By Kanupriya Kapoor
Indonesian search and rescue teams raised on Saturday the tail of an AirAsia passenger jet that crashed nearly two weeks ago with the loss of all 162 people on board, but have yet to locate the black box flight recorders.
Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control during bad weather on Dec. 28, less than half way into a two-hour flight from Indonesia to Singapore. There were no survivors.
Forty-eight bodies, including at least two strapped to their seats, have been found in the Java Sea off Borneo.
Search and rescue teams detected pings they believed were from the flight recorders on Friday and two teams of divers resumed the hunt soon after dawn on Saturday.
The tail of the Airbus A320-200 was found on Wednesday, upturned on the sea bed about 30 km (20 miles) from the plane’s last known location at a depth of about 30 metres (100 feet).
Teams of divers working in rubber dinghies battled the swell to attach inflatable balloons to the tail section, which was later towed onto a rescue vessel nearby. But once the tail section was visible, it quickly became apparent that the flight recorders were still underwater.
“We can confirm the black box is not in the tail,” Supriyadi, operations coordinator for the National Search and Rescue Agency, told reporters in the town of Pangkalan Bun, the base for the search effort on Borneo.
The aircraft carries the cockpit voice and flight data recorders – or black boxes – near its tail.
However, officials had said earlier it looked as if the recorders, which will be vital to the investigation into why the airliner crashed, had become separated during the disaster.
Strong winds, currents and high waves have been hampering efforts to reach other large pieces of suspected wreckage detected by sonar on the sea floor, and to find the remaining victims.
On Friday, pings believed to be from the plane’s black box were detected about 1 km (half a mile) away from the tail.
“The location where the pings were (detected) has been flagged,” Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, the head of the search and rescue agency, told reporters. “If tomorrow the currents allow us to confirm it, we will confirm it immediately.”
If and when the recorders are found and taken to the capital, Jakarta, for analysis, it could take up to two weeks to download data, investigators said, although the information could be accessed in as little as two days if the devices are not badly damaged.
While the cause of the crash is not known, the national weather bureau has said seasonal storms were likely to be a factor.
President Joko Widodo, who took office in late October, said the crash exposed widespread problems in the management of air transport in Indonesia.
“Flights without route licenses must not exist. It can’t be like that. There must be a total overhaul (of the sector),” MetroTV broadcast Widodo as saying to reporters during a visit to the Surabaya airport, where the AirAsia flight originated.
The transport ministry has suspended the carrier’s Surabaya-Singapore licence for flying on a Sunday, which it did not have permission for.
The ministry has said this had no bearing on Flight QZ8501’s accident.
On Friday, the Transport Ministry announced it had found five other airlines had violated rules by flying some routes without permits, and that they would be prevented from using those routes until they obtained the necessary documentation.
They included state carrier Garuda Indonesia and private airline Lion Air.