11 July 2024

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian authorities said they would immediately begin examining a damaged black box retrieved on Thursday from the sunken wreckage of a Lion Air jet that crashed off Jakarta this week, killing all 189 people on board.

Indonesia’s second-deadliest air disaster since 1997 has prompted renewed concern about its patchy safety record, and the government has said Lion Air will be regulated more closely.

The investigation of the first crash of a Boeing Co 737 MAX, introduced into commercial service last year, will also be scrutinized by the global aviation industry.

“Tonight we will move as quickly as possible to download what is in this black box,” Haryo Satmiko, deputy chief of Indonesia’s transportation safety committee (KNKT), told a news conference.

The extent of damage to the device showed the “extraordinary impact” of the crash, he said.

Despite initial reports, authorities did not know for certain whether the “crash survivable memory unit” was from the flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder, as portions of it were missing, Satmiko said.

Searchers have yet to detect a location signal from the second of the two black boxes, housed at opposite ends of the aircraft. Although the seafloor is only about 30 meters down, strong currents and energy pipelines in the area have hampered search efforts.

The data it holds should provide clues to what went wrong.

ORANGE CYLINDER

The plane, which had only been in service since August, went silent 13 minutes after taking off on Monday from Jakarta, heading for the tin-mining town of Pangkal Pinang. The pilot had already received permission to return to base.

A navy diver on board a search vessel told the broadcaster Metro TV that his team found the orange cylinder containing the recorder among debris on the muddy sea floor.

Under normal conditions, the data should only take two hours to download, said Satmiko, although analyzing it could take several weeks.

The results from a preliminary investigation will be made public after 30 days, another KNKT official said.

Hopes are fading of finding a large section of fuselage intact, with easily retrievable bodies inside.

“What is important for us is to get more information about the victims because having their remains back is important for us so we can bury them properly,” said Ade Inyo, whose brother-in-law was on the flight.

Only one of the flight’s passengers has been identified from the partial remains retrieved so far.

The investigation will be carried out with help from Boeing, General Electric and the US Federal Aviation Administration, officials have said.

It will also focus on four Lion Air staff, including its technical director, who the transport ministry said it has suspended on Wednesday, amid speculation that aircraft had not been airworthy.