An Indonesian search team has recovered one of the two black boxes that belonged to the Sriwijaya Air plane that crashed in the Java Sea with 62 people on board, a crucial instrument for investigators probing the cause of the crash.
The flight data recorder was found as a team – including divers and a remotely operated underwater vehicle – swept the sea floor in search of the black boxes that were on flight SJ 182 when it crashed shortly after takeoff three days ago.
Flight data recorders process a flight’s information, including pressure, airspeed and altitude. The second black box, the cockpit voice recorder, has not yet been found.
Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said that the black boxes’ underwater acoustic beacons, which send out a series of pings to help searchers find them, had both been detached. He was optimistic, however, that the team would find the second black box soon.
Head of the National Transport Safety Committee, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said that authorities would need two to five days to read the recovered black box’s data.
“We are expecting that through this investigation we can unfold the mystery of this accident,” he said.
The Sriwijaya plane plunged into the waters northwest of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Saturday afternoon. The flight crashed among the Thousand Islands, a popular tourist destination among Indonesians, and was bound for Pontianak, a city on the Indonesian part of Borneo island.
Four minutes into the flight, and amid heavy rains, the plane dropped 10,000 feet in less than a minute before disappearing from radar, according to the global flight tracking service Flightradar24.
Navy divers found the plane’s wreckage on Sunday after locating a signal from the fuselage of the plane.
A search team has filled dozens of body bags with human remains and have recovered parts of the plane and debris from the site.
The plane was a 26-year-old Boeing 737-500, according to Flightradar24. Sriwijaya Airlines CEO Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said the airliner was in good condition before it took off.
Indonesia has a poor aviation safety record and aircraft incidents are not uncommon.
The country, with a population of 270 million people, relies heavily on air transport for commuting between islands across the archipelago, which stretches over more than 3,000 miles, around the same distance between London and New York.
Indonesia has seen a boom in domestic aviation in recent years, with passenger traffic tripling between 2005 and 2017, according to Australian consultancy the CAPA-Center for Aviation.
Sriwijaya Air, a low-cost airline and Indonesia’s third-largest carrier, transports more than 950,000 passengers per month from its Jakarta hub to 53 destinations within Indonesia and three regional countries, according to the company’s website.