Indonesia intensifies search of crashed passenger jet’s black boxes

Indonesian Navy have released footage of divers looking through the wreckage of a passenger plane that crashed into the sea during the weekend as the hunt for its black boxes resumes.

‘No Survivors’

Indonesian plane Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 disappeared shortly after take off from capital Jakarta on Saturday. The Boeing 737-500 had 62 people on board. Search teams have already found aircraft parts and human remains.

One official stressed the urgency of the search mission, which resumed on Monday morning, calling it a “24-hour” operation.

“It’s going to be an around-the-clock operation,” Rasman MS, head of the search and rescue agency’s crash operations told reporters.

The plane’s black boxes, which have been located but are yet to be recovered.

News agencies reported that 2,600 personnel were deployed in the search operation along with dozens of boats, aircrafts and helicopters, which are hauling body parts, wreckage and passengers clothing from waters about 23 metres deep.

Authorities don’t expect to find survivors.

There are also more than 50 ships involved in the search for the wreckage of flight SJ182, along with 13 aircraft. (Image: Reuters)

An investigator with Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) told news agency Reuters that authorities hoped to find the black boxes on Monday.

He added that it was possible that the plane broke apart when it hit water, based on debris found so far.

“It possibly ruptured when it hit waters because if it had exploded mid-air, the debris would be distributed more widely,” said Nurcahyo Utomo.

Investigators are already analysing items which they believe to be a wheel and part of the plane’s fuselage. A turbine from one of its engines is also among the debris that has been recovered.

Officials found pieces of the plane fuselage of about one metre in length, part of a tyre and human body parts. (Image: Reuters)

What happened?

The flight had 50 passengers and 12 crew on board, though the plane has a capacity of 130. Everyone on board was Indonesian.

The plane lost contact at 14:40 local time on Saturday, four minutes after take off from Jakarta. It was en route to Pontianak in West Kalimantan province.

The usual flight time to Pontianak is an hour-and-a-half. It was raining at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport when the plane took off.

Flight tracking website said the aircraft had lost more than 3,000m (10,000ft) in altitude in less than a minute.

Witnesses said they had seen and heard at least one explosion.

Fisherman Solihin said: “The plane fell like lightning into the sea and exploded in the water.”

“It was pretty close to us, the shards of a kind of plywood almost hit my ship.”

Flight SJ182 flight path (Image: Twitter/flightradar24)
Flight data moments to the crash (Image: Twitter/flightradar24)

The jet involved was nearly 27-year-old Boeing 737-500 was much older than Boeing’s problem-plagued 737 MAX model, one of which crashed off Jakarta in late 2018, killing all 189 people aboard the Lion Air flight. Older 737 models are widely flown and do not have the system implicated in the MAX safety crisis.

The Boeing 737 is the world’s most-sold family of aircraft and has undergone several makeovers since it entered service in 1968.

Safety Concerns:

In 2007, the European Union banned all Indonesian airlines following a series of crashes and reports of deteriorating oversight and maintenance since deregulation in the late 1990s. The restrictions were fully lifted in 2018.

Between 2007 and 2016, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration lowered its Indonesia safety evaluation to Category 2, meaning its regulatory system was inadequate.