JAKARTA. – Indonesia said yesterday it had found the tail of Air-Asia Flight 8501, potentially marking a major step towards locating the plane’s black boxes and helping shed light on what caused it to crash into the sea 10 days ago.
Search and rescue agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said he was sure of the discovery after seeing photographs of the underwater wreckage, on which the company logo could be seen.
The “black box” flight data recorders, crucial to determining the cause of the crash, are usually housed in an aircraft’s tail.
“We have successfully obtained part of the plane that has been our target. The tail portion has been confirmed found,” Soelistyo told reporters in Jakarta.
The plane vanished from radar screens during a storm on December 28 when it was flying from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board, most of them Indonesian.
Despite a huge recovery operation assisted by various countries, progress has been patchy with poor weather conditions hampering the search. So far 39 bodies have been found, all of them floating on the sea.
Search chiefs earlier said five large parts of the plane had been detected but had not confirmed which parts of the aircraft.
Indonesia alleges the plane was flying on an unauthorised schedule when it crashed and AirAsia has since been suspended from flying the Surabaya-Singapore route.
The country’s transport ministry said earlier on Wednesday that it had fired one transport official and disciplined several others in a crackdown following the crash, as it investigates how the flight was able to depart without permission.
“To date, we have taken action against eight officials – two from the transport ministry, four from state navigation operator AirNav, and two airport officials,” transport ministry official Hadi Mustofa told AFP.
“One of the transport ministry officials was fired and the other official was temporarily suspended. As for the other six officials, some have been temporarily suspended and some have been transferred.”
AirAsia Indonesia has declined to comment on allegations it violated its permits.
Singapore authorities say the Sunday flight schedule had been cleared at their end. – AFP.