Black Boxes Found: AirAsia Flight QZ8501

Divers have found both black boxes from AirAsia flight QZ8501 and were able to recover one, the flight data recorder, and are starting to analyze its information, but the cockpit voice recorder remains trapped underneath heavy debris deep below the Java Sea.

Indonesian investigators told NBC News that even though a black box has been recovered, its data cannot be analyzed immediately and may take two weeks to download. AirAsia flight QZ8501’s flight data recorder contains information such as the aircraft’s cabin pressure, vertical and horizontal speed, and engine temperature. This will help reconstruct exactly what happened to the Airbus A320, which was carrying 162 people when it crashed Dec. 28.

Finding the black boxes seemed to be only a matter of time after the Indonesian Navy had discovered the aircraft’s tail section, where the recorders are usually stored. Other sections of the aircraft remain scattered around the ocean floor. One official from the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency told CNN that the debris pattern suggests the AirAsia flight exploded when it hit the water.

The flight recorders are being brought to Jakarta for the analysis. While Indonesia has decided to handle the investigation, teams from all over the world, including France, are aiding in the effort. The BBC notes the bitter irony that because of Indonesia’s history of aviation-related disasters, Indonesian investigators do not lack experience in these sorts of investigations. Officials are, “very well equipped to analyse the data recorders and piece together what happened.”

A thorough explanation of what happened will likely be produced within a year, but many expect a preliminary report of official findings in a month.

Because the black boxes have been so difficult to find, some have challenged the traditional design of flight recorders. The International Civil Aviation Organization has said that it will start looking into “deployable” black boxes that would detach from an aircraft as it crashes and float in the water, according to Reuters. In February the ICAO will discuss this design feature that would have greatly helped to find the crucial black boxes.

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