Jakarta/Singapore: Searchers closed in on the all-important black box of the crashed AirAsia jet after strong "pings" were heard in the Java Sea and a large object likely to be the plane's fuselage was located near the spot from where the tail section was retrieved.
SB Supriyadi, operations coordinator for Indonesia's search and rescue agency, and other officials involved in the search said they were confident the "pings" were from the black box, describing the signals as strong.
The "pings" were detected about a kilometre east of the tail, Supriyadi told reporters.
He said an object believed to be the main body of the Airbus A320-200 had also been detected close to the area from where the pings were emanating.
"We are now trying to check by sending our divers," he said.
AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes, who is an ethnic Indian, also expressed optimism that a breakthrough may be near in the search for missing flight QZ8501's black box which is crucial for unravelling the mystery of the crash.
"We are led to believe Blackbox may have been found. Still not confirmed. But strong info coming. But my main thoughts is fuselage," he tweeted.
There was no confirmation, but it comes amid an intense operation to locate the plane's main fuselage -- believed to contain missing bodies.
Supriyadi said if the body of the plane is found, the first priority of search teams would be to remove the remains of victims. "Secondly we will search for the black box."
Poor weather conditions once again hampered the search efforts to locate the wreckage of the plane.
The developments come a day after the tail of the doomed AirAsia jet was lifted out of the choppy waters of the Java Sea using inflatable balloons.
The black box was not found inside the section. The 10-metre-long metal chunk, with the words "AirAsia" clearly visible across it, became the first major wreckage lifted off the seabed nearly two weeks after the tragedy.
The recorders are important because they should contain the pilots' final words and possibly various flight data.
Indonesia AirAsia plane carrying 162 people on board lost contact with ground control on December 28, less than half way into a two-hour flight from Indonesia to Singapore and crashed possibly due to bad weather.
Only 48 bodies, including at least two strapped to their seats, have been found in the Java Sea.