Recovered EgyptAir 'black box' is damaged
Flight data recorder retrieved; voice data recorder still on ocean floor
November 9, 1999
NEWPORT, Rhode Island (CNN) -- The damaged flight data recorder from EgyptAir Flight 990 arrived in the Washington area about midday Tuesday, after it was recovered from the ocean floor and brought to the surface just before dawn. The second so-called "black box" -- the cockpit voice recorder -- remained amid the wreckage, 250 feet under water.
The flight recorder, which could provide important clues to what caused the Boeing 767 to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, killing 217 people, was located about 5 a.m. by Deep Drone -- a robot submarine from the Navy salvage vessel USS Grapple.
It was later loaded onto a Navy helicopter and flown to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, to be transported to Washington for analysis.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator who saw the flight recorder described it as "damaged on one end," NTSB Chairman Jim Hall told reporters in Newport, Rhode Island, where the recovery effort is being coordinated, shortly after the flight recorder was recovered.
Analysis to determine extent of damage
"We will not know the extent of that damage, or any impact it will have -- if any -- on the information contained within the recorder until the recorder reaches Washington and can be analyzed by our experts there," Hall said.
Navy Rear Adm. William Sutton said the flight data recorder was transferred by "small boat" from the Grapple to another Navy vessel, USS Austin, equipped with a helicopter landing pad.
From the Austin, the device was to be flown to the NTSB lab in Washington.
The crew of the Grapple, meanwhile, turned its attention to recovering Flight 990's cockpit voice recorder, believed to be about 15 feet from where the first "black box" was discovered.
Although the flight data recorder has been recovered, its "pinger," which emits an electronic sound that enables searchers to home in on the black box, had become separated from it. That means two pinging sounds were still coming from the wreckage area, even though only one of them is from the still missing voice data recorder.
Hall said that could complicate the continuing search.
Robot sub damaged, too
Tuesday's recovery by the Grapple's Deep Drone comes a day after Magnum, a second underwater robot, was deployed to help locate the elusive cockpit voice and flight data recorders.
Overnight, Sutton said, the Magnum was damaged and removed from the water for repairs. The Grapple was then brought into service.
Without elaboration, Sutton said the long cord connecting Magnum to the civilian salvage ship Carolyn Chouest was damaged by debris.
Investigators have said it is too dangerous to send divers for the black boxes because the divers' air hoses could get severed or tangled in the wreckage.
Flight 990 took off early October 31 from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport bound for Cairo before it then plunged 33,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, about 50 miles south of the Massachusetts island of Nantucket. No distress call went out from the crew.
Also Tuesday, a Coast Guard helicopter is scheduled to drop flowers at the crash site. The flowers are from relatives of the crash victims who gathered in Rhode Island for an emotional multi-faith memorial service Sunday at a park overlooking the ocean.
After the ceremony, many family members left immediately for airports to return to their homes in Egypt, the United States and other countries.
On Saturday, relatives were granted their wish to see the plane's wreckage at Quonset Point, a former Navy base across Narragansett Bay from the search command center in Newport, Rhode Island.
Correspondent Susan Candiotticontributed to this report
Better weather allows round-the-clock search for EgyptAir 'black boxes'
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