PANGKALAN BUN/SURABAYA: Divers looking for the wreck of an AirAsia Indonesia jet off Borneo were unable to resume full-scale operations on Thursday in poor weather and heavy seas and an air safety official said it could take a week to find the black box flight recorders.
Crews were on standby to descend to a large object detected by sonar on the ocean floor, lying just 30-50 metres (100-165 feet) deep. Rescuers believe it is the Airbus A320-200, which was carrying 162 people when it crashed on Sunday en route from the city of Surabaya to Singapore.
“I am hoping that the latest information is correct and aircraft has been found,” airline boss Tony Fernandes tweeted on Thursday. “Please all hope together. This is so important.”
Toos Sanitiyoso, an air safety investigator with the National Committee for Transportation Safety, said he hoped the black box flight data and voice recorders could be found within a week, suggesting there was still doubt over the plane’s location.
“The main thing is to find the main area of the wreckage and then the black box,” he told reporters.
None of the tell-tale black box “pings” had been detected, he said.
“There are two steps of finding the black box. One is we try to find the largest portion of the wreckage,” he said.
Frogman commander Lieutenant Edi Tirkayasa said the weather was making it difficult for even professional rescue divers.
“What is most difficult is finding the location where the plane fell – checking whether the aircraft is really there,” he told Reuters.
“This is very difficult even with sophisticated equipment. With weather like this, who knows. We are still hopeful and optimistic that they’ll find it. They must.”
Investigators are working on a theory that the plane stalled as it climbed steeply to avoid a storm about 40 minutes into the flight.
Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel survey the waters during a search and locate operation for the missing AirAsia QZ8501 plane at an undisclosed search area.