Sundays — the day Flight QZ8501 crashed after encountering severe storms. Indonesia's Ministry of Transportation is conducting a full investigation into the airline, and has suspended AirAsia flights between the two cities indefinitely.

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