As divers approached the underwater area where they expected to find the black boxes of Indonesia’s Sriwijaya Air jet that crashed into the sea, it became clear their task wasn’t going to be easy.
The site was strewn with sharp debris from the shattered Boeing aircraft, posing a danger to them. Some pieces were too heavy to dislodge with lifting balloons, which are usually used to surface smaller parts. A navy vessel with a crane was called.
Searchers are struggling to find and reach the devices that are critical to uncovering how and why the plane—a 26-year-old Boeing 737-500 that Sriwijaya Air says was in good condition before the flight—went down minutes after it took off from the capital, Jakarta, on Saturday, carrying 62 people.
Both the flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders—the so-called black boxes—are critical to understanding what occurred aboard SJ182 before the crash. Flight-data recorders typically collect information ranging from basic speed and altitude to flight-control inputs by the crew, while voice recorders capture sounds and conversations from the cockpit. Together, they can help investigators determine the accident’s cause.
“We hope we can have an idea of what happened in the flight,” said Nurcahyo Utomo, head of aviation investigations for Indonesia’s national transport safety committee. “That’s basically what we expect from these black boxes.”