Navy ship finds what may be AirAsia plane's tail

National Search and Rescue Agency personnel carry the seats of AirAsia plane after being airlifted by a U.S. Navy helicopter at the airport in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Tatan Syuflana

Search teams trying to find the black box flight recorders from a crashed AirAsia jet and recover bodies of victims scrambled on Tuesday to take advantage of a brief respite in the bad weather that has frustrated the operation for the last nine days.

Indonesian officials believe they may have located the tail and parts of the fuselage of the Airbus A320-200 at the bottom of the Java Sea, but strong currents, high winds and big waves have hindered attempts to send divers to investigate.

There were 162 passengers and crew on Flight QZ8501 when it crashed on December 28. So far, 37 bodies have been recovered.

Air force Lt Col Jhonson Supriadi said there was a narrow window of better weather early on Tuesday.

"It's pretty good. We will start searching as quickly as possible," he said, adding that the weather was expected to "get uglier again" later in the day.

The main focus of the search is about 90 nautical miles off Borneo, where five large objects believed to be parts of the plane - the largest about 59 feet long - have been located in shallow waters by ships using sonar.

The captain of an Indonesian Navy patrol vessel said on Monday his ship had found what was believed to be the tail - a key find since that section of the aircraft houses the cockpit voice and flight data recorders - but search and rescue agency officials said that was not yet confirmed.

Aviation crackdown

The Transport Ministry has suspended Indonesia AirAsia's Surabaya-Singapore licence, saying the carrier only had permission to fly the route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Flight QZ8501 took off on a Sunday.

On Monday, the Transport Ministry said officials at the airport operator in Surabaya and air traffic control agency who had allowed the flight to take off had been moved to other duties while the accident investigation is completed.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 6:42:00 AM |

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