Jakarta/Singapore: The tail section of the AirAsia flight that went down more than a week ago was found today in the Java Sea, raising hopes that the plane's black boxes might soon be recovered to determine the cause of the mysterious crash.
"We have found the tail that has been our main target today," Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia's search and rescue told reporters in Jakarta as the search operation entered its 11th day.
Image taken on January 7 believed to be wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501, photographed by divers working in the Java Sea. Indonesia said it had found the tail of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, potentially marking a major step towards locating the plane's black boxes and helping shed light on what caused it to crash. Pic/AFP
The tail is the section where the black boxes are located. The black boxes are often considered the key piece of evidence when it comes to investigating a commercial plane disaster. They provide valuable information, from a plane's air speed to the position of the landing gear, to pilot communications.
Soelistyo said divers were preparing to go back underwater in the same area, which is in one of the priority zones where search efforts have been focused.
Searchers have been scouring the choppy waters of the Java Sea for remains from the commercial jet since it lost contact on December 28 with 162 people on board.
AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes confirmed the announcement in a post on his Twitter account. "I am led to believe the tail section has been found. If right part of tail section then the black box should be there," he tweeted.
"We need to find all parts soon so we can find all (our) guests to ease the pain of our families. That still is our priority."
Flight QZ8501 plunged into the water off Borneo island about 40 minutes into a two-hour flight from Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya en route to Singapore.
No survivors have been found. Forty bodies have been recovered so far but authorities believe most of the passengers could still be inside the main body of the plane.
The search area was widened today with the establishment of two new sectors, said Chief of the Malaysian Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar.
Underwater current was still strong of around 4-5 knots and the visibility was still limited for the sea divers yesterday to identify more findings from the seabed where the plane crashed. At the weekend search officials said sonar had detected what they thought were five large parts of the plane, but strong currents and rough seas would not allow divers to confirm they were from the AirAsia flight.
The cause of the crash is not known, but the plane was flying through stormy weather at the time and had requested permission to change course.
Indonesian aviation officials have said that AirAsia did not have permission to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on the day of the crash.