In Brief

AirAsia QZ8501: pilots 'turned off critical computer system'

Plane made steep climb to 37,400ft, above its authorised altitude, before plummeting into sea

AirAsia QZ8501: pictures reveal submerged fuselage

15 January

Investigators hope to retrieve the bodies of more victims of AirAsia flight QZ850 crash after confirming the discovery of the aircraft's fuselage in the Java Sea. 

Singapore's defence minister Ng Eng Hen posted underwater pictures from the wreckage of the flight on his Facebook page. They were 

taken by a remotely operated search robot.

The grainy photographs show large parts of the AirAsia plane, including a section of the aircraft's fuselage emblazoned with the words "Now everyone can fly".

Flight QZ850 went down in bad weather on 28 December en route from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore, with 162 people on board. Dozens of bodies have been pulled from the water, but investigators believe that many more may still be trapped in the wreckage underwater, the BBC says.

Ng said: "The accident is a tragic event resulting in the loss of many lives. I hope that with the fuselage located, some form of closure can come to the families of the victims to ease their grief."

The minister also thanked the investigative team for their efforts in recovering the missing plane.

The "black box" flight recorders from flight QZ8501 have now been retrieved and will be analysed by specialists in a bid to understand what caused the Airbus A320-200 to crash.

Investigators are trying to determine whether it will be possible to lift the fuselage to retrieve any bodies that may be trapped there.

"If it is not too heavy, we may lift the whole piece and evacuate the victims," said Indonesia's search and rescue agency, Bambang Soelistyo. "If it's too heavy, we may then swim into the fuselage and pull out the bodies one by one before lifting it." 

AirAsia flight QZ8501: search teams recover black box

12 January

Indonesian divers hunting for wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501 have recovered one of the plane's flight recorders and located the other in a major breakthrough in the effort to discover why the aircraft crashed.

Divers retrieved the first of two flight recorders – also known as black boxes – from beneath the wreckage of one of the plane's wings, said Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia's search and rescue effort.

Divers believe they may have also located the second black box – the cockpit voice recorder – but they have not managed to reach it yet, the BBC reports.

The boxes will help investigators understand what caused the plane to crash en route from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore on 28 December. Weather conditions were poor when the plane went down, killing all 162 passengers and crew on board.

Black box recorders offer a wealth of information on the performance of a plane including its air speed, cabin pressure and the performance of its engines. It is a "total forensic timeline of everything that happened" and is of "immense importance to understanding what caused the crash," says the BBC's Karishma Vaswani.

Recovering the flight recorder is "a huge step in the right direction for investigators," said CNN's aviation correspondent Rene Marsh. "It gives them so much information that they didn't have before."

The detail it provides, alongside what can be determined from the wreckage of the plane, will "begin to paint the picture of exactly what happened when things went terribly wrong for this aircraft," Marsh said.

The fact that the first black box was retrieved from beneath the plane's wing already offers a huge clue, says Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general of the US department of transportation, as it suggests "that the plane broke apart when it hit the water".

Had the plane broken up at high altitude, investigators wouldn't "have found the wreckage that close together," she added.

Search and rescue co-ordinator Supriyadi says that an initial analysis of the wreckage indicates that the plane may have "exploded" upon impact with the water.

"The cabin was pressurised and before the pressure of the cabin could be adjusted, it went down – boom," he said. "That explosion was heard in the area."

AirAsia QZ8501: 'Pings' detected near submerged wreckage

09 January

Malaysian investigators searching for wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501 say they have detected "pings" that could have come from the plane's "black box" flight recorders.

Teams of divers are now scouring the location, the commander of the Indonesian armed forces, General Moeldoko told the BBC.

The pings were detected on Friday morning, 12 days after the plane disappeared from radar over the Java Sea en route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. The flight was carrying 162 people. 

The signal was identified near where investigators recently discovered the crashed plane's tail and a segment of its fuselage, about 30 metres underwater off the coast of Borneo. Black boxes recorders are usually located in the tail of Airbus A320-200 aircraft, but officials say the flight recorders could have detached from the rear part of the plane on impact.

