Indonesian navy divers have recovered the cockpit voice recorder of a Sriwijaya Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea in January, killing all 62 people on board, officials said Wednesday.
Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said divers retrieved the cockpit recorder at about 8 p.m. Tuesday local time, near where the flight data recorder was recovered three days after the accident.
The contents of the recorder were not immediately available. However, the device could help investigators determine what caused the Boeing 737-500 to nosedive into the ocean in heavy rain shortly after it took off from Jakarta on Jan. 9.
If the voice recorder is undamaged, it might tell investigators what the pilots were doing – or failing to do – to regain control of the plane during its brief, erratic flight.
Searchers have recovered plane parts and human remains from an area between Lancang and Laki islands in the Thousand Island chain, just north of Jakarta. The flight data recorder tracked hundreds of parameters showing how the plane was being operated.
Most retrieval efforts ended about two weeks after the crash, but a limited search is continuing for the missing memory unit of the cockpit voice recorder, which apparently broke away from other parts of the device during the crash.
The bright orange voice recorder was taken to Jakarta and given to the National Transportation Safety Committee, which is overseeing the accident investigation.
“We hope the KNKT could share information about what is contained in this VCR to improve our aviation safety,” Sumadi said, referring to Indonesian acronym for the transportation committee.
The KNKT chairman, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said the device will be taken to the investigators’ “black box” facility. It will take five to seven days to dry and clean the device and to download its data, he said.
“Without the CVR … it would be difficult to determine the cause of the plane crash,” Tjahjono said, “We would disclose it transparently to avoid similar accidents in the future.”
Rear Admiral Abdul Rasyid Kacong, the navy’s western region fleet commander, said the voice recorder was buried under one metre of seabed mud at a depth of 23 metres. Divers removed debris and carried out “desludging” operations to reach the voice recorder, he said.
Data from a preliminary investigation report, which didn’t state any conclusions, showed that the plane’s left engine’s throttle lever moved backward on its own while the autopilot was engaged, reducing the power output of that engine before the jet plunged into the sea.
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