JAKARTA: Indonesia said on Wednesday it had found the tail of AirAsia 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 ten 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.
“I am led to believe the tail section has been found. If right part of tail section then the black box should be there,” AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes wrote on Twitter after the announcement.
“We need to find all parts soon so we can find all [our]guests to ease the pain of our families. That still is our priority,” he added.
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.