Hopes rise of finding AirAsia jet’s black boxes after ‘pings’ detected

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A search for the black boxes of a downed AirAsia plane intensified yesterday after more “pings” were heard in two different locations.

Three Indonesian ships detected the signals, said Indroyono Soesilo, coordinating minister for Maritime Affairs. They were located around two miles from where the aircraft’s rear was discovered yesterday.

“The two are close to each other, just about 20 yards,” Soesilo told reporters. “Hopefully, they are the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.”

Sonar also detected a large object in the same vicinity as the pings. Officials initially were hopeful it was the main section of the Airbus A320’s cabin, but divers had confirmed it was instead a wing and debris

Others officials cautioned that the recorders were likely lodged beneath wreckage. If divers are unable to free it, all of the debris will be lifted. It was also too soon to know whether the sounds were coming from the black boxes, which detached from the tail when the plane plummeted into the sea on December 28, killing all 162 people on board.

Search efforts have been consistently hampered by bad weather.

“Until now, I have not yet received reports that the black boxes have been discovered,” said Henry Bambang Soelistyo, chief of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency. “There are signals, or pings, which are suspected to be of the black boxes.”

The Commission for Transportation Safety stopped a remote-operated vehicle from being deployed to probe the area where the pings were heard, fearing it could potentially cause damage to the boxes. Instead, the sites were examined by divers.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes expressed optimism that the effort was gaining momentum. “Let’s hope today is a major breakthrough day and we can find (the) main fuselage,” he said.