Santoso Sayogo of the National Transportation Safety Committee said investigators were hopeful that the pings would lead them to the flight recorders, which may offer information on what caused the crash.

"We received an update from the field that the pinger locator already detected pings," said Sayogo. "We have our fingers crossed it is the black box. Divers need to confirm. Unfortunately it seems it's off from the tail. But the divers need to confirm the position."

Dive teams have been instructed that the black box recorders – which are actually bright orange in colour to aid discovery – may be buried in mud.

The bodies of 46 passenger and crew have so far been retrieved from the water. No survivors have been found.

Experts say that the crash was probably connected to bad weather, but the exact reason why the plane went down is still unknown.

AirAsia flight QZ8501: search team 'may have found black boxes'

06 January

Officials searching for the crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 believe that they may have located the tail of the plane which contains the 'black boxes' that could contain information on the flight's final moments.

But poor weather is hampering the Indonesian investigators' ability to reach the submerged debris, which also appears to include a portion of the plane's fuselage.

Henry Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, announced on Tuesday that the search team has now expanded the area of its investigation to account for the strong currents in the region.

Indonesia Air Force Lt Col Jhonson Supriadi said that while the conditions have improved, he anticipated they could "get uglier again" later in the day.

Ships and aircraft searching for bodies of victims and debris from the Airbus A320-200 expanded their search to allow for the drift that may have occurred in the eight days since the plane went down 40 minutes after it took off, killing all 162 people on board.

"With our calculations of currents this strong, every day this operational area is extended," Supriadi said.

Indonesia's meteorological agency said that poor weather may have contributed to the crash.

"Based on the available data received on the location of the aircraft's last contact, the weather was the triggering factor behind the accident," the agency said in a report.

"The most probable weather phenomenon was icing which can cause engine damage due to a cooling process. This is just one of the possibilities that occurred based on the analysis of existing meteorological data."

The search team has so far been concentrating on an area approximately 90 nautical miles off the coast of Borneo island, where five large objects were spotted by ships' sonar.

Peter Marosszeky, a senior aviation research fellow at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, told The Times that weather has played a large part in delays to the search. 

"The seas haven't been very friendly, but the black boxes have a 30-day life and they will be able to find them, particularly in the shallow waters," he said. "It's the weather that is causing the delay."

AirAsia QZ8501: divers resume search for black boxes and bodies

05 January

The search for the flight data recorders from AirAsia flight QZ8501 resumed on Monday after weather improved over the Java Sea.

Poor conditions have hampered search teams' efforts to reach large objects thought to be parts of the plane's fuselage. 

The bodies of 37 passengers have been retrieved from the area in which the AirAsia flight disappeared, but most of the victims are thought to be trapped in the plane. Four large objects were spotted on the weekend, with the largest measuring 18m (59ft) by 5.4m, submerged 30m beneath the surface of the sea.

Sonar equipment has been deployed near the presumed crash site, but divers have not yet returned to the water after bad weather and strong underwater currents brought weekend searches to a halt, the BBC reports. 

"Visibility at the sea bottom was zero," said Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia's search and rescue operation.

Five ships have now been dispatched to where the objects were spotted by sonar. After conditions improve, more than 80 deep-sea divers will be deployed to investigate the objects, Time reports. 

"If it cannot be done by divers, we will use sophisticated equipment with capabilities of tracking underwater objects and then will lift them up," Suryadi Supriyadi, director of operations at Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Department told reporters.

Finding the plane's flight data recorders – also known as black boxes – will be crucial to understanding what made the twin-engine Airbus A320-200 crash, experts believe.

"The most probable weather phenomenon was icing, which can cause engine damage due to a cooling process," a preliminary report on the website of Indonesia’s meteorological agency said.

The Indonesia AirAsia Airbus A320-200 crashed into the Java Sea over a week ago en route to Singapore from Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya with 155 passengers and seven crew on board. No survivors have been found.

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