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Indonesia crash: Sriwijaya Air plane’s flight data recorder retrieved


media captionDebris from Indonesia plane crash laid out in Jakarta port

Indonesian search teams have retrieved one of the two ‘black boxes’ from the Boeing 737 plane that crashed into the Java Sea on Saturday.

The flight data recorder was brought ashore, but the teams are still trying to locate the cockpit voice recorder.

The authorities hope that data from the black boxes can give vital clues on the possible cause of the crash.

The Boeing 737 plunged into the sea shortly after take-off, with 62 people on board. There were no survivors.

image copyrightEPA

image captionIndonesian officials will now try to retrieve data from the recovered black box

Flight SJ182 was en route from the capital Jakarta to the city of Pontianak on Borneo island.

The 26-year-old aircraft – which had passed an airworthiness inspection last month – was still functioning and intact before it crashed, preliminary results showed.

Separately, Indonesian police have identified the first victim – Okky Bisma, a 29-year-old flight attendant on the plane.

Indonesia’s transport ministry on Tuesday said the aircraft had been grounded during the pandemic, and passed an inspection on 14 December.

It made its first flight five days later with no passengers, then resumed commercial flights on 22 December.

The National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) said that preliminary findings showed that the plane had reached the height of 10,900ft (3.3km) at 14:36 local time on Saturday (07:36 GMT), then made a steep drop to 250ft at 14:40, before it stopped transmitting data.

media captionWhat’s in a plane’s black box flight recorder?

KNKT head Soerjanto Tjahjono added that the plane’s turbine disc with a damaged fan blade had been found – ruling out the theory that the plane had exploded mid-air.

“The damaged fan blade indicates that the machine was still functioning when it crashed. This [is] also in line with the belief that the plane’s system was still functioning when it reached 250ft,” said Mr Soerjanto in a written statement to reporters.

What progress has been made so far?

Search teams are continuing to comb the waters at the crash site, trying to retrieve the cockpit voice recorder.

Earlier on Tuesday, the KNKT said a device used to locate the black boxes had experienced “technical problems or equipment damage”.

Several pieces of debris, body parts, wreckage and passengers’ clothing have already been recovered.

According to news wire AFP, there were some 2,600 personnel involved in the search operation on Monday, along with more than 50 ships and 13 aircraft.

Investigators are already analysing items which they believe to be a wheel and part of the plane’s fuselage. A turbine from one of its engines is also among the debris that has been recovered.

Transport safety officials say they are currently in the second stage of a five-stage investigation process. This stage consists of compiling and collecting data and could take up to a year to wrap up.

What happened to the aircraft?

The Sriwijaya Air passenger plane departed from Jakarta’s main airport at 14:36 local time (07:36 GMT) on Saturday.

Minutes later, at 14:40, the last contact with the Boeing 737 plane was recorded, according to the transport ministry.

The usual flight time to Pontianak, in West Kalimantan province in the west of the island of Borneo, is 90 minutes.

There were thought to be 50 passengers – including seven children and three babies – and 12 crew on board, though the plane has a capacity of 130. Everyone on board was Indonesian, officials say.

Witnesses said they had seen and heard at least one explosion.

Sriwijaya Air, founded in 2003, is a local budget airline which flies to Indonesian and other South-east Asian destinations.

The missing aircraft is not a 737 Max, the Boeing model that was grounded from March 2019 until last December following two deadly crashes.

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