7 Jan 2015

AirAsia search teams find crashed plane’s tail

First pictures are released of the tail from the crashed AirAsia plane, found in the sea off Indonesia, as hopes rise of finding the crucial “black box” recorders.

The tail of the crashed flight QZ8501 was found on the sea bed about 20 miles from the plane’s last known location off Indonesia.

Indonesian authorities hope the discovery will lead to a breakthrough in understanding what caused the crash: the tail contains the crucial black box recorders that contain flight data and voice recordings.

The flight vanished from radar screens on 28 December over the Java sea.

The plane was less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Indonesia’s second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore.

The plane was carrying 162 passengers. No survivors have been found.

Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, told reporters that discovery of the tail had been the search team’s “main target”.

He said the team “now is still desperately trying to locate the black box”.

AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes tweeted that all parts need to be found soon “to ease the pain of our families”.

The tail was identified by divers after being spotted by an underwater machine using a sonar scan.

Partial lettering on the sunken object could be seen on underwater photographs, and compared with a picture of an intact Airbus A320-200 in AirAsia livery.

Forty bodies have been recovered from the surface of the waters off Borneo, but strong winds and high waves have limited efforts by divers to reach larger pieces of suspected wreckage detected by sonar on the sea floor.

Mr Soelistyo said 12 objects had now been found in the search, but did not confirm whether all were parts of the aircraft.

The wreckage is thought to include parts of the fuselage, where many of the bodies of victims may still be trapped.

AirAsia’s licence has been suspended for flights between Surabaya and Singapore, after authorities said the airline only had permission to fly the route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Flight QZ8501 took off on a Sunday, though the ministry said this bore no relation to the accident.