Families of passengers of Lion Air flight JT610 stand as they look at the belongings of the passengers at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on October 31 2018. Picture: REUTERS/BEAWIHARTA
Families of passengers of Lion Air flight JT610 stand as they look at the belongings of the passengers at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on October 31 2018. Picture: REUTERS/BEAWIHARTA

Jakarta — One black box from the crashed Lion Air jet has been recovered, the head of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee said on Thursday.

The recovered flight recorder could be critical to establishing why the brand new plane fell out of the sky.

Black-box devices record information about the speed, altitude and direction of the plane, as well as flight crew conversations, and could hold vital clues to the cause of the deadly accident.

“We found one of the black boxes,” Soerjanto Tjahjono said. It was not clear whether it was the flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder.

The Boeing-737 MAX 8, which went into service just a few months ago, plunged into the Java Sea off Indonesia’s northern coast on Monday, killing 189 people, just 12 minutes after taking off from the capital Jakarta for Pangkal Pinang city.

The single-aisle Boeing plane is one of the world’s newest and most advanced commercial passenger jets.

“Data from the plane — the engine, all the instruments — are recorded there,” said aviation analyst Dudi Sudibyo.

“If there is an anomaly, some technical problem, it is recorded there too.”

Recovered shoes believed to be from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 are laid out at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 1 2018. Picture: REUTERS/EDGAR SU
Recovered shoes believed to be from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 are laid out at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 1 2018. Picture: REUTERS/EDGAR SU

Images from the crash site showed two divers swim to a support vessel and place an orange-coloured device into a plastic tub, which was then carried onto the boat.

Despite the name, the two black boxes are in fact bright orange with reflective stripes, and all commercial planes are obliged to have them on board.

Authorities picked up the box’s signals below the water’s surface on Wednesday, but were unable to get to the device immediately because of rough seas and strong currents.

The treasure trove of information black boxes provide helps explain nearly 90% of all crashes, according to aviation experts.

They each weigh 7kg-10kg and can survive as deep as 6,000m underwater, or an hour at 1,100°C. To make them easier to find, they are fitted with a beacon that can emit a signal for a month.

DNA testing

Dozens of divers are taking part in the massive recovery effort, along with helicopters and ships, but authorities have all but ruled out finding any survivors.

On a Jakarta dockside, grief-stricken relatives sifted through clothes, wallets and other retrieved personal effects, as authorities sent body parts to hospital for DNA testing.

Forensic experts identified Jannatun Cintya Dewi as the first victim of the crash on Wednesday evening.

The 24-year-old’s coffin arrived in her East Java hometown of Sidoarjo on Thursday, draped in a green and yellow cloth and inscribed with Arabic writing and carried through the neighbourhood by pallbearers.

Aviation experts say it is too early to determine what caused the accident.

But Lion’s admission that the aircraft had an unspecified technical issue on a previous flight — as well as the plane's abrupt nosedive — have raised questions about whether it had any faults specific to the newly released model, including a speed-and-altitude system malfunction.

The accident has also resurrected concern about Indonesia's patchy air safety record. Until recently, the country’s carriers faced years-long bans from entering European Union and US airspace over their safety records.

Lion Air has been plagued by safety woes and customer complaints over unreliable scheduling and poor service.

The budget carrier was involved in a number of incidents including a fatal 2004 crash and a collision between two Lion Air planes at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport.

AFP

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