This handout image released by Indonesia's national search and rescue agency Basarnas on Jan 7, 2015, shows images of what is believed to be the wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501, photographed by divers working in the Java Sea. - Photo: AFPFind could be crucial in establishing cause of AirAsia QZ8501 crash as black box is usually situated in the tail section.
The black box holding the key to understanding why AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed into the Java Sea could be close to being recovered after a senior search official announced the plane’s tail had been located, telegraph.co.uk reports.
“We have found the tail that has been our main target today,” Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, told reporters in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Teams of divers and an unmanned underwater vehicle had both spotted the tail on the seafloor around 18 miles from the presumed crash site, the official said.
Tony Fernandes, the budget airlines chief executive, confirmed he had been “led to believe the tail section has been found”.
“If right part of tail section then the black box should be there,” the Malaysian entrepreneur added on Twitter.
"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."
AirAsia Flight 8501 was carrying 162 people when it disappeared early on December 28 while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, to Singapore.
So far, the bodies of 39 victims have been recovered from a stretch of the Java Sea off the south west coast of Borneo.
However, until now, an 11-day search involving a multi-national fleet of vessels and aircraft had failed to find the plane’s main wreckage or its black box, which holds crucial data and recordings that should shed light on what caused the catastrophe.
A team of 95 divers was expected to be deployed to inspect the tail, search and rescue officials said on Wednesday.
Flight experts say it is too early to offer any clear explanation as to what happened to AirAsia’s Airbus 320-200 passenger jet, which vanished around 40 minutes after take-off.
However, both the company’s chief executive and a report from Indonesia’s weather agency have suggested extreme weather played a role.
“What we are beginning to see is that there were some very unique weather conditions [at the time of the crash],” Tony Fernandes told reporters last week.
After requesting permission to change its course to avoid a storm, the plane performed a sudden, dramatic ascent. It then plunged towards the Java Sea “like a piece of metal”, one Indonesia aviation analyst, with access to initial investigations, claimed last week.
The lack of any mayday call to air traffic controllers suggested Flight QZ8501’s pilots found themsleves overwhelmed by the magnitude of whatever happened to the plane, said Robert Mark, a commercial pilot and editor of the Aviation International News Safety magazine.
“If they didn’t get any kind of message across, what in God’s name were they dealing with that they were so busy?”