AirAsia search: Turbid water may be blocking black box signals, says official

Fluctuating weather conditions and choppy seas continued to complicate the multinational search efforts to locate more bodies and black box of the ill-fated AirAsia Flight 8501 as divers struggled to scour the Java Sea for more remains from the crashed plane.

By Supriya Jha | Updated: Jan 06, 2015, 16:06 PM IST
AirAsia search: Turbid water may be blocking black box signals, says official

Jakarta: Fluctuating weather conditions and choppy seas continued to complicate the multinational search efforts to locate more bodies and black box of the ill-fated AirAsia Flight 8501 as divers struggled to scour the Java Sea for more remains from the crashed plane. Meanwhile, in first punishments in the wake of crash, all officials who were involved with AirAsia Flight 8501's alleged schedule violation, would be suspended, said reports.

According to Indonesian search and rescue agency chief Bambang Soelistyo, the search teams were expanding the priority search area on Tuesday as the weather had improved. Also, underwater devices were deployed to help divers locate the plane parts effectively.

The weather on Tuesday appeared to be "pretty good" though there were chances that it might get uglier during the later part of the day, said Indonesia Air Force Lt Col Jhonson Supriadi.

Dozens of divers on Tuesday tried to take advantage of a brief break from bad weather as they continued to look for more debris and bodies (most of which is said to be trapped in the plane's fuselage).

According to Indonesian search and rescue agency BASARNAS, the search area is currently focused in the east part of the Java Sea where more than 50 vessels, helicopters and more than 80 deep divers are deployed to focus on the black box search.

Talking to the reporters, search and rescue agency official Supriyadi, said there had been no "pings" detected yet from the black box of the crashed plane because it might be buried in the seabed or the turbid water was blocking the signal from black box`s emergency locator beacon.

"They haven`t found anything, maybe because the water is turbid and there is zero visibility...There`s a possibility it is buried in mud," he was quoted as saying by the Reuters.

Yesterday, an Indonesian Navy vessel captain claimed to have found what he presumed to be the plane's crucial tail section that generally contains black boxes – flight data recorders – that hold vital clues to what might have happened to the plane before it crashed.

However, it has not yet been confirmed by the search agency. 

Also, yesterday, the divers searched three more bodies, taking the number of total bodies recovered to 37. They have been sent to Surabaya for identification.

Out of 37 remains, 13 remains have been identified by the Disaster Victim Identification Police Department of Republic of Indonesia (DVI POLRI).

So far, the divers have located five large objects supposed to be plane's debris - the largest one measuring 18 metres (59 feet) long - using sonar.

However the search at the seabed seems to be a tough task for the divers because of the zero visibility there.

According to a CNN report, officials said that the diving teams had to encounter muddy waters with zero visibility at the bottom of the sea.

The Indonesian Navy and the US Navy are said to be deploying special equipments to help them scan the seafloor.

US Navy divers have also been using side-scan sonar gear, designed to map the sea floor and capture accurate images for analysis, added the CNN.

A report yesterday emerged suggesting that AirAsia Flight 8501 was not licensed to fly on the Surabaya-to-Singapore route on Sunday - the day it crashed with 162 people on board.

According to a CNN report, the airline had the license to fly the above mentioned route four days a week but not on Sunday. 

Taking note of the flight route violations, the acting director-general for Indonesian air transport, Djoko Murjatmodjo, has said that all officials who allowed the plane to fly on an unauthorized flight schedule would be suspended, reports said.

Djoko also pledged to take harsh action against any other airlines and their officials, if they too, were caught violating rules.

Meanwhile, in the wake of crash, Indonesia AirAsia flights between Surabaya and Singapore have been suspended and the Ministry of Transport has announced a full investigation into the matter to check if other airlines were complying with license agreements.

The plane crash of AirAsia Fligh 8501 has led the authorities to launch a crackdown on country's aviation sector, tightening the rules to ensure safety.

The ill-fated Flight 8501 that went off radars just after 42 minutes of taking off, was flying to Singapore from Surabaya with 162 passengers.

Of 162 people on board the plane, there were 137 adult passengers, 17 children and one infant, along with two pilots and five crew. Majority of them were Indonesians.

The plane's pilot, Captain Iriyanto, had made a request to climb to 38,000 ft to avoid stormy clouds, however the permission was not granted as there was another plane in that route.