Indonesian divers on Monday intensified the search to retrieve the data recorders of a Sriwijaya Air plane that crashed into the Java Sea two days ago, reported AP. They will also look for bodies of victims.
The Indonesian Sriwijaya Air plane with 62 people on board had crashed into the sea minutes after taking off from capital Jakarta on Saturday. The Boeing 737-500 crashed near Laki Island, about 12 km from the airport. The plane, which had departed for Pontianak in West Kalimantan, disappeared from the radar after taking off just after 2.30 pm.
“Anything that we can retrieve, debris, victims or anything else, we will try,” search and rescue operation director Rasman MS said at a press briefing. “The quicker we can find victims, the better.”
A total of 53 vessels will be involved in Monday’s search. The divers will widen the search area under the sea and along the coast, reported Reuters. The data recorder tracks electronic information such as airspeed, altitude and vertical acceleration.
On Sunday, the authorities could mark the area where the data recorders or black boxes are located. Divers had recovered parts of the plane from around 23 metres below the water’s surface and rescuers had pulled out body parts and debris from the wreckage of the plane.
The US National Transportation Safety Board and Boeing will together investigate the cause of the crash, said Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee. The investigators will rely primarily on the flight recorders to ascertain the cause of the crash. They will also study maintenance and engine records, pilot rosters and training, air traffic recordings and other data.
The transport committee’s chairperson, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said the black boxes could provide valuable information to investigators. He added that it will take three to five days to dry and clean the device and download its data after it reaches the investigators’ facility.
A National Transportation Safety Committee investigator said the jet possibly broke apart when it hit the sea. “We don’t know for sure, but if we look at the debris, they’re scattered in an area that is not too wide,” Nurcahyo Utomo told Reuters on Monday. “It possibly ruptured when it hit waters because if it had exploded mid-air, the debris would be distributed more widely.”
An Indonesian transport ministry spokesperson had said on Sunday that the air traffic control at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport had asked the pilot why the plane was heading northwest instead of going on its expected flight path seconds before it had disappeared. No immediate reason could be ascertained behind the sudden descent. Safety experts believe that most air accidents happen due to a mixture of factors that can take months to establish.
Patchy safety record
The nearly 27-year-old Boeing 737-500, which crashed on Saturday, was older than Boeing’s problem-plagued 737 MAX model. The older 737 models are widely flown and do not have the system implicated in the MAX safety crisis.
The incident came just after aircraft maker Boeing agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion (over Rs 18,350 crore) in fines and compensation after reaching a settlement with the United States Department of Justice for two plane crashes that killed 346 people and led to the grounding of its 737 MAX jetliner model.
In October 2018, 189 people were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX jet crashed into the sea about 12 minutes after taking off from Jakarta on a routine one-hour flight.
The Jakarta-based Sriwijaya Air group flies largely within Indonesia and was founded in 2003. The airline has a good safety record till now, with no onboard casualties in four incidents recorded on the Aviation Safety Network database. Indonesia’s air safety record is, however, patchy.
In 2007, the European Union had banned all Indonesian airlines following a series of crashes and reports of deteriorating oversight and maintenance of planes. The restrictions were lifted in 2018. Further, the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration had between 2007 and 2016 lowered its Indonesia safety evaluation to Category 2, meaning that the regulatory system was inadequate